OHL decision time left heads swimming

Bob Boyes, father of 27-year-old NHLer Brad, talks about the days leading up to the OHL draft.

Bob Boyes is the father of 27-year-old NHLer Brad, a member of the St. Louis Blues currently playing his fifth year in the league.

The floodgates opened to a whole new world we knew nothing about after the All-Ontario Bantam Championships in Thunder Bay, Ont., during the spring of 1998.

Brad led in scoring and was chosen as tournament MVP. Hockey agents began calling one after the other.

We were totally unprepared for this. Brad had been a pretty good player, but was never mentioned when it came to the OHL draft.

Our family was being forced down the road to making a pretty big decision. My wife, Brad, and I listened to what was said and/or offered, but no made commitment on any level.

We had to consider the option of Brad staying at home, playing hockey locally and hopefully getting a scholarship to an Ivy League school, or moving away from home at 16, going to a new school, being away from family and friends, and play hockey. Lots of hockey.

Brad had already done a first attempt at his S.A.T. test and had scored well enough to be considered by some strong U.S. academic universities with good hockey programs.

Our heads were swimming. All this was so unexpected, but once it began, it seemed to gain a full head of steam quickly.

Agents come a-calling

For a couple of months in the spring, we were being courted over the phone by agents. As the OHL draft drew nearer, one team from an Eastern Ontario town expressed interest in Brad.

The team's head scout and general manager called and made a visit to our home to meet us, and they phoned regularly to see what our plans were.

A second OHL team called a little later. Its owner and general manager also came to our house to talk with us. It was all very heady stuff, but still no decision had been made.

As parents, we asked Brad what he thought. He loved hockey and wanted to play, but he knew the odds of getting to the NHL were slim.

He also knew that having a good education would open lots of doors for his future, and Brad was a pretty good student.

One factor that was big for us was something that I would tell students at my schools where I was principal or to our own kids.

We would tell them: "Follow your dreams, but make sure you work hard at it and have safety nets in place if things don't quite work out."

It was time to see if we truly believed what we preached.

Brad was in a position to follow his dream and had promised (and he did keep his promise) to continue his schooling and work hard. The school package the OHL provides for its players was a safety net in case hockey did not work out for Brad.

So we were ready for the OHL.

Draft day

The draft took place at the Molson Centre in Barrie, Ont., on a Saturday morning in late June. The entire family went. We sat up in the crowd and watched the proceedings on the floor. It was set up just like the NHL Draft.

I must admit, there was a lump in my throat when the Erie Otters called out "From the Mississauga Reps, Brad Boyes," with the 12th overall pick.

Up until three weeks earlier, Brad's name was not on the draft list at all. Brad rose to his feet, received hugs from us, and then worked his way to the podium.

I remember a couple of things when he went to the front of the arena: First, he was the only player that had been selected to that point that did not have an agent accompany him to the front. He went on his own.

Second, once he got there, he had to give a short speech. I was in awe of how well he did in expressing his gratitude to our family and to his bantam hockey coaches.

He then went on to say how proud he was to be selected by Erie and that he would do his best to bring a championship to them (the Otters won the title in 2001-02).

After Brad was finished on the stage, our family was invited to go to the floor of the arena and meet with the Erie ownership and coaching staff. On our way to the table, we passed by the table of the Belleville Bulls.

The scout that had first identified Brad as a potential OHL player and who had called regularly and visited our house stopped me as I walked by.

He congratulated me and said how disappointed he was that Belleville could not select Brad (they had the next pick after Erie!) but he said something that sticks in my mind to this day:

He said Brad would be in good hands with Sherry Bassin. I thought that was a very classy thing to say by the scout — Mike Crawford. It turned out to be very prophetic.