Blind River Beavers have added a retired National Hockey League superstar to their scouting staff.
The Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League team has confirmed that legendary goal-scorer Reggie Leach will scout for the Beavers as he travels across Canada conducting hockey schools and on guest-speaking tours in which he encourages Aboriginal youth to make good life choices.
The 64-year old Leach has remained active in the game he once dominated as a junior with the Flin Flon Bombers and in the National Hockey League with the Philadelphia Flyers.
He and his his son — former Ontario Hockey League and NHL forward Jamie Leach — host Shoot-to-Score hockey schools.
Leach’s return to the NOJHL as a scout for Blind River comes three years since his association with the erstwhile Manitoulin Islanders as their coach and director of hockey operations. The Manitoulin franchise was sold and relocated to Kirkland Lake effective the 2011-2012 season.
Leach continues to reside on Manitoulin Island with his wife.
Blind River coach and director of hockey operations Don Gagnon is thrilled to have the well-connected Leach on board with the Beavers.
“As we evaluated this past season and how to improve hockey in Blind River it became very obvious that in order to have a good team you have to surround yourself with good hockey people,” Gagnon told me. “So, a call to Reggie Leach with his connections and travel was the first call we made.
“Reggie is able to reach out into areas where there are some high-end players who are not on the radar,” Gagnon continued. “Reggie is excited and looking forward to being a big part of our program.”
To be sure, Leach earned fame as a member of the Stanley Cup-winning Flyers of 1974-1975.
His legend grew during the 1975-1976 campaign when he scored 61 goals in 80 regular-season games with Philadelphia before tallying 19 more times in 16 playoff contests.
Leach is the only non-goalie to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
He won the Conn Smythe Trophy in ’75-76 with those 19 playoff goals. Philadelphia lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup finals that year.
Playoffs included, Leach played in 1,028 NHL games and scored 428 goals.
Back to the Beavers, the NOJHL team has added another scout besides Leach to its hockey department.
35-year old Michael Porco, who played in the OHL with Soo Greyhounds and in the North American Hockey League with the erstwhile Soo Indians, will scout the Michigan area for the Beavers.
Porco, a Sault Ste. Marie native who now resides in Grand Rapids, has coached high school hockey in the Michigan town for a number of years.
Porco’s familiarity with how the USA hockey systems work will be valuable in the Beavers recruitment of American players, said Gagnon.
Leach and Porco join Steve Summers on the Beavers scouting staff that Gagnon and general manager Warren LaVoy oversee.
Meantime, as the Beavers — who won only 10 of 56 regular-season games while finishing last in the NOJHL in 2013-2014 — continue to build towards the 2014-2015 campaign, they have committed to 1997 birth year defenceman Ronson Odjig.
A native of Manitoulin Island, Odjig stands in at 6-feet-2, 200 pounds and according to Gagnon, is “very-coachable player with a never-give-up attitude.”
Odjig becomes the third newcomer that the Beavers have committed to for the 2014-2015 season following American-born forwards Jeremy Joyce and Chris Corgan.
All three players attended the Beavers spring tryout camp earlier this month.
Gagnon also got a look at Corgan while scouting a recent tryout camp of the NAHL’s Soo Eagles.
PHOTO: The legendary Reggie Leach, on one of his many guest-speaking tours.