Act like you have been there before.
If anyone at the RBC Cup, Canada's National Junior A Championship, knows what that means, it is Penticton Vees forward Demico Hannoun. In fact, he knows it
all too well.
After a trip to nationals with the Surrey Eagles in 2013 and earning a bye to the tournament playing with the host Vernon Vipers last season, he plans for
his third attempt to hoist the cup to be the most memorable.
“Hopefully third time is the charm,” said Hannoun. “I think it does actually haunt my dreams.”
While he has a cool, quiet confidence about him, it is the exact opposite on the ice. In the BCHL playoffs, Hannoun led Penticton with 21 points. He said
the edge in his game comes from years of road hockey battles with cousin, and Winnipeg Jets prospect, Nic Petan. Despite his playoff performance, Hannoun
admits the transition to the Vees this season was a bit awkward.
“I was on the teams that knocked them out of the BCHL playoffs the past two seasons and then finding out I was coming to their team for this season, it was
a bit strange initially,” said Hannoun. “I didn't know what to expect but it has been an unreal season, and needless to say, looking back I am pretty
excited to be playing for Penticton.”
Vees head coach Fred Harbinson knew he wanted the guy who ended their season early on his side.
“When there was an opportunity to get him on our roster last summer we jumped. He has a lot of experience playing late in the year and it is a great
opportunity for him to go to the RBC Cup again,” said Harbinson.
The coach expects Hannoun to lead the team through a challenging week.
“Our veterans have played in key situations and Demico is definitely one of those guys,” said Harbinson. “He can be one of the best players on the ice when
he wants to be and hopefully we will see the best parts of his game this week. He knows what to expect and hopefully he can lead the rest of the boys.”
Patrick Newell, who has joined Hannoun and Tyson Jost on what has been the Vees’ best line in the playoffs, said he feels lucky to have been put on a line
with Hannoun early in the season.
“He is one of the most talented players I've skated with and has been here before so he can show us what it takes. He has already told us that in a
tournament like this you can't take any days off and you have to come ready to play. That is the kind of attitude he has every game,” said Newell.
“Hopefully we can get him a win this time.”
Having played on a trio of teams that have made it to the RBC Cup, Hannoun said it takes more than just a few talented players to get to the national
final. The Vees, he feels, are giving him his best title shot yet.
“This team has a lot of depth (compared to) the other teams I played for. We roll all four lines and everyone can go hard out there and there is no
worries. We also have a great goalie on our side as well,” said Hannoun of netminder Hunter Miska, who was named top goaltender at the Western Canada Cup,
received the same nod from the BCHL and was nominated for the nation’s top honour.
Hannoun readily admits to being the quiet guy in the locker room; it only perks his teammates’ ears more when he does say something. That comes with the
experience of dealing with pressure situations, whether on home ice in Penticton or on the international stage.
Twice the North Delta, B.C., native has played in the World Junior A Challenge, winning a bronze medal in 2013. Playing with the Maple Leaf on his chest,
he said, taught him to take nothing for granted.
“Cracking that roster for two years is amazing. I learned what to expect playing on a big stage just like at nationals; it will be all Game 7 situations
from here on out,” he said.
The fast pace of international play is something that stuck with him returning to his club team, and Hannoun said it allowed him to see things differently
on the ice and realize what a winning squad looks like.
“Staying focused at nationals will be the difference. Even if we are down a goal, we have to rely on that feeling in our gut that we can score. I think
that will be the difference in some of these games and what has been the difference between us and other teams this year,” said Hannoun. “There are a lot
of good teams at the RBC that won their league, so we have to stay positive.”
The comments all play into Hannoun's calm composure, but when it comes down to it he is just like every other player who dreams of winning the RBC Cup.
“Getting a chance to lift the cup with this team, I don't think words can describe it. I would finally accomplish the goal that I have wanted so bad these
past two seasons and accomplish the goal this team put forward at the beginning of the year.”