For the first time in the province’s history, Newfoundland has won a professional sports championship.
They did so Tuesday night when the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers defeated the Toledo Walleye 4-3 to claim the Kelly Cup in six games.
One member of the Growlers roster has seen his hockey career bring him to places he never could have imagined but as he lifted the Cup over his head, he was all smiles and glad of the path he has taken.
That player is Scott Pooley, who is from Granger, Indiana. The 25 year old has seen his hockey career take him to Chicago, Muskegon, the College of Holy Cross in Massachusetts, Toronto to Newfoundland and back in 2012-13 Fort McMurray, Alberta.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the opportunity that Gord (Thibodeau) & (Tom) Keca and the coaching staff at the time gave me,” said Pooley. “I was really between a rock and hard place and I had an option to go to Fort McMurray, Alberta coming from Indiana and not really knowing anything of what to expect but to be given the opportunity that those guys gave me and the organization gave me it really shot my career forward and allowed me to gain some confidence and develop as a player and a person.”
Pooley played 53 games with the MOB that season, scoring 11 goals and 22 points as an 18 year old. Little did he know at the time, that his year in Fort McMurray which has a heavy east coast population, would prepare him for when he was assigned to play for the Growlers in St. John’s Newfoundland at the start of the 2018-19 season.
“I had heard about Newfoundland a little bit from a few of the billets in Fort Mac. Krista and Keith Fahey, they took me in and were really welcoming for me in Fort McMurray and all their friends kind of told me stories about Newfoundland but I really had no idea where it was,” said Pooley.
When Pooley arrived, he immediately made an impact on a Growlers team that was in their first year of existence. Pooley finished fifth on the team in scoring with 52 points and led the team in goals with 31 in 60 games played.
“I was on the plane heading there and was looking on the map and we were passing just north of Boston and I knew we were going east so I thought we must be close but then the map just kept zooming out and zooming out and you still couldn’t see St. John’s,” said Pooley with a laugh about his first flight to the city. “The people are amazing, the food is amazing and I have nothing but tremendous things to say about the city of St. John’s.”
During his time in the province Pooley got to enjoy his first jiggs dinner and even got screeched in with several of his teammates early on in the season.
One of his biggest moments of the year came in Game 2 of the final when he scored to tie the game 1-1 in the third period against the Walleye and then scored the overtime winner to send the Mile One Centre into a frenzy.
THE OVERTIME HERO.
— Newfoundland Growlers (@NLGrowlers) May 27, 2019
That goal was big, and stands right up there with another playoff overtime goal that he scored back in March of 2013 with the MOB. With the Oil Barons trailing the Whitecourt Wolverines in Game 4 of their North Division Quarter-final, Pooley scored a hat-trick, with his second goal tying the game with six seconds left to force overtime before he buried the OT winner.
“I remember I had a terrible turnover and I was playing defence and I went behind our net to reverse it and I turned it over to Whitecourt’s top line and they buried to go up two and I was so deflated because I thought I wasn’t going to get another shift,” said Pooley.
Oil Barons Head Coach Gord Thibodeau must’ve had a hunch about Pooley as he threw him back out there and he made sure he made up for his blunder earlier in the game.
“The tying goal I think we had 8 or 9 chances because Whitecourt was all packed into the slot and I took a slapshot and it hit Adam Durkee in the shin and I’m pretty sure he still has a bruise on his leg to this day, that’s how bad it was and then it went in and then overtime was just a quick face-off win and I threw it on net and it went in,” said Pooley whose heroics forced a Game 5 back in Whitecourt that the Oil Barons would lose and have their season ended.
Pooley’s Game 2 heroics in the Kelly Cup final were just as big as he once again helped lead the Growlers attack. He scored 9 goals and 17 points in 23 playoff games.
“It’s a pretty surreal thing, it’s probably something that will set in as time goes on and right now we’re just living in the moment and enjoying being with one another the last couple days,” said Pooley on what it meant to win with this group of players.” The support we had from the province and the city from day one has been second to none.”
Pooley will continue to enjoy this moment but has his sights set on moving up the ranks in the Toronto Maple Leafs system. He played six games with the AHL Toronto Marlies this season and five the year before.
Newfoundland and Fort McMurray will always have a connection because of the people and they will always have a connection for Pooley through hockey and a special place in his heart.
“I truthfully owe a lot of my success to the chance and the opportunity and the city of Fort McMurray and I wouldn’t be in the position that I am today without first going through that city.”