THE STALLIONS STILL RUNNING WILD 10 YEARS LATER
-The story of the 2004 born Stallions Spring AAA Hockey Program.
One of the major turning points of the game of professional hockey that has propelled the game to new incredible heights came in 1989. If you were a fan of the game back then, you’ll remember that it was in 1989 that the NHL decided to disclose player salaries to the public. For those that don’t remember 1989 or who weren’t yet born, that was the year the Calgary Flames beat the Montreal Canadiens at the Old Montreal Forum to win the Stanley Cup.
Other interesting events that year included;
-LA Kings center Wayne Gretzky became the NHL’s all-time leading scorer in combined regular season and playoffs.
-Mario Lemieux became just the 2nd player in NHL history to score 50 goals in less than 50 games.
-Michael Jordan scored his 10,000th point in his 5th NBA season.
-George H. W. Bush became the 41st US President.
-In November 1989, the East German government announced its citizens could move west and the wall came down.
We believe that 1989 is the year the wall came down for the business of youth AAA hockey as well. Soon afterwards, an elite youth spring AAA league started up and elite hockey players were not only able to extend their hockey seasons and play longer, they were allowed to play with the very best players in the Province. In the early stages of the youth spring AAA league, there was only 3 or 4 teams in Quebec. However, every year the league grew, the popularity grew, the competitive spirits grew, and the spring AAA league became 2 leagues and today everyone is able to extend their hockey season with the addition of the D1/D2/D3 divisions along with away Travel teams. That brings me to the 2004 birth years and the birth of the Stallions spring AAA hockey teams.
June 8th 2019 was the QMJHL’s annual draft for the 2003 born players. It is also the year before the 2004 born players QMJHL Draft and this past July was Hockey Quebec’s turn to make public their list of the “Top 40” hockey players that they selected to participate in the annual “Top 40 Camp” program. We thought it would be fun and interesting to share some of the many stories through their junior hockey path and see where some of the 2004 born Stallions are today.
THE STALLIONS PROGRAM
Before there was the Generals, the Royals, the Rousseau Royal, the Mini Ducks, etc.. there was a “team” named The Stallions. I put “team” in quotations for the simple reason that it started out as more of a “program” then a “team”. The team name and program was started by Dave Harroch (the Godfather of youth AAA spring hockey) and Tony LaStarza who, at the time, was a visionary at the development process of young hockey players. The program started out as training sessions that were held every Saturday evenings at Complexe Guimond in Laval and included 1 hour of high intense quality training followed by a shootout competition and then a 20 minute small ice game of 3vs3 or 4vs4. The kids varried between the ages of 5-7 years old when it started up and the program ran from September to March. When the program first started, there were 16 kids on the ice but as the word got out at how good the sessions were, the sessions soon went up to 20 kids with a huge waiting list of parents willing to pay anything to get their child into that training session. At the early stages of the program, the trainers were R&K of the Lions for several years, then Marcin Snita took over for a couple more years, then one year it was Denis Chalifoux along with Alex Imbeault, all quality trainers that pushed the envelope of intensity and high end skill development. Parents weren't too concerned at how many kids were on the ice, they just wanted their kids training in this program because they saw the direct improvement their kids were having week to week.
TOP 40 STALLIONS STATISTICS
As previously mentioned, this past July Hockey Quebec ran its “Top 40” program for the 2004 born players. This year, Hockey Quebec selected a total of 46 players to the program. Players were separated into 2 separate teams of 3 goalies, 8 defenseman, and 12 forwards. Of all the players selected, 15 of them (or 33%) passed through the Stallions program at some point or another. That number increases to 16 players (or 35%) if James Swan wasn’t injured as he was forced to decline the invitation unfortunately. Is it crazy to think that 35% of the best players at U16 were all being developed on a Saturday evening at Complexe Guimond in Laval between the months of September through March? The reality is that the statistics do point to a correlation between Quebec’s U16 top hockey players and the Stallions program. Let the debate begin!
WHO WERE SOME OF THE 2004 BORN STALLIONS
The players in Spring AAA hockey today are known to jump around from team to team. Back in the days of the Stallions, the same can be said as well, however there was a certain core group of players that stayed together year after year. That being said, we will try to separate the 2004 Stallions into certain distinguishable segments and attempt to give you a bio of each player. We apologize in advance if we missed any important facts, moments, or stories as there certainly many.
The Original Stallions
1-Michael LaStarza: From Pierrefonds, better known as Mikey to his teammates. Mikey was known for his offensive skills and ability to basically change a game all on his own. Mikey was selected as an under aged player for the 2003 Montreal Ice Storm Brick team and the following year won a bronze medal while playing for the 2004 Toronto Bulldogs Brick team. Mikey was a regular to Hockey Quebec’s Top 80 and was selected to the U16 Top 40. Considered as one of the top 2004’s in Quebec since his novice years. Mikey currently attends Shattuck St-Mary’s Prep School in Minnesota.
