Scales offered spot with Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL
© Labradorian file photo
Happy Valley-Goose Bay’s Curtis Scales survived the Gatineau Olympiques training camp and has a chance to play in the QMJHL.
Curtis Scales of Happy Valley-Goose Bay has done what few hockey players from central Labrador have done before him — crack the lineup of a Major Junior team.
During a rigorous 10-day training camp for the Gatineau Olympiques this month, Scales survived five cuts and was offered a spot on the team as a right-winger.
The fact he made the final cut of a QMJHL team at such a young age (he will be 16 in September) is a testament to Scales’s skill level and work ethic.
For the last two seasons, Scales has been playing hockey and attending school at the Canadian International Hockey Academy, located 30 minutes outside of Ottawa. The academy provided him with both hockey training and academic teachings.
While attending the hockey academy he played in an AAA hockey league. During his time in Bantam and Midget, he amassed 59 goals and 32 assists in 80 games.
His offensive talent is the main reason why the Olympiques selected him with the 134th pick in the QMJHL draft.
Making the team is one of the most difficult ordeals Scales has had to go through. He estimates there was between 60 and 70 other players at the camp, most of whom, like him, were trying to prove that they belonged in the QMJHL.
“It was hard. It was really hard,” recalls Scales.
“The first day, second day, and the third day I almost wanted to leave.”
During the training camp, Scales had to adhere to a strict and tiring routine. He would wake up at 7 am, spend some time practicing on the ice, which was followed by off-ice workouts.
In the afternoon they would play an intra-squad game for more than two hours. By the time the training camp was done for a day, it would be six or seven o’clock at night.
Because of his age, inexperience, and the high level of competition, Scales was anticipating an early exit from camp.
“Pretty much every day I had a (negative) attitude I had to work on. I was just waiting to get cut.”
But with each passing day, the camp became less intimidating, and Scales began to realize he was good enough to make the team.
“I started getting better, stronger, faster as the days went by,” says Scales.
During the second inter-squad game, Scales confidence took a big boost when he leveled fellow right-winger Emile Poirier with a body check.
Poirier is one of Gatineau’s star players and was selected by the Calgary Flames in the first round of the 2013 NHL entry draft.
“In the second game, I knocked him down. I felt good about it,” says Scales.
After the game, Scales called his father, who is a Calgary Flames fan, to boast about his body check on the young NHL prospect.
Scales’s hockey agent Serge Payer — who played more than 100 games in the NHL — is not surprised that Scales was able to adjust and raise his level of play at the Olympiques training camp. Payer has long been impressed with Scales maturity level as player, despite his young age.
“His personality is a tremendous asset,” says Payer. “At times, it’s about maturity. He’s got the maturity level and he makes good decisions to work hard.”
“He’s been adjusting rapidly. He scored some nice goals and set up some good plays during the intra-squad games.”
The toughest part of the camp, emotionally, was waiting for the cuts to be announced. It’s bad enough anticipating the results of one team cut; five is almost unbearable.
“Before every cut it was nerve-wracking,” recalls Scales.
The cuts were posted online in the mornings. Scales would wake up and check the computer to see if his name was on the list. Every time, to his great relief, his name was absent.
After the fourth cut, Scales was one of six remaining right-wingers. The last cut would eliminate one more from that position.
Scales didn’t get any sleep the night before the last cut was announced. When he saw that he made the team, a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders.
But Scales probably will not be playing for the Olympiques right away. The team has a lot of skill and experience at right wing. So a 16-year old rookie like Scales may not get a lot of ice time, at least, not at first.
And since the young hockey player is still developing, it’s important that he get a lot of ice time against skilled opponents. So Scales is anticipating starting the season with a Junior A club.
“That’s one of the toughest decisions I have to make,” says Scales.
“But I’d probably get a lot of ice time, 20 or 30 minutes a game, if I go to Junior A.”
Scales’s agent told The Labradorian that no final decision has been made regarding where Scales will be playing this season. But the young player’s development will be the most important consideration to make.
“It’s important to help him grow and not rush his development,” says Payer.
Even if Scales decides it would be better to start this season in Junior A, Payer is confident he’ll jump to the Gatineau Olympiques in the near future.
“He’s earned every right to be there,” says Payer. “He’s got unique skills as a player.”