Decked out in Montreal Canadiens gear, flags and foam fingers, Marie and Allen Hanley may have been the biggest Habs fans at London’s Budweiser Gardens last weekend.
Proud as punch, the pair watched as grandson Joel donned the iconic bleu, blanc et rouge sweater for the first time, in rookie camp action.
“I can’t even explain the feeling, I just felt so proud,” Marie said. “And when he and grandpa hugged, when he came out to see the family after the game, it was emotional; It was very special.”
Allen and Marie Hanley are longtime Elmira residents, while grandson Joel grew up in the Keswick area, cutting his teeth in minor hockey with the York Simcoe Express.
He made the jump up to Junior A with the Newmarket Hurricanes as a 16-year-old, eventually settling in as a regular with the squad the following season.
A smooth skating, puck moving defenseman, Hanley scored 29 goals and 39 assists over parts of three seasons with the Canes, before landing a scholarship to play hockey at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. There, he notched 13 goals and 58 assists across four seasons.
In 2014, Hanley made his professional debut with the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League, where he tallied five assists in 15 games.
“He’s good on the blue line. He’s a rushing defenseman, and he tried that against the Leafs’ rookies and he shot one across the front of the net and his teammates come in to back him up when he does that. It’s a lot like Bobby Orr used to do it,” Allen said with a chuckle.
The solid collegiate career earned Hanley a tryout with the Arizona Coyotes last fall, but he ended up back with the Pirates for the 2014-15 campaign. There, he recorded a plus seven rating through played 62 games. He also added a pair of goals and 15 assists.
This summer, Hanley signed a two-way entry level contract with the Canadiens, earning a spot at their rookie camp this month.
The highlight of the experience was certainly the rookie tournament this past weekend, where Hanley suited up for games against prospects for the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators.
The club split the two games, with Hanley picking up an assist.
Now, he’ll wait to see if he’ll get a shot at training camp with the Canadiens in Montreal, later this month, or if he’ll head to the club’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
“He such a modest guy,” Allen said. “He did really well and we’re so proud of him.”