Aristotle once said, "change in all things is sweet." But change can also be bittersweet, just ask Erie Otters forward Dane Fox. The pesky center was the centerpiece that the London Knights had to send to Erie in order to acquire Greg McKegg at this year's deadline. Going from first to worst can't be an easy thing to do. "I was shocked when I was first told that I had been traded to Erie. I was looking forward to having a run at the Memorial Cup," says Fox. "That was [actually] an emotional day for me. I just got word that morning that my Great Grandpa has passed away and I was on a road trip up north with the Knights. After I had some time to think about the situation, I looked at it as a positive and a great way for me to improve my game."
While he was getting consistent ice time in London as part of a terrific third line with the Rupert twins (Matt and Ryan), and contributing at both ends of the ice, the change of scenery did offer Dane a chance to have a larger role. In Erie, he'd be counted on to play top line minutes and see loads of time on both special team's units. He knew he'd also have a chance to play a bigger role in the dressing room on a young Erie team. "The coaching staff want me to be one of the leaders on this hockey team. I know that I will have to work hard to be part of making this team more successful," says Fox, who now wears an A on his chest.
Even though things in Erie have been a little crazy, Dane has kept up the rate of offensive production he had in London. This has quietly added up to a very prolific season, posting 52 points in 57 games. Fox believes that this season has to be deemed a success. "I think my season has gone very well so far. I am more focused and I’ve been producing on the ice. I think I have improved my defensive game, backchecking, positioning, etc."
His season has also included an excellent performance at the Top Prospect's Game after being named as one of the game's many injury replacements. "It was an unreal experience. Just seeing all of those great players and playing with them was amazing. The whole atmosphere there was unbelievable. It was fun to be able to prove myself," he says. And prove himself he did. His brand of in your face, tenacious hockey definitely made a positive impression on those who took in the game, despite being held off the score sheet. It should come as no surprise that Fox lists the likes of Dave Bolland and Mike Richards as the guys he patterns his game after.
As the 2012 NHL Entry draft inches closer, Fox is looking more and more like a potential top three round selection. A late birthday 1993, he's had an extra year to help him develop, something Fox says he has really benefited from. "It has given me a year to develop more and to improve my game overall," says Fox. "I have more confidence now than last year and I understand more about what it takes to be successful at this level." The proof is in the pudding, as they say. Fox has jumped from 22 points last year to 52 points this season.
And while playing in Erie this year may be difficult for a draft prospect (just ask Connor Brown and his -64), scouts would be foolish to look past the things Fox brings to the ice. What better than to hear it from the man himself! "I play the game with an edge and love to be on the ice. I can score, stick up for my teammates and I try to do the little things well. I have leadership skills and I play with intensity. I know the value of teammates and that working hard pays off. I love to win and hate to lose!" says Fox.
Needless to say, you can consider me a fan of this young man. Fox says he hates to lose. Well the NHL team that selects Dane Fox with one of their opening round draft picks won't be disappointed. They won't lose on his selection.
Brock Otten - First and foremost, how do you think this season has gone for you thus far?
Dane Fox - I think my season has gone very well so far. I am more focused and I’ve been producing on the ice. I think I have improved my defensive game, backchecking, positioning, etc.
BO - What were your initial thoughts when you were told that you had been traded to Erie? I mean, going from the top team in the Ontario Hockey League, to the last place Otters had to (at least initially) have been disappointing.
DF - I was shocked when I was first told that I had been traded to Erie. I was looking forward to having a run at the Memorial Cup. That was an emotional day for me, I just got word that morning that my Great Grandpa has passed away and I was on a road trip up north with the Knights. After I had some time to think about the situation, I looked at it as a positive and a great way for me to improve my game. My first contact with Sherry Bassin in Erie, put everything into a new light. He was very positive with me and told me that he had been watching me since my Minor Midget year and that I need to step up and play my game.
BO - But being the centerpiece in a trade for a top player like Greg McKegg has to be flattering. Do you feel any extra pressure knowing that you’re the guy Otters’ fans are going to rely on to replace him?
DF - I feel a little bit of pressure but with the extra ice time and having a chance to play in situations such as Power Plays and Penalty Kills, I will be able to showcase my skills and more importantly, help the Otters move forward in the future.
BO - Have the Otters talked to you at all about their plans for you moving forward? For instance, are you going to be counted on as a top line player, first line powerplay guy…or do the Otters see you playing more of the role you played in London?