2-Joey Vetrano: From Montreal, Joey was known for his incredible speed, offensive skills, and play making abilities. Joey was surclassed from Mahg to Novice as well as from Novice to Atom. Joey was a regular to Hockey Quebec’s Top 80 and was selected to the U16 Top 40. Joey was an incredible hard worker and a team leader on every Stallions team he played on. Watch out for Joey on this year’s edition of the Lions Midget AAA team where he was recognized as one of the top 15 year olds for the upcoming June 2020 QMJHL draft.
3-Mikka Kelechian: Originally from Laval, Mikka was known for his elite offensive skills, hockey sense, and play making ability. Despite being born in late September, Mikka was always able to contribute to his teams Championships. Mikka is a 90% + overall avg student and incredibly intelligent hockey player. Mikka won the Dodge Cup in Atom AA & Peewee AAA, while reaching the Dodge Cup finals in Bantam AAA-R. Mikka was selected to Hockey Quebec’s Top 40. Simply put, Mikka is a winner!
4-Dakota MacNeil: Originally from LaSalle, Dakota was the goalie for the first season of the Stallions 2004’s. Dakota was known for being an incredibly athletic goalie. He back stopped the Stallions in their first year to an undefeated Spring AAA season. Dakota was a regular to Hockey Quebec’s Top 80 and was selected to the U16 Top 40. Dakota plays out of the Grenadiers structure.
5-Tristan Luneau: Originally from Victoriaville, Tristan was known for being an offensive skilled defenseman and leader. Tristan was selected as an under aged player for the 2003 Montreal Ice Storm Brick team and the following year won the tournament MVP while playing for the 2004 Montreal Ice Storm Brick team and guiding them to the quarter finals. Tristan was a regular to Hockey Quebec’s Top 80 and was selected to the U16 Top 40. Last year Tristan was 1 of only 3 players surclassed to play Midget AAA with Les Estacades in Trois-Rivieres. Tristan was the only 2004 born to take part of the Quebec Team that won a gold medal at the Canada Games. Tristan has made a verbal committed to playing NCAA D1 hockey with Wisconsin. Tristan is the team Captain of the Midget AAA Estacades after being surclassed to play with them last year as well.
6-Antonin Verreault: From Mirabel, Antonin was known for his blazing speed and scoring ability. Antonin was a big part of the Stallions very 1st year where they went undefeated in Spring AAA competition. Antonin was a regular to Hockey Quebec’s Top 80 and was selected to the U16 Top 40. Antonin was recognized as one of the top 15 year olds for the upcoming June 2020 QMJHL draft. Antonin currently plays for the Vikings Midget AAA team where he is not only their teams leading scorer, he is the Midget AAA league leader in scoring with 21 points in only 12 games as a 15 year old. Felicitation Antonin and keep it going.... BOOOOM!!!
7-Davide Patella: From Laval, Davide was known for his blazing speed, hard work ethic, and ability to play in every situation. Davide showed his versatility by playing both defense and forward in the Stallions first year. Davide was surclassed from Atom to Peewee. Davide was a regular to Hockey Quebec’s Top 80 and was selected to the U16 Top 40. Watch out for Davide on this year’s edition of the Rousseau Royals Midget AAA team where he continues to show incredible leadership as a 15 year old.
8-Markus Vidicek: Originally from Laval, Markus was known for being a defensive pillar on defense with the ability to switch and become a forward at a moments notice. Markus is known for his hockey IQ, team play, hard work, and consistency on every team he’s played on. Markus won the Dodge Cup in Atom AA & Peewee AAA with his civil team. Markus finished top 4, top 10, and top 3 in league scoring over the past 3 years respectively. Markus was a regular to Hockey Quebec’s Top 80 and was selected to the U16 Top 40, he’s 1 of only 2 players to never lose a game at this Hockey Quebec program. Watch out for Markus on this year’s edition of the Lions Midget AAA team.
The 2nd Year Stallions
9-Nicolas Ruccia: From Laval, better known as Nico, didn’t play Spring AAA hockey until the summer before his 1st year Novice. Nico became the pillar in nets for the 2004 Stallions over the next 5 years. Nico was Marco Raimondo’s (the Stallions legendary goalie trainer) 2nd or 3rd student ever. Nico won the Dodge Cup in Atom AA and was a big part of the Championship team. Nico was selected to Hockey Quebec’s Top 40. Watch out for Nico on this year’s edition of the Rousseau Royals Midget AAA team.
10-Noah Warren: Originally from Pierrefonds, Noah was known for his incredible athleticism, size, and speed. Noah started on the Stallions D2 team that won its very 1st tournament ever played and was the defensive leader of that team before eventually joining the D1 team the following year. Noah was selected to the 2004 Montreal Ice Storm Brick that made the quarter finals. Noah was a regular to Hockey Quebec’s Top 80 and was selected to the U16 Top 40. Last year Noah was 1 of only 3 players surclassed to play Midget AAA with Les Riverains de CCL. Noah was recognized as one of the top 15 year olds for the upcoming June 2020 QMJHL draft.
