Ryan and Popel sign with Junior B Port Colborne

By Joel Charron

Jordan Ryan and Zoran Popel will be continuing their hockey career, it just won’t be with the Amherstburg Stars.

The two 18-year-olds recently signed a contract to play for the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Junior B team the Port Colborne Pirates.

“I’m excited. I didn’t think I’d be playing Junior B hockey right out of minor hockey,” said Popel.

“I feel like all my hard work is starting to pay off,” said Ryan.

Ryan and Popel were amongst four other Amherstburg Stars (Mark Fenty, Daniel Slipchuk, Nick Keeler and Michael Popel) to be invited to a rookie camp last month.

The invite was set up by Amherst Midget Major head coach Matt Fox, who played for the Pirates during his playing days and acts as a scout for the Junior B team.

“I want to try and get these kids to the next level and help them develop,” said Fox. “Sending those kids to the place where I played is very rewarding.”

While at the camp the two Amherstburg standouts impressed the Port Colborne coaches in the scrimmage games and shootout drills.

“I wasn’t too much of anything,” said Popel. “I was just going out there and playing my game.”

Popel was offered a contract on the first day of camp. Instead of signing right away, Popel asked if he could sleep on it and give them his answer the next day.

“I talked to my parents and they were cool with everything so the next day after the game I signed with them,” said Popel.

Popel said his hand was “jittery” as he was signing the document.

“It was a good feeling,” he said.

While in Port Colborne, Popel will be attending Niagara College’s Law and Security program.

Popel wasn’t the only one that turned heads. Ryan was making waves in his own right and would have signed at the same time as his fellow Stars teammate however Ryan’s school situation was not figured out yet.

In the past few weeks, Ryan was accepted into the Psychology program at Brock University and signed his own contract with Port Colborne.

“It’s very comforting knowing where I will playing,” said Ryan. “This is going to be a great experience. I think it’s going to help me learn a lot of life lessons being away from home and not having my parents there all the time.”

Fox said he was surprised that both players were signed so quickly, stating that is usually not how things are done in Junior B.

“They pretty much knew after watching them skate that Jordan and Zoran wouldn’t be available for much longer,” said Fox.

Ryan brings a gritty, physical aspect of hockey to Port Colborne. He has a knack for finding the back of the net while his determination is unmatched.

Popel, who can play both forward and defense beings a lot of skill in his repertoire. Popel’s speed and ice vision are major assets the Pirates will be looking forward to exploit.

Being the young ducks in a new pond may be a little stressful, however Ryan and Popel will have each other to rely on.

“It’s going to be a bit easier to wedge my way in with Zoran being there,” said Ryan. “It’s not like I’m walking in not knowing anyone.”

Ryan and Popel head up for Port Colborne’s main camp on August 15.

Port Colborne is in the Niagara region. The Pirates finished 25-18-8 in the GOJHL and were eliminated in seven game in the second round of the GOJHL playoffs to the Niagara Fall Canucks.

Comments are closed.