Former “waterboy” living the dream, cracks team lineup

Defenceman Sam McCormack, who as a kid helped look after the team’s equipment, now plays for the Sarnia Legionnaires. Anne Tigwell Photo

Dan McCaffery

Special to The Journal

As little Sam McCormack skated around the Brock Street Barn waving a Sarnia Legionnaires flag during pre-game festivities, he dreamed of one day suiting up with the local hockey club.

The year was 2009 and the 12-year-old Rosedale Public School student was something of a fixture at the rink.

Team executive Cliff Smith recalls the lad helping to load equipment on the bus during road trips, taking water bottles to the bench between periods and even skating with the Jr. ‘B’ club during light practices.

“That was kind of a thrill for sure,” McCormack recalls. “The Legionnaires loved having me around and I loved being there.”

But his dream of playing for the team seemed like a long shot, if only because he was a small kid. Even today, he’s not very big for a hockey player, standing 5’9 and weighing in at just 160 pounds.

But his father, Joe, supported him every step of the way.

“He pushed me to go to the gym, to get bigger, and he encouraged me to use my heart. Hockey is not about size, it’s about heart.”

Last year, at age 16, McCormack failed to crack the Legionnaires lineup. Undaunted, the diminutive defenceman toiled with the Jr. ‘C’ Mooretown Flags. Playing against athletes several years older, he scored seven goals and collected 14 assists.

His hard work paid off and, when Sarnia opened its season last month, Sam proudly pulled on a jersey with the Royal Canadian Legion crest on the front.

Head coach Dan Rose has been impressed with the rookie’s play. “Sam brings youthful enthusiasm, a lot of speed, skill and determination,” he said. “He’s a student of the game who knows how it should be played. And he’s got a tremendous shot. He’s going to be a really good player at 18 or 19.”

Eventually, McCormack hopes to play college hockey or land a spot on an OHL squad. But for now, his focus is on the Legionnaires. “We’ve got a really good team, we’re going to go far,” he says.

But no matter what happens, the former water boy is thrilled to be patrolling the blueline. “When I was young I always looked up to this team. It’s a dream to become a player on this team.”