by Brian Rappleyea
“What do you think you can bring to the team?” recalls Danny Pion upon his arrival in Ottawa during his initial conversation with Head Coach/GM Martin Dagenais.
First thing I said was, “I think I can bring offense,” said OJS’ newly acquired forward. OJS picked up Pion from the Dauphin Kings where he had 16 points (4G, 12A) last season. It was Pion’s second move of the season, starting the year with the Steinbach Pistons, where he tallied 11 points (2G, 9A) in 20 games.
Delivering as soon as he hit the ice in an OJS uniform, Pion had four assists in his first four games with the club (January 11-21). “After my first game, I knew I was on a really good team, really offensive, and complete everywhere,” Pion said. “We had role players, top six guys who were getting points every game, and we had defensive guys too; I knew I would have to work hard to stay in the lineup. I played ten games with (Nick) Lalonde and (Owen) Guy (two of OJS’ point-per-game guys) where I got some points, but I figured out that I had a physical side of my game too, so I pushed hard to get better on that side as well. I wanted to be the best two way guy on the team.”
Those first four games in which Pion had a point in each, three of which were OJS wins (one overtime loss), showcased a smooth transition into a group which was already on an eight-game winning streak, of which Pion would help get to nine straight wins, then to a run of and 13 wins out of 14, with no losses in regulation.
Pion’s journey to Ottawa, in which he played an important part in helping the team win the CCHL’s Bogart Cup, then the Fred Page Cup, which led to a berth in the Royal Bank Cup (RBC Cup) where OJS lost in the semifinals by a goal to the Chilliwack Chiefs. But Pion’s time in Ottawa, or his time on skates, may not have happened if it wasn’t for former Gatineau Olympique Head Coach and current Head Coach of the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch, Benoit Groulx:
“It’s a funny story how I got into hockey,” said Pion. “My dad Richard, played all his life, but didn’t want me to play. I was at my uncle’s party and one of his best friends was Benoit Groulx, who was there with his son (who has since been drafted into the NHL by the Anaheim Ducks). I was around seven or eight years old and Mr. Groulx asked me where I play hockey, to which I told him that I wasn’t playing anywhere. Mr. Groulx then talked to my dad and the next year I was playing.”
Richard obviously made the right decision to let Danny lace up the skates, a decision of which OJS is grateful for. In his truncated season with the club, Pion had 12 points (3G, 9) in 19 games, then in the CCHL playoffs, had 7 points (1G, 6A) in 18 games, with two assists coming in OJS’ game-six quarterfinal series clincher against Pembroke. Perhaps his most notable point of the playoffs, was his third period assist in game seven of the semifinals against Brockville to help inflate OJS lead to three goals, putting the game as close to as out of reach as it could be at that point.
On pace, points wise with similar numbers this season 13 points (3G, 10A) in 21 games, the Junior Senators have continued to reap what Pion has to offer. After winning multiple championships, perhaps finding the will to continue to try and improve might be difficult for some, due to the recent successes and shortened offseason, but not Pion: “I worked on my speed in the offseason. 100 percent. I wanted to be more explosive on the ice and I worked hard all summer. I worked hard all summer, and every practice, I’m trying to get better, get faster, and be the best player I can be.”
That’s worked for Pion so far, as OJS have recovered from a rough few games to start their season, now sitting second in the Yzerman Division behind the Hawkesbury Hawks. With eyes on more success with Ottawa, Pion is also looking for a Division I hockey scholarship to add more personal successes with his team achievements.