Ryan Graves has been traded from the Val-d’Or Foreurs to the Quebec Remparts in the QMHJL. The Remparts will be hosting the next Mastercard Memorial Cup.
By Tina Comeau
It is every major junior hockey player’s dream to play at the Memorial Cup.
But to get to do it two years in a row, now that’s a dream come true.
Such is the case for Yarmouth native Ryan Graves. He has been traded to the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts, who will host the junior hockey championship at the conclusion of this upcoming hockey season.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Graves tells the Yarmouth Vanguard. “It’s pretty rare to be able to play in two of them and I’m going to get that chance. That was first thought that entered my head when I was going to get traded and it was just pure excitement.”
Last year Graves – a New York Rangers draft prospect – played in the Mastercard Memorial Cup with the Val-d’Or Foreurs. The semi-final game earned a place in history as the longest Memorial Cup game ever to be played, going into triple overtime before the Edmonton Oil Kings finally nudged Val d’Or out of the final with a 4-3 victory. The game lasted 102 minutes and 42 seconds. The Oil Kings went on to win the Memorial Cup with a 6-3 win over the Guelph Storm.
Each season major junior teams from throughout Canada and a few American States start out the season on the hunt for for the Memorial Cup. Their eye is on the prize.
So is the Memorial Cup to major junior hockey the same as the Stanley Cup is to the NHL?
“The Stanley Cup is on a bigger stage and it’s a lot harder to win, but for junior hockey the Memorial Cup is the biggest cup you can win and that’s what every team and every player wants,” Graves says. “It’s awesome to have a second chance at that.”
Having been drafted by the New York Rangers – he signed a three-year entry level with the team back in March – who knows, Graves may one day get a chance to play for a Stanley Cup.
“I hope so,” he says. Although interviewed over the telephone, you can tell he’s smiling as he gives that response.
Aside from the shot at another Memorial Cup, Graves is pleased for the opportunity to play with the Remparts.
“They’re a first-class organization, just like an NHL team, and they treat their players well and they do it right,” he says. “They’ve got a lot of talent in that room and I can’t wait to get the season going.”
Except that Graves will have to wait. He is still recovering from shoulder surgery he had after this year’s hockey season ended. It was a lingering injury that Graves felt needed to be addressed sooner than later in order to avoid further, or more serious, injury in the future.
“I could have played with it and gone on with the rest of my life with it, but it was a risk and not one I was willing to take,” he says.
It means Graves won’t start playing hockey this season until October or November. He also misses out on being on the ice during the Rangers’ training camp this year.
Graves, however, is keeping fit and preparing for the upcoming season. He does rehab everyday and goes to the gym, riding the bike and doing other off-ice conditioning. He says he is getting strength back in his shoulder.
Graves, 19, will still be eligible for another season of major junior after this coming season ends.
A crack at a third Memorial Cup?
You never know, although he hopes to go a different route.
“I still have another year of (major junior) eligibility. I can play until I’m 20 or you can also play pro hockey until you’re 20,” he says. “If I’m lucky enough to go play in the Rangers’ organization farm system I’d love to do that. If not then I can play junior another year.”
As for whether the language is a barrier for him when he’s playing on Quebec teams, Graves says a little bit, given that he doesn’t speak French. But many people are bilingual and if not fully bilingual it is enough that they can understand each other.
Besides, whether a hockey players skates or patins, it’s all the same language.