Stephen Anderson is about to take the first few strides of his professional hockey career.
The 25-year-old Morell native left Monday for Florida where he will be playing with the ECHL’s Everblades this season after signing a one-year deal in October.
“I think every player dreams of trying to make a living at this,” Anderson said recently from Fredericton, N.B., where he was training with the UNB Reds. “When you sign that first (contract), it becomes a little more real.”
Anderson attended Upper Canada College, a prep school in Toronto, for Grades 10 and 11 before coming back to the Maritimes and splitting 2011-12 with the Saint John Sea Dogs and Summerside Western Capitals. He played two more years in the Port City but sustained a concussion that limited him to 38 games in 2013-14.
The Sea Dogs traded him to the Val-d’Or Foreurs for his final year of junior. He caught fire after being dealt to the Cape Breton Eagles in January 2015, recording 14 goals and 14 assists in the final 24 games.
They pushed the Memorial Cup host Quebec Remparts to Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs.
“I really, really enjoyed my time in Cape Breton,” Anderson said. “My play there helped me get to UNB, so it all worked out.”
As it turned out, UNB head coach Gardiner MacDougall was in the Colisée Pepsi for Game 7 of the first-round series.
“There was another highly rated player that we were going to watch as well,” MacDougall said. “Sometimes you go to a game and you’re looking for a player and sometimes you go to a game and the player finds you.”
The Reds and Anderson found a match, and the forward blossomed during his five-year career at UNB while playing in the Atlantic University Sport (AUS), the top university hockey conference in Canada.
“He became one of the top players in the AUS, dynamic speed, great skill level, goal scorer, but he could also play the style that we like to play – the fast, up-tempo style,” MacDougall said.
At a glance
Who: Stephen Anderson, a 25-year-old Morell native who is about to begin his pro hockey career.
The latest: Left Monday for Florida after signing a one-year deal with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades in October. He played five seasons with the UNB Reds of the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) conference.
AUS career stats
Season GP G A Pts.
2015-16 15 3 6 9
2016-17 27 8 17 25
2017-18 30 16 15 31
2018-19 30 12 21 33
2019-20 30 13 19 32
Total 132 52 78 130
UNB head coach Gardiner MacDougall said: “He’s a modern-day player because he has great speed and great acceleration; he has a change of pace. He can score goals, but he can also play good defence.”
Anderson and teammate Marcus McIvor were chasing history in Halifax in mid-March. They had already won three U Sports championships and were chasing a history-setting fourth title.
But the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic struck, resulting in the tournament being cancelled after Day 1 of the tournament. UNB was slated to begin play the following day.
“It was obviously gut-wrenching,” Anderson said. “(But), as we’ve seen in the last five or six months, there’s bigger things in the world than that.”
Anderson is looking to continue to progress while making his way in the pro ranks. He said playing for a stacked UNB squad has helped prepare him.
“If you have a couple of bad games or a couple of bad practices someone is ready to take your spot,” he said. “I’ve never doubted my decision to come to UNB once because I think it’s given me the best opportunity to prepare for that next level.”
The ECHL season is slated to begin on Dec. 11 with 20 of its 26 teams operating. The six-team North Division, which includes Adirondack, Brampton, Maine, Newfoundland, Reading and Worcester, has decided not to play this season due to the pandemic.