By Jesse Michael for the Canadian Hockey League
Most of the Team OHL players in the SUBWAY® Super Series have already had a chance to shine at the International level at some point in their career, whether at a World Under-17, Under-18 tournament, or even the SUBWAY® Super Series itself with sights set high on playing at the World Junior Championship with Team Canada.
For Sarnia Sting defenseman Alex Basso, his first chance to showcase himself against the league’s top competition comes Monday on home ice, and the 19-year-old from Toronto couldn’t be more thankful and humble about the opportunity.
“This past two years have obviously been rough for me with a couple of injuries, the concussion, and the suspension…I haven’t really gotten into a groove yet,” Basso said in an interview this week. “Obviously I’m the only [eligible] one on the team that’s undrafted, so it was a very big surprise for me.”
One of the injuries Basso suffered was in the 2011 campaign, when he injured his hand in the midst of setting career highs in goals (9), and points (34) in 41 games. He returned to play three more games that season, and tallied two more assists.
When asked if he set the SUBWAY® Super Series as a goal coming into this season, Basso knew that it was a distinct possibility, even if he hadn’t played that many games before being selected.
“I couldn’t have done anything this year to be selected because I had only played a few games before I was named,” Basso said candidly. “Since we’re hosting it [the SUBWAY® Super Series] this year it was a good opportunity for somebody on our team to be selected.”
And being that selection from the Sting, Basso feels a little bit of added pressure to represent his team - and the city - well.
“There’s a lot of excitement around town, just with people that support me and the Sting,” he said. “I know all of the guys are going to be at the game so it’s pretty special to have them watching me, and obviously to share it with [Sting Head Coach and General Manager] Jacques [Beaulieu] will be special as well.”
The excitement in Sarnia also gains a little steam with Team Russia member and former Sting star, Nail Yakupov, returning to where he played his two seasons of junior hockey.
“There’s been some talk about how the fans will react to him coming back,” said Basso. “I think it brings a lot of attention for people to come out and watch him because he was the first overall pick and was the face of our franchise for a couple of years.”
Basso is also looking forward to the challenge of facing his former teammate.
“He’s a fast guy and I’m pretty mobile,” he said. “I think he’ll try his speed against me, but he has an amazing shot too so he’s always dangerous with or without the puck. I know some of his tricks so hopefully we see each other a little bit.”
Being a part of Team OHL and playing against the Russians however was almost for not, but, as Basso pointed out, he’s come to recognize the many people who have helped him get to this point in his career, naming two people specifically.
“My mom and dad,” he said. “My dad has always loved hockey. He never grew up playing it, but he always loved the game. He gives pretty good insight about on ice play and how to deal with the people around you. Both of them supporting me have been a lot of help.”
Fans can watch Basso and the rest of Team OHL in Game 4 of the SUBWAY Super Series on Monday, November 12 coast-to-coast on Sportsnet, or on the NHL Network in the United States. Fans can also watch the game online through NeuLion, or listen live through Sportsnet Radio FAN 590 online with details at www.subwaysuperseries.ca.