Ruling dismays young Londoner

ERIC BENDER -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

Logan Couture, 16, of London was being groomed to be the OHL's first draft pick by the Oshawa Generals.

But on Wednesday the OHL ruled that Oakville's John Tavares, who turns 15 on Sept. 27, meets criteria to be an "exceptional 15-year-old player" and is eligible to play in the league next season.

The Generals announced yesterday they will select Tavares first overall in tomorrow's draft.

The OHL's decision was thought to be a pre-emptive move to keep Tavares from going to the junior United States Hockey League.

Coincidentally, the USHL is an option for Couture.

But missing out on being the first pick as promised by the Generals has caused his family to reassess Logan's future. There is also bitterness toward the Generals. "Disappointment" is Logan's term, although he says it doesn't express how he feels.

His mother Lori calls it "dishonesty" and his father Chet says he's "upset at the betrayal." So Logan, a graduate of the London Junior Knights who played junior B this past season with the St. Thomas Stars, would go second to the Sarnia Sting. Right? Wrong.

The Sting are honouring a commitment to the player they have told they'll pick. And besides, he's a defenceman, which is what they want. "The (other teams) don't want to do what Oshawa has done," Chet Couture said yesterday.

The Generals had planned for some time to choose Couture. His family bought Logan a suit as requested because he was going to sit beside Generals GM Brad Selwood as Selwood made the selection at a computer tomorrow. It was to be an announcement-publicity session and photo opportunity.

Now, the Generals are taking Tavares.

It's not known when or by whom Logan may be selected. There's an honour attached to being the first pick and also a couple of trophies.

Logan and his parents have other avenues to consider.

He can play a lower level of junior hockey, such as continuing with the Stars, until the U.S. colleges come calling with scholarships in hand (Logan sports an 81-per-cent average at Lucas secondary school), or head south where the USHL's Indianapolis team has been pestering for his services.

The Coutures can't understand the late timing of the decision to allow the drafting of Tavares.

However, Oshawa will have Tavares for a minimum of four years, at least until his NHL draft year of 2009. Couture can go in 2007.

Rather than prepare to step into a Generals jersey this fall, Logan will concentrate on making the national under-17 team in Ottawa in August. He'll work out and play golf until then.

There's no doubt about Logan's athletic lineage.

It began in Owen Sound where father Chet and mother Lori went to different schools. They met playing lacrosse against each other.

Cy Lemon, Lori's father, is something of a lacrosse icon in the area. He played competitive senior lacrosse until he was 52, started Owen Sound's junior team and is in the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame. He was a provincial champion in fastball and basketball.

He had organized a recreational lacrosse league in Owen Sound where he allowed females to play against males.

Chet went on to play junior and senior lacrosse and played alongside his father-in-law while Lori played box and field lacrosse, softball, track and field and badminton. She went to Brock University to specialize in phys ed.

Lori has three sisters. One, Nancy, won UWO's purple blanket for her basketball prowess and brother Brian Lemon, who played nine years in the National Lacrosse League, is now vice-president of NLL lacrosse operations.

Lemon is actually Chet Couture's boss because Chet is one of the top referees in the league. Chet Couture has been chosen to referee the NLL final between the Toronto Rock and Arizona next weekend, the fourth such final he's been selected for in five years.

The Coutures married in 1982 and spent seven years in Guelph where Lori taught school and Chet joined the Guelph police force as a constable. They moved to London in 1991 where Lori became a phys ed teacher at Lucas and Chet joined the fire department.

By then there were two boys, Logan and Judson, now 14, who were ripping pucks and lacrosse balls into department store nets that didn't last long. Chet decided to build longer-lasting nets and began manufacturing them at home. The whole family has helped.

"I figure we've made 700 of them," Chet said. "We don't advertise. It's mostly for friends and people who hear about by word of mouth."

And the whole family has been deeply involved in a three-on-three hockey tournament business they operate at London and area arenas in the offseason. Lori, the Lucas cross-country coach, helps organize the area's largest cross-country meet at Fanshawe College each fall, attracting 1,200 to 1,400 competitors.


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