Hoffman's second chance

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 3:33 PM ET

RIMOUSKI, Que. -- All Mike Hoffman needed was a shot.

The Kitchener native played a couple of games for his hometown Rangers two years ago but didn't stick.

Now, he's a 52-goal scorer for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Drummondville Voltigeurs and makes his Memorial Cup debut today against OHL king Windsor Spitfires at the Rimouski Colisee.

"It's all about getting an opportunity and taking advantage of it," Hoffman said. "It's the same as guys in the AHL (American Hockey League) trying to get into the NHL. I was playing Junior B (for the Kitchener Dutchmen) but I thought I could play at a higher level.

"(Former Rangers boss and current Florida Panthers coach) Pete DeBoer knew Benoit Groulx (ex-Gatineau Olympiques skipper) and that's how I ended up in the Q.

"My French isn't that great but I can understand most things. It's getting better."

He was shipped to Drummondville last year as Gatineau loaded up for their own Cup run to Kitchener. The recharged Volts wouldn't be here without their Ontario talent.

Injured forward Chris DiDomenico is a Woodbridge native and former North York Ranger. He made his mark in Saint John last year after the Sea Dogs offered him an invitation to try out.

He ended up traded to Drummondville this season and was the team's best player before shattering his femur in the Quebec league final against Shawinigan.

"When we saw Chris sitting in that wheelchair with his jersey on, it made us want to play harder," Hoffman said. "We wanted to win it for him."

So how did these Ontario kids make such a Quebec hockey splash?

"Sometimes, players fall through the cracks," Drummondville head coach Guy Boucher said. "Ontario has twice as many players as Quebec and there are really the same number of teams (20 in the OHL and 18 in the QMJHL) to fill so you're going to look to see if there's someone who might have been missed there."

Cup host Rimouski was one club that could've used outside help. They lost 235 man-games to injury this season and dealt away their future to be ready for this tournament.

"I've never seen anything like our injuries, it was almost a record," Oceanic coach Clement Jodoin said. "At one point, we lost 10 in a row and everyone was saying, 'This is the Memorial Cup host?'

"The depth isn't the same in junior as it is in the NHL. There's no farm team. There's a talent drop off. You have to find players from somewhere. I believe if a player has the ability and passion to play at the next level, wherever they come from, why should we deny it?"

Right now, an OHL-protected player has to be waived through the league before exploring QMJHL or Western Hockey League options.

Veteran Windsor forward Scott Timmins thinks those rules could be more relaxed.

He played with Hoffman during his Kitchener stint and could be given the task of shutting him down today.

"If you don't like the way you're being treated in the OHL, you should be able to go where you want," Timmins said. "It should be just the same as the guys who go down to the United States and play."

There are CHL limits on European imports and rules against carrying too many 16-year-olds. Over-agers are capped at three but NHL teams continue to carry 18 and 19-year-olds.

The Kelowna Rockets lost defenceman Luke Schenn to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He could've been playing here.

The Rockets recovered. They have eight Americans on board.

There are players out there.

Now, it's all about who casts the widest net.


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