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Flung far across the continent, four Southern Ontario-born Leaf prospects are finding themselves playing in the East Coast Hockey League over the holidays.
About a half a dozen players who would ordinarily be in the NHL or shuttling between the Show and the American Hockey League are now full-time AHLers. That forced young players and those outside the core of the Marlies roster to winter instead in the East Coast Hockey League.
Goalie Mark Owuya is in Las Vegas. Andrew Crescenzi and Jamie Devane are playing with the San Francisco Bulls. Former Brampton Battalion captain Sam Carrick is wintering in Boise and playing for the Idaho Steelheads.
Carrick, a 20-year-old Markham native, has found much to like in Idaho.
“It’s been great. We have a good team with lots of veteran guys to help out. It’s a great opportunity to see a different corner of the world.”
When Dallas Eakins told Carrick he was going to Idaho he gave him one piece of advice. Find Ben Ondrus. Do what he does.
Ondrus, now 30, brilliantly captained the Marlies from 2007-2010. The two have a similar game that is long on try.
Boise is a good setup. The whole team lives in the same apartment complex. The Steelheads regularly draw fans of 4,000 and sellouts of the 5,000 CenturyLink Arena aren’t uncommon.
Then of course, there is the hot springs.
We are talking, of course, of one of the finest hot springs in all of central Idaho. The Skinny Dipping Hot Springs.
Different areas have their natural wonders but if you’re talking about a go-to spot for nature lovers, and there are plenty in the middle of an often breathtakingly beautiful state, then you are talking about a natural spring so well used there are spigots to siphon more hot water for the bathers and signs warn do beware of bares. Really.
“Everyone knows about it,” Carrick said. “It’s a little out of the way place. You have to park maybe 20 minutes away and hike in.”
Aside from the waters, Carrick finds much to like in Boise. The people are great. The game is good.
“I’m not sure if it’s because of the lockout but it’s a lot better than I expected. The ECHL had a reputation as a bit of a goon league but I haven’t found that at all.”