MEMORIAL CUP NOTES: Nathan Staios carving own hockey path

Staios, 21, remembers being around the Oilers dressing room as a kid, but doesn’t recall many details of that May and June run, which culminated in a Game 7 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006

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SAINT JOHN, N.B. — Nathan Staios was only five years old when his father Steve went to the Stanley Cup Final with the Edmonton Oilers.

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Staios, 21, remembers being around the Oilers dressing room as a kid, but does not recall many details of that run, which culminated in a Game 7 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.

“I was pretty young; he retired when I was 12, so I remember a little bit of his career in Edmonton and then Calgary and New York,” said Staios, a standout defenceman with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the Ontario Hockey League. “I don’t remember the Cup run at all. My buddies ask me about that, but I don’t remember it.

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“My dad would take me down to the rink and I’d get to be around the room and stuff and do a bunch of cool stuff. I travelled on the plane the one time from Vancouver to Edmonton, so I remember that for sure.”

Steve Staios played over 1,000 games in the NHL with the Boston Bruins, Vancouver Canucks, Atlanta Thrashers, Oilers, Calgary Flames and New York Islanders.

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Nathan Staios is carving out a pretty good hockey career of his own, named OHL defenceman of the year prior to the Bulldogs winning the league title and earning a trip to the Memorial Cup.

“I remember the Oilers skills competition and stuff, I was down on the bench and after practice sometimes I would go down there,” Staios said. “I know Craig MacTavish was really good with having the kids around the room and me and my buddies whose dads were also players, would hang out down there all the time.”

Nathan Staios began his OHL career with the Windsor Spitfires and played three seasons before being traded to the Bulldogs. He went to play professionally in Sweden when COVID-19 wiped out most of the 2020-21 campaign and returned to play with the Utica Comets of the AHL. He went back to Hamilton as an overage player this year and had an outstanding season with 15 goals and 66 points in 59 games.

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“He’s the complete opposite of what I was,” said Steve Staios, president and general manager of the Bulldogs. “He’s skilled, he’s got a ton of mobility; he led the OHL in scoring by a defenceman, and he was named defenceman of the year.

“I think him going over to Sweden, that was a real catalyst for him confidence-wise. Then he came back and played in the AHL at the end of the year, there was something that seemed to click with him over the year, and he came back with a ton of confidence. He’s a dynamic offensive defenceman and he was able to round out his game.”

At 5-foot-10, 178-pounds, Staios does not have his father’s size, which is likely the reason he was passed over in the NHL Entry Draft. But he does have a bright future in front of him, particularly if he has a strong Memorial Cup tournament.

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For now, his focus is on helping the Bulldogs try and win the Memorial Cup. Hamilton got off to a tough start, losing to the host Saint John Bulldogs 5-3 in the tournament opener Monday, but has two days to regroup before taking on the QMJHL champion Shawinigan Cataractes on Thursday.

“This was the goal, to get here, from the first day we got together as a group. We got together at the owner’s house and this was our goal to win the league and get to the Mem Cup,” Nathan Staios said. “We rolled pretty well for the first three rounds of the playoffs and then we got a bit of adversity in the last round. We had a couple of injuries and things like that and we battled through and we came out victorious. We know that we can battle through adversity and get to where we want to be.”

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The host Saint John Sea Dogs went 38 days between games from the time they were eliminated in the opening round of the QMJHL playoffs to opening the Memorial Cup tournament against the Bulldogs.

The time off did not seem to affect the Sea Dogs, as they scored just over two minutes into the game and rolled to a 5-3 victory.

The team underwent a coaching change after being eliminated, firing Gordie Dwyer and replacing him with University of New Brunswick legend Gardiner MacDougall.

“We were disappointed with the first-round exit, but when we came back with the new coach, we just reset and refocused,” said Sea Dogs forward Ryan Francis, who scored two goals in the win. “We still believed we were a good hockey team and we were ready for any challenge in this tournament and ready to give it our all.”

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It was uncertain how the Sea Dogs would fare in the opening game of the tournament after such a long layoff. But they responded well to expectations of a hometown crowd, building a 4-1 lead in the contest before the Bulldogs scored two third-period goals to make things interesting.

“It was good, we were just trying to get into the game the first few shifts, keep it simple,” Francis said. “The fans were great, they showed up and were loud and it gave us a little bit of that boost, so it was good.”

Having won their opening game, the Bulldogs proved they belong in the tournament with the three league champions across the CHL. They won’t be underestimated in their second game against the Edmonton Oil Kings on Wednesday.

“We have a ton of high-end hockey players on our team,” Francis said. “Maybe the first-round exit had some people underestimating us, but we believe we can compete with any team in this tournament.”

Email: [email protected]

On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest

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