DF - The coaching staff want me to be one of the leaders on this hockey team. They want me to shoot the puck more and be more creative. They have faith in my ability and want me to start playing the way that Sherry Bassin believes I can play. I know that I will have to work hard to be part of making this team more successful.
BO - Obviously, it’s your draft year and that always comes with added pressure. But the question is…how much pressure? Do you find yourself thinking about it constantly, or do you try to put it at the back of your mind?
DF - The Draft is always in the back of your mind. Being drafted has been a dream of mine since I started playing hockey in Dresden. But you can’t let it get to you too much or you stop playing your game. As soon as I step on the ice, I know I have to focus on doing whatever I can to help my team and hopefully win. I am prepared to do whatever it takes to win.
BO - One thing I’ve always been curious about, is how late birthday guys feel about the fact that they have to wait an extra year to get drafted. Do you think your October birthday…and subsequently playing an extra year in the OHL, has hurt or helped your draft “stock?”
DF - I think a late birthday has helped me. It has given me a year to develop more and to improve my game overall. I have more confidence now than last year and I understand more about what it takes to be successful at this level.
BO - Speaking of your draft stock…your performance at the Top Prospect’s game must have raised some eyebrows. I thought you were the best player on your team. What was the whole experience like?
DF - First of all, thanks for your kind words! It was an unreal experience. Just seeing all of those great players and playing with them was amazing. The whole atmosphere there was unbelievable. It was fun to be able to prove myself.
BO - I want to take things back to last year in London. There are a lot of reports about what happened in terms of your leave from the Knights at the end of the season. And then again this offseason. Is there anyway you could shed some light as to what happened there?
DF - Over the past year, I have grown up a lot and learned lots of valuable life lessons. I don’t want to dwell on the past and I am positive that is behind me and I am moving forward. I want to focus 100% on being a hockey player.
BO - In London, you played with the Rupert twins on a very effective “checking” line. I put checking in quotation marks because you guys obviously were more than just that with the amount of offense you produced. What made that line so effective?
DF - I loved playing with the Ruperts. We all play the same style of hockey and same intensity. We all have the skill to score, play defensively and we aren’t afraid to mix it up. There was also a good friendship off of the ice between us, so playing with them was easy and fun.
BO - OK, so help us out here. How can we tell the twins apart? How do they differ as hockey players…in your mind?
DF - I have no problem….but for some you just have to get them to smile…Matt is missing a front tooth! I can tell them apart just by looking at them, I can’t explain how.
BO - I hate to ask such a generic question but…what do you feel you need to continue to work on in order to reach the NHL? If there was a definitive area where you felt you needed improvement, what would that be?
DF - I know that I have to work hard to reach the NHL. I have to work on my defensive game, puck possession along the boards, and shooting. I have to get stronger in the off season.
BO - Just the same, why do you think you should be a serious candidate for the top two rounds of the NHL Draft? What can you bring to the table (for those that don’t see you play that often)?
DF - I play the game with an edge and love to be on the ice. I can score, stick up for my teammates and I try to do the little things well. I have leadership skills and I play with intensity. I know the value of teammates and that working hard pays off. I love to win and hate to lose!
BO - Is there a player in the NHL that you often look at and say, “that’s a guy I try to emulate?” In other words, is there a player you try to pattern your game after?
DF - I try to pattern my game after David Bolland and Mike Richards. They both play a hard nosed, edgy game with intensity. They can score and play a physical game and can get under the opposition’s skin.
BO - Growing up in the Chatham area, what team did you cheer for as a kid?
DF - I started out being a Toronto Maple Leaf fan. I remember getting a Mats Sundin jersey for Christmas one year. I also liked the Boston Bruins.
BO - What do you like to do in your spare time away from the rink?
DF - I like to play Xbox. I wish I had more time in the off season to play Inline Hockey. In the summer I like being on the water at our cottage.
BO - To close it off, I’m going to throw you one of those random style questions that we always hear about from the NHL combine interviews. If your coach was talking, would you interrupt him if he was wrong?
DF - No I would think about it, then talk to him in private later. Unless it was the heat of the moment, then I probably would! This definitely depends on the situation. I would stick up for a teammate, if necessary.
BO - Thanks so much for taking the time to do this Dane and best of luck the rest of the year in Erie.
DF - Brock –Thanks for thinking of me. I appreciate your support!
Special thanks to Dane and his father for taking the time make this happen!