Special to The Standard
When the final buzzer sounds on Saturday, February 24th, at the Aurora Community Center, it will mark the end of an era for Lindsay Muskies defenseman Owen Barnett.
The Newmarket, Ont. native began his Jr. A hockey career as a call up with the Muskies, during the 2013/14 season, playing three games, and over the next four seasons his total would become 199 games for the franchise.
He recently told me his thoughts on initially joining the team, and his feelings at the time.
“After playing AAA for the Markham Waxer's for 3 years, I was AP'D to play for the Muskies, and really got a feel of the Junior A level. All the guys were friendly and welcomed me in the room. It felt like a team that I wanted to be a part of. The next year I made the jump, and signed as a Muskie during my grade 12 year. It was hard to juggle school and hockey, but, when you do what you love, you make the time”, he said recently via email.
Owen has steadily received a larger role on the team, as the years have gone past, to the point where he is currently an assistant Captain, something he takes a lot of pride in.
Muskie fans have become quite used to seeing #7 on the ice, in all kinds of situations, whether it be on the power play, killing penalties, or in key situations late in games, but there is an awful lot more to know and like about this young man off the ice as well.
Owen is very big in community involvement, both with the team and on his own. My first dealing with Owen off the ice was a very touching moment, while filming a promo for our 'Pink In The Rink' game, where we asked players to talk about how cancer had effected them in their lifetime. His time on camera was short, but personal and left a lasting impression with me. I also, over the years, have attended the Lindsay 'Jolly Jog' with him, and watched him fumble awkwardly with ladies wear, at the BOB FM Bras Around The Building campaign. He has also taken part in ball hockey events, at local schools and at the Boys and Girls Club.
What I didn’t know about Owen was his involvement away from the team with different organizations.
For instance, he spends a lot of time with the Minor Bantam Central Ontario Wolves, a team that is now coached by former Muskies Assistant Coach, Justin Wollacott.
“Owen has been a great help with our team”, says Woolacott. “Very dependable and great with the kids. The kids really look up to him and he provides a great example for them.”
Barnett also spends a lot of time at the National Training Rink, teaching kids the basic skills of hockey and offering encouragement to do their best.
Part of my responsibility, with the Muskies, is to gather information about players for the programs that we sell on game nights. When thinking about this article, I was remembering something that Owen had touched on a few years back. I could not find the information though, and had to reach out to Owen’s mother Debbie to help jog my memory.
“He is very good with kids”, writes Debbie Barnett. “He worked with the special needs kids during his high school years, and was a part of the Best Buddy program. They paired him with a special needs person who loved and played hockey. They would eat lunch together or go to each others games. Owen won an award in grade 12, the "Optimist Character Matters Award", for his compassion towards the special needs group in his classes”.
His Coaches were quick to respond with words of praise for Barnett, when I approached them for comments.
Current Muskies Assistant Coach, Jon Campbell said, “It has been my pleasure working with [him], and watching Barney grow as a player, becoming our assistant [coach], as well as a person. I have always looked forward [to] talking and interacting [with him] through the seasons. Barney has brought a calming presence on the back end, he is a player who I can depend on in any situation. I am going to miss talking and helping him develop his game”.
Justin Woolacott also added, “In regards to coaching, Barney, he was always [a] respectful and hardworking player that just loves the game. He always showed up to the rink with a positive mind set, and was a leader on and off the ice. I appreciate that I've had the opportunity to get to know him”.
Dan West, Lindsay Muskies current Head Coach, was also full of praise for the departing veteran.
“Reflecting back on Barney's time in Lindsay, I think of his team-first attitude, his growth as a leader on the ice, in the dressing room, in our community, and the cannon of a shot he has. Owen has one of the hardest shots in the league, many opponents, as well as teammates in practice, can attest to that. 'He is a player who can be depended upon in all situations', is a favourite of his teammates, for his willingness to battle and compete, and [he] is the first to volunteer his time at team events. His positive attitude and willingness to grow/learn, even as a last year player, have made him a pleasure to work with over the past 4 seasons. Watching Owen's growth and development as a person and a player have been very gratifying. His parents, Al and Debbie, are amazing people and I am sure they are proud of Owen in every way. They have done a fine job in raising a thoughtful, caring and hard working young man. On behalf of the entire organization and the community of Lindsay, I would like to thank Owen for his service, and wish him the very best in the future”.
Barnett himself, normally a man of very few words, had plenty to say, when reflecting back on his time as a Muskie.
“I have been fortunate to have many of the same coaching staff for the last 4 years, and I want to thank Dan West, Jon Campbell, Greg Seiler, Wayne Verge, and Rob Jenkins for mentoring me, teaching me new things, and guiding me along the way. Thank you, to Katelyn Lockwood, who always took care of my hockey injuries, and Harold and Mark, who are always there to take our care of our equipment, and to all the other staff that run the front door, especially Hilda a long time volunteer, who always has a welcoming smile or a hello for me. I have lived in Lindsay, with a billet family and I want to thank Jennifer Pearson, her son Steve and her family, for making me feel so welcomed and comfortable, like it's my second home. Without great coaches and a wonderful billet family, hockey would not be the same game to play”.
And no interview with a player would be complete without thanking the people who have probably had more to do with his success than anyone.
“My parents were my biggest supporters, attending almost every game over my many years of hockey, driving all over the place for games, and supporting me at all times, whether it was a good game or bad”.
It has been my pleasure, as well, to not only watch Owen play for all of these years, but also to get to know him and his parents. They will all be missed around the rink.
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