11-William Bishop: From Baie D’Urfe, William was a defenseman known for his incredibly smooth skating ability, speed, and offensive rushes. William joined the 2nd year Stallions D1 team after spending a year with the Jr. Lions. William was a regular to Hockey Quebec’s Top 80 and was selected to the U16 Top 40. William is regarded still today as one of the very best 2004 born skating defenseman.
12-James Swan: From St-Laurent, James came to the Stallions in their 2nd year after spending his 1st year with the Royals. James was known for his incredible compete, hard work ethic, offensive abilities, and scoring ability. James would go on to be an offensive corner stone of the Stallions offense for the next 4 years. James was selected to the 2004 Montreal Ice Storm Brick that made the quarter finals. James was a regular to Hockey Quebec’s Top 80 and was selected to the U16 Top 40 this past summer, however he was forced to decline the invitation due to an injury. Watch out for James on this year’s edition of the Lions Midget AAA team.
13-Jordan Dumais: Originally from the South Shore, Jordan was known for his deceptively quick shot, hockey IQ, offensive skills, and scoring abilities. Jordan came from the Gouverneurs D1 team and started on the Stallions D2 team that won its very 1st tournament ever played and was the offensive leader of that team before eventually joining the D1 team. Jordan finished 2nd in league scoring this past year in Bantam AAA. Jordan was a regular to Hockey Quebec’s Top 80 and was selected to the U16 Top 40. Jordan is attending South Kent Prep School this upcoming season.
The Stallions Following Years
14-Francesco Iasenza: Originally from Laval, Frankie came to the Stallions in his 3rd year of Spring AAA after playing with the Vikings AAA & NRJ teams. Frankie converted as a defenseman with the Stallions after playing as a forward on his previous teams. Frankie was known for his visionary first passes out of the defensive zone, his shot from the point, and his hockey IQ. Frankie won the Dodge Cup in Atom AA and was a big part of the Championship team. Frankie was a regular to Hockey Quebec’s Top 80 and was selected to the U16 Top 40. Watch out for Frankie on this year’s edition of the Lions Midget AAA team.
15-Jake Rozzi: From Kirkland, Jake came over to the Stallions in their 3rd year from the Ice Storm where he was their #1 offensive player. Jake was known for being a sniper and his goal scoring abilities. Jake was selected to the 2004 Montreal Ice Storm Brick that made the quarter finals. Jake won the Dodge Cup in Peewee AAA. Jake was a regular to Hockey Quebec’s Top 80 and was selected to the U16 Top 40. Jake is attending South Kent Prep School this upcoming season.
16-Maveric Lamoureux: Originally from Mirabel, Maveric played the famous King of the Rings tournament in Toronto in a joint venture with the Jr. Canadiens. Maveric was a towering defenseman known for his size and ability to be quite physical. Maveric Jake was selected to the 2004 Montreal Ice Storm Brick that made the quarter finals. Maveric was a regular to Hockey Quebec’s Top 80 and was selected to the U16 Top 40. Watch out for Maveric on this year’s edition of the Elites de Jonquiere Midget AAA team, where he was selected 1st overall in this year’s Midget AAA draft.
Other Notable Stallions
Although we focussed above on the "Top 40" Stallions, we felt that it was very important to mention some other notable players that went through the 2004 Stallions program. Here they are below;
Justin Katz: From MRO, Justin was the original Stallions goalie that started the D2 program. Justin is an incredibly intelligent student and hard worker. His attention to detail has consistantly made his part of the very top goalies year after year. Justin was the goalie that lead his Peewee AAA team to an undefeated season versus the Quebec competition and a Dodge Cup Championship. Justin is currently at Deerfield Prep.
Olivier Ciarlo: Originally from Laval, Olivier was part of the goaltending duo on the Stallions D2 team. Olivier led his civil Bantam AAA-R team to a Dodge Cup semi-finals single handedly. Watch out for Davide on this year’s edition of the Rousseau Royals Midget AAA team.
For all the 2004 born Stallions hockey players in Quebec, there is quite a busy future ahead in the coming year. In fact, all the 2004 born hockey players can look forward to a busy schedule. While they all focus on their current seasons, here is what they can look forward to and set their goals and dreams for;
-December 2019: Naming of the U16 Canada Team that will participate in the Lausanne Youth Olympics.
-January 2020: U16 Youth Olympics in Lausanne Switzerland.
-April 2020: QMJHL Gatorade Challenge.
-June 2020: QMJHL Draft.
-July 2020: Hockey Canada U17 National Team Camp in Calgary Alberta.
-November 2020: U17 World Championships.
Champagne Showers to everyone. To be continued........
VIDEO & PHOTO'S