Toledo Cherokee earn national recognitionWritten by Ryan Fowler | | firstname.lastname@example.org
There are many great scents during the holidays, and I’m not talking about your uncle’s cologne.
No, I’m talking about the aroma of gingerbread cookies baking in the oven. The crisp scent of a pine tree standing in the living room with presents underneath. The holidays smell good. Where I conducted my recent interviews did not.
As you inhaled another whiff of ham, I was sitting in the most putrid smelling dungeon of the sporting world: a hockey locker room.
For those of you who have not had the pleasure, the scent is somewhere between a wet dog and burnt hair.
The Toledo Cherokee’s dressing room may have been craving an air freshener, but their players’ talents smell like roses on the ice. The team is one of the top three Junior-A hockey teams in the country.
“Offensively, this is the most talented team we’ve had in the three years I’ve been here,” said head coach Iain Duncan.
Coach Duncan has known success throughout his career. He was a member of BGSU’s 1984 National Championship squad, later playing for the Toledo Storm before working his way into the National Hockey League with the Winnipeg Jets. He returned to Toledo three years ago and has turned the Toledo Cherokee team into a winner.
“We got a real family atmosphere here,” Duncan said. “I work their butts off. I’m hard on them. I’ve told them since day one, ‘I’m going to kick you in the ass and hug you at the same time because I know what it takes to get to the next level.’”
With the Toledo Walleye still a year away from taking the ice, some area hockey purists say the Cherokee are the best show in town.
“There’s nothing to compare it to,” Duncan said. “The closest thing to here is maybe the [Detroit] Red Wings.”
The Cherokee roster is peppered with local talent. The team boasts nine players from Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan. But if you think it’s a skate in the park to make this team, you are painfully wrong.
During tryouts in August, Duncan told me a story of one player turning around and decking, not the halls, but another player in the nose, dropping him to the ice.
“That happens all the time,” Duncan said. “Guys are here fighting for their job. [Players from out of state] are spending upwards of $900 a weekend to come in and try out. You have 130 kids fighting for 25 spots. It’s one of those things.”
Brent Bain managed to avoid the bloody exchange. The second-year forward decided to skip his senior season last year at Sylvania Northview to join the Cherokee
“Some of my best friends played for [Northview], and I know they were pretty bitter about it for a while,” Bain said. “Now everything is pretty much cleared up. It was a tough decision.”
Bain is working his way up the junior hockey ranks in hopes of one day earning a Division I scholarship to a major hockey college.
“It’s a long road,” Bain said. “Some guys play four years, five years [in junior hockey]. You have to just work your way up to the highest level you can and hope that a D-1 scout picks you up.”
Duncan’s professional hockey background and Toledo ties have created a mutual respect between players and the coaching staff. This allows him to push athletes to their limit.
“That’s one thing I ask them every day,” Duncan said. “Come and give me 120 percent from the time you are on the ice, and I guarantee you’ll be a better person on and off the ice when you leave this hockey team.”
For more information, visit www.cherokeehockey.com
Ryan Fowler is the weekend sports anchor at NBC 24 and can be reached at email@example.com.