London News & Search
Stephen Sanza has represented London on a lot of hockey levels.
He served as captain of the Knights in 2011, played for a championship-contending Western University men’s team, was a Junior B scoring star with the Nationals after progressing through the city’s minor system.
Now, there’s one more opportunity in store.
He’s planning on suiting up for the London 3’s in the upstart 3HL 3-on-3 pro hockey league this fall. The 3’s selected him, along with former Stanley Cup winner Jason Williams, in their recently completed entry draft.
“I’m looking forward to it — I like 3-on-3,” said the speedy 27-year-old this week. “It’s the first 3-on-3 league that I’ve heard of. There’s nothing much out there, so it’s a good idea the guy (founder Justin Fox) is trying to start and we’ll see if it takes on.”
The 3’s, led by ex-Knight Charlie Stephens and former OHL scoring star Matt Foy, won the league championship in its inaugural season.
Sanza has also agreed to play for the Clinton Radars senior A hockey team and is working toward a career as a correctional officer, but the 3HL’s commitment level is minimal — just a couple of weekend days a month.
“I’ll be playing hockey all weekend,” Sanza said, “so nothing’s really changed. For this, you just get to wherever the tournament is, the games are just 20 minutes and if you win, you play again.”
The 3HL is growing.
There are four new teams — Aurora, Hamilton, Simcoe County and Niagara — to bring the total to a dozen. But location doesn’t matter.
Players simply join up with their clubs at each tour stop and compete to split $15,000 prize money pot. There will be 18 events, with each squad guaranteed to appear at 12 of them.
Mitch Scott, who ran Oshawa’s team last year, is London’s new GM. He tried to pick as many London-connected players as possible, with a recruiting assist from Stephens and Foy.
“Last year, it was a brand new thing and we didn’t know how many players we would get,” Scott said, “and as the rosters and word started to build, we ended up with 14 guys who had been drafted in the NHL or played there, at least for a handful of games.
“We’ve had a lot of response from players who reached out to be part of this league. It’s a chance to give guys who have their own professional careers a chance to still play hockey, while making some money doing it.”
There is a 3HL event scheduled for Western Fair Oct. 21. There is another in Stratford in February.
Sanza still keeps an eye on the Knights. Since he was captain, the OHL team played in four Memorial Cups in six years.
“The Hunters were fantastic people, so I will always watch and support their teams,” he said, “and I’ll be here forever in London. I won’t be moving anywhere.”
OLD COACH RETURNS
There will be a Benedetti on the London Jr. Knights minor midget AAA bench this season, after all.
Greg Benedetti, co-coach of the team the past half-decade, will return to the fold after his brother Steve stepped down recently because of work commitments.
Originally, Greg decided to help out the Jr. Knights at the minor pee wee level, where his son plays. Now, he has agreed to be part of both teams.
The Benedetti brothers coached the 2016-17 minor midgets to the No. 1 ranking in the province and a berth in the OHL Cup semifinals.
“It’s an exciting year for all these (2002-born) kids,” Greg said, “and I feel like because I’ve been around the block the past few years, it’s easier to talk (to the OHL GMs and scouts). They know who you are now and they know your face because of the good teams we’ve had come through.”
Matt Perry, Jordan Skinner and former Junior B star scorer Jason Glover will assist Benedetti. John Pierce will continue in his role as team goalie coach.
KNIGHTS SIGN PAIR
The London Knights signed 6-foot-6 Napanee winger Emmet Pierce and St. Thomas Stars defenceman Tim Fallowfield Wednesday, less than a week before the start of training camp.
The 16-year-old Pierce scored 22 goals and 57 points in 36 games with the Quinte Red Devils minor midgets. He was a fourth-round pick of the Knights this year.
Fallowfield, a 6-foot-2, 200-pounder from St. Thomas, was the Stars’ rookie of the year with 11 goals and 27 points in 50 games last season.
LEGWAND JOINS STING BENCH
Sarnia co-owner David Legwand will serve as an associate coach for the Sting this season. The former NHLer will join fellow co-owner Derian Hatcher, the head coach, and assistants Brad Staubitz and Jeff Barratt on the OHL team’s bench.
Legwand, the second overall pick in the 1998 NHL draft by the Predators, spent most of last season helping the Sting in a coaching capacity, including working with players during practice and analyzing the games from the suite level.
London News & Search