NORTHERN ONTARIO JUNIOR A HOCKEY LEAGUE

Blind River’s Serre one of NOJHL’s all-time greats

SUDBURY, Ont. – Just how good was Caleb Serre of the Blind River Beavers this season in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League?

Well, looking at the numbers alone his offensive contributions in league play were the highest in the NOJHL, dating back a decade.

The now 21-year-old centre skated away with its scoring title in the 2019-20 campaign racking up 113 points in total, which was 25 more than his closest rival.

Serre went on to pace the league in goals (47), assists (66), points (113), man advantage markers (17), power play helpers (26) and game-winning tallies (10).

Those efforts were more than enough to see him collect NOJHL Most Valuable Player and first team all-star team laurels at forward.

The talented player was quick to credit his teammates when queried about his success this season.

“I think it was the instant chemistry I had with my line mates,” offered the Blind River product.

“I had the pleasure of playing with some really talented players this season and I also wanted to be efficient during the year. If I had a chance to score, I wanted to convert. Same thing for making a play to my teammates.”

Despite his on-ice excellence, Serre was extremely humbled that his play saw him named NOJHL MVP in 2019-20?

“It’s an honour really,” he stated simply. “There are some great players in this league. Guys like Parker Bowman, Greg Trudeau-Paquet, Derek Seguin. The list goes on. Any one of those guys could have got it; so, to win the award, it’s humbling and truly an honour.”

His efforts also didn’t go unnoticed across the nation as his productivity saw him voted a finalist for both Canadian Junior Hockey League MVP and Top Forward accolades.

This national recognition was something that caught the Beavers’ captain, somewhat by surprise.

“Those were both huge honours as well,” stated Serre. “I was a little surprised honestly, but it’s something I’ll remember for quite some time.”

As someone behind the bench that witnessed Serre’s success first hand, Blind River head coach and general manager Kyle Brick knew he had a special player.

“Caleb solidified everything it means to be a Blind River Beaver,” provided Brick.

“When we came here four years ago, we said we needed to change the culture and Caleb did that for us, offered the league’ coach of the year in 2016-17.

“It wasn’t just on the ice, but off it as well. Caleb was able to bring the community together and reinstated their love for this hockey team.”

Appearing in 210 games in the NOJHL and collecting 269 points in total, Serre looks back to his rookie season with the Beavers as one of the moments that stands out.

“There’s more than a few highlights, but the run we had to the finals in my first year was awesome,” he beamed. “The friends I made during my four years playing is also something I won’t forget.”

For Brick, he knew he had someone special for the club when he joined the organization.

“Caleb gave the kids in this community someone to look up to and a reason to want to become a Beaver when they grow up,” said the club’s bench boss.

“What made him so special was he played both ends of the ice. Not only was he our best offensive player, but he was the best in the defensive zone as well. He was first over the boards on the powerplay and penalty kill, he played in all situations and had a knack for the big games. He had the ability to take the game over, there were nights when the team wasn’t playing and he just said ‘we’re not losing tonight’ and he would go out and win us a hockey game.”

The Blind River coach and GM also revelled in Serre’s leadership skills.

“As a leader, he was best at leading by example, but when Caleb spoke in the room everyone listened, stated Brick. “The players loved and respected him. He was a true leader.”

Having that opportunity of playing Jr. A hockey in ones’ hometown and eventually being named team captain, is something that was not lost on Serre.

“It was my dream growing up to be able to play for the Beavers,” said the affable forward. “Wearing the ‘C’ was an honour. There was some added pressure being the hometown kid, but the coaches believed in me and we always had a great group of guys, which made it easy. Big credit goes to the Beavers’ coaching staff. They are top notch and they are the reason it’s a winning environment in Blind River.”

While he thoroughly enjoyed his time in Blind River, Serre, after some thought, relished the games the Beavers played on the road too.

Asked what was his favourite NOJHL opposition venue to play in was and why, after some consideration, he came up with a well-thought-out response.

“That’s a tough one,” Serre initially answered.

“I would have to go with playing in Kirkland Lake for games in the other division, but playing in ‘The Mac’ in Timmins is sweet too.

“We always had a really good pre-game meal on those trips at the Dante Club in Timmins,” he replied. “It’s the best place to eat on the road in my opinion.”

As for nearby competition, West Division rival Elliot Lake was his choice.

“Elliot Lake would be my pick on our side. It’s just 30 minutes down the road, so our fans would all make the trip and it would feel like a home game.”

Now with his playing days in the NOJHL complete, Serre has earned the opportunity to skate at the next level, while also enhancing his academics by attending Laurentian University in Sudbury where he will compete in the OUA and U SPORTS with the Voyageurs men’s program.

“It’s exciting that I will be going to Laurentian this fall to further my education and to continue playing. I’m looking forward to getting things going.”

Reflecting on the excellence brought forth by Serre during his four seasons with the Beavers was something coach Brick looks back fondly on.

“Being able to build your program around a local player is a gift in our league,” presented Brick. “He meant everything for our team and organization. He put fans in the stands and helped us win hockey games.”

Serre’s attention, that saw him named one the CJHL’s 3 Stars of the Month for November as well as being selected a finalist for the best player and forward in the country, Brick knows it’s that type of league and national acknowledgement that bodes well for the program in Blind River and the entire NOJHL.

“It’s awesome and we were really excited for him,” stated Brick. “It was well deserved. Having a league MVP on your team really helps build the reputation of the program within the NOJHL. We thank Caleb for that. He has given us everything the last four years and we wish him all the best in the future,” summarized the Beavers’ skipper.

Offering words of advice to those younger players out there, who were interested in playing in the NOJHL next season or beyond, Serre, who presently holds 13 club records, highly recommended the following:

“My advice would be; play hard, play smart, pick the brains of your coaches and your veteran players. There’s lots of great organizations in the NOJHL. It’s an underrated league for sure, that keeps getting better every year.”

Perhaps the ultimate final tribute as to the type of player and person Caleb Serre is, and how revered he is in his home community of Blind River, comes from Brick, his head coach for four years.

“No one will ever wear his No. 18 Beavers’ jersey again.”

Definitive praise for one of the NOJHL’s best-ever.