Three jerseys special for Varone

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

When he has the chance, Phil Varone plans on having three hockey jerseys framed.

First, the San Jose Sharks sweater he received in June after being picked in the fifth round of the NHL draft.

Second, his original Kitchener threads after the Rangers took him in the OHL draft.

And third, the special pink London Knights garb he and his teammates wore for one game to support breast cancer awareness last February at the John Labatt Centre.

The Knights duds were auctioned off for charity. Millionaire Brian Semkowski, whose family Varone lives with in London, won the bid for No. 71 and gave the sweater back to the player.

"It was a surprise present from my billets," the 18-year-old forward from Vaughan said. "They're great people. They're like my second parents.

"I'm living with them again this season."

The jerseys will remind of happy times. Varone himself evokes that same sort of sentiment from his Hunter hockey bosses, who have elephant-like memories.

"We don't forget," Knights GM Mark Hunter said. "When we brought in John Tavares last year, it changed Phil Varone's role on the team to less of a scoring one and we didn't hear a peep out of him about it. He just kept working hard. He wasn't out for himself and you remember that in the game of hockey.

"He's been a very valuable addition to our team (since being acquired in the Steve Mason trade)."

Varone saw what was happening and accepted it. There are different ways to lead a hockey club.

"Johnny's a better offensive player than I am so I just kept my mouth shut," he said. "I knew I wouldn't get a lot of time on the power play so I had to score when I got my opportunity (and he did, 10 times in 14 playoff games).

"I hope to come back to London this year and you have your personal goals but I want to be part of a London team that brings home the Memorial Cup again.

"I want to be a leader this year."

He's off to a nice start.

Varone was the only current Knights player to score in the final of the Euro Can Cup on Monday night, and his goal put the Pro Knights squad up for good against Swiss club EV Zug.

"He's (turning) 19-years-old this year and he has some pop in his skating," Mark Hunter said. "You expect guys like that to fit in."

The five-foot-10, 187-pound Varone bounced back up yesterday morning and was on the ice to resume skating at Knights training camp.

"I don't usually get to sleep for a while after a game, so I was up a little late," he said, "but I love being on the ice. Everyone in the summer thinks they're Gretzky and that's the way I feel right now."

He departs for San Jose on Friday, one of several Knights heading off to test their skills against NHL competition.

"I don't know too many guys who have been drafted by San Jose," Varone said, "but I talked to Sammy (Gagner) and Marc Pouliot and Danny Richmond. I was able to ask them some questions about what camp is like, what to expect."

He knows what the Knights are expecting. The two Phils -- Varone and McRae -- will be under the gun to fill the net this season.

"If we get Nazem (Kadri) back from the Leafs, we should be in pretty good shape," Hunter said. "A guy like Phil McRae has a good shot and we want him to use it more. If he does, we expect him to score 40 goals for us."

And Varone? He'll get the chances of a 40-goal scorer. He just has to finish them better than he did early last year.

"I never doubted my scoring ability," he said. "I just thought about it too much at the start of the year."

Of that, he doesn't need any reminders.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca


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