SUN Hockey Pool

'The deterrent'

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:56 AM ET

His enthusiasm is infectious.

Hans Benson just wants to play hockey.

Where, it really doesn't matter, as long as he's doing it on a professional basis.

"Everyday people go to their job and they hate it," Benson said. "I wake up every day and there's nothing I would rather be doing than playing hockey."

Nothing.

"I'm very passionate about that and I would do anything I can to keep doing that."

Benson's road to the Edmonton Oilers rookie camp has been a long one.

He picked up the game late, only getting introduced to it at the age of 10 by a neighbour in Northern California.

"I've always just wanted to skate," Benson said. "My next-door neighbour had nets and sticks and stuff and was always out there shooting. I just wanted to go out there and play with them.

"After that, all I did all summer was skate. I just wanted to put my time in. Some of those guys were light years ahead of me and I worked hard to try and catch up to them."

Benson eventually made his way onto a select team in California, which led him to Junior B in Port Alberni, B.C. From there he earned a tryout with the Regina Pats before settling on Junior A in Saskatchewan.

"It's strange how things work out," he said. "My grandma had passed away that same night I was cut by the Pats, and we were really close. But later I got a call from some scouts of the SJHL and I was invited to go play Junior A."

Following his junior career, which took him into Manitoba, Benson, 24, went to play in the Central Hockey League, the ECHL and eventually in the AHL with Peoria.

In 44 games with the Rivermen last season, he had three goals and four assists with 265 penalty minutes, that included 33 fighting majors.

"He certainly had a reputation in the East Coast League, and having a team in Stockton, they got to see a lot of him and he came highly recommended from that standpoint," said Oilers assistant general manager Kevin Prendergast.

"He left his mark in Peoria too. They really liked him. He's worked his butt off this summer and he signed an American League deal for us."

At six-feet, 253-pounds, Benson is not a considered a true heavyweight.

However, he looks like someone who knows his way around a weight room and is not one to back away from a fight. His cousin is former Chicago Bears running back Cedric Benson.

"We felt last year we got pushed around a little in Springfield," Prendergast said. "We were very young and it was hard for our young guys who do the defending or be the deterrent, and he brings that factor with him.

"He's not a legitimate heavy- weight, but he's ready, willing and able. He skates well enough. He keeps his game simple and he's going to be a guy that when he gets on the ice, other teams have to be aware of him. Hopefully he can free up some room for our skilled players down there."

Benson will be attending the Oilers' main camp, which gets underway this morning with medicals and fitness testing. Whether he gets into an exhibition game will depend on what kind of impression he makes on the coaching staff.

So far he's done well at rookie camp, which wrapped up last night with a game against the ACAC All-stars in Camrose.

"I just want to do the best with the opportunity I've been given," Benson said. "I'm just trying to prove myself every day that I'm a hard worker, that I can play my role. I know what my role is and don't stray far from it."


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