A Conversation With Legionnaires’ Assistant Coach Tom Norris – by C. Scott Holland

Being a head coach or assistant coach with any Junior B team can be demanding and yet rewarding. Many of them are there to help each of these young men improve their hockey skills. Sarnia Legionnaires’ assistantcoach Tom Norris is one of those people who enjoys working with the Junior B club and its players.

Such an attraction to Junior B hockey in Sarnia is no accident. Norris’ grandfather, Tom Norris, Sr., was the founding father of the Legionnaires franchise 60 years ago.  It was he as general manager who brought in quality talent like Pat Stapleton and Phil Esposito during his tenure and won five Sutherland Cup titles during a 14-year stint with the franchise.

Norris himself has witnessed the recent change in Sarnia as the franchise has had a large turnover from last season plus seen a new head coach take over the helm.

Norris notes that drawing new players comes from “our large fan support at home game with attendance averaging 1,100 to 1,300 per game.” The players love having all those people generating support for the team.

He feels that the Legionnaires’ 2014/15 season ended on a disappointing note when they lost their second round series to LaSalle 4-2, yet concedes that the Legionnaires players had worked extremely hard to get to that point of the playoffs. “In game five when LaSalle tied the game with three seconds left and then won it (3 min.) in overtime was probably difference for us,” Norris says.

This season, he works under new had coach Mark Davis and Norris says, “He’s great to work with, full of high energy and has a great personality …The kids love playing for him. And he makes our (Bob Farlow’s plus his) jobs easy.”

A large number of players left the team at the end of last season – due either to scholarships, overage, or playing hockey at another level and as Norris points out, “We had lots of holes to fill. Fortunately, many 17 year-olds stepped up, some coming from Sarnia minor hockey or Lambton AAA. Among the new players were Konnor Roskovitch (Welland), Brad Yowart (Listowel) and Brett Storr (Chatham). All three (defensemen) have been big additions to our back end.”

For many of Sarnia’s young players, they are adjusting to something new and Norris has noted, “They are making a transition to different systems and it can be difficult anytime you have a large turnover like we did. They are getting used to the league, its speed , different arenas, and it appears things are coming together now …Our neutral zone forechecks are 100% better and our defensive zone systems are getting better. If you take away one of our first games – which was versus Ancaster – our goals against average is down quite a bit!”

Another aspect which he feels has helped the Legionnaires this season is an added practice session. “We picked up Saturday night for an extra night of practice.” While that may not sit well with the young players, Norris laughs and adds, “It certainly helps keep them off the streets!”

While Tom Norris enjoys helping Jr. B players develop their skills and turning them into solid citizens, one can be certain that some of our leaders of tomorrow are shining right now under his guidance.

(photo credit – Sarnia Observer)

C. Scott Holland is an accomplished author, a former Western Jr. B Hockey League statistician and is recognized as the West Conference’s and GOJHL’s historian. A lifelong resident of Leamington Scott was a journalist for the now defunct Leamington Post for 26 years and currently writes for the Southpoint Sun. Among the books he has authored are: 75 Years: A History of the Leamington and Erie Shores Golf Course; A Century In The Making – History of Heinz Canada 1909-2009; Leamington Flyers 1992/93-2011/12 Platinum Anniversary Special Program; the Western Jr. B Record Book 2003/04 and 2005/06 editions; as well as updates of both the West Conference and GOJHL Record Books. He was been a member of he Leamington Jr. Flyers hockey club for the last 27 years and served many years as a board member, statistician, press box announcer, and scorekeeper among other duties. He has been named the West Conference Volunteer of Year and a Windsor-Essex Sportsperson of Year award. He resides in Leamington with his wife Susan.
He can be contacted at cttocsh1@yahoo.com

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