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Big Snake on the Attack in Owen Sound

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Sam Laskaris, Birchbark Writer, Owen Sound







Page 12

Some people talk about Robin Big Snake simply because of his catchy name.

The 20-year-old left winger, however, has also created quite a buzz with his play this season in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).

Big Snake, whose mother Lisa is Cree and father Carlon is Blackfoot, is a big part of the Owen Sound Attack, one of the OHL's top squads this year.

The 6-foot, 220-pounder is one of the league's most punishing hitters. He's racked up 132 penalty minutes in his first 40 games with the Attack, the majority of those coming via his 20 fights.

(Some believe he has yet to lose any of his bouts).

But Big Snake is just as adept at earning points as he is penalties. During those same 40 games he's scored 19 goals and added 14 assists for 33 points.

Though he's a newcomer to the OHL, Big Snake, who is from Alberta's Siksika First Nation, is no stranger to junior hockey. He spent the past three seasons in the Western Hockey League (WHL), having toiled with the Vancouver Giants, Moose Jaw Warriors and the Oregon-based Portland Winter Hawks.

Big Snake, who is in his final year of junior eligibility, was keen to leave the WHL behind.

"I just needed a change of scenery," he said about why he decided to come to the OHL.

Had it not been for the current National Hockey League (NHL) labour dispute, Big Snake could very well have been playing pro this season. Though he is a free agent-he's been bypassed twice in the NHL entry draft-Big Snake attended the training camp of the Hartford Wolf Pack, the New York Rangers' American Hockey League affiliate, last September.

Though he impressed Wolf Pack officials, Big Snake could not be offered a spot on the roster since the Hartford club was keen to utilize several young Rangers' prospects who probably would have been in the Big Apple if there had indeed been an NHL season.

When it became clear Big Snake would not crack the Wolf Pack lineup, his Portland-based agent Kevin Epp arranged for him to have a 10-game tryout in Owen Sound.

Attack officials were obviously impressed as they signed him for the season. And he hasn't disappointed, collecting his share of points and also providing an intimidating presence.

"Because of the confidence I had going to Hartford's camp I knew I was going to have a reasonably good season," said Big Snake, who has already surpassed his junior career highs for a season in goals, assists and points.

Though he was not able to stick with the Wolf Pack this season, Big Snake said he learned quite a bit at his first pro training camp.

"It was a good experience for me," he said. "I was able to learn things like the speed of the game up there and how conditioned those guys are."

And now Big Snake is determined more than ever to turn pro next season.

"That's what I want in life," he said.

Attack captain Patrick Jarrett said having Big Snake around has been a plus for the Owen Sound club this season.

"Robin has been a welcome addition to the team," he said. "You don't know what you're getting when you hear a guy called Big Snake is joining the team. He came in, jumped right in with the team and has been a big-time player for us."

During his WHL days, Big Snake was primarily known as being a physical player. In 54 regular season contests with the Winter Hawks last season he accumulated 230 penalty minutes.

Big Snake also had 24 points-12 goals and 12 assists.

Jarrett isn't surprised his current teammate is piling up even more points this season.

"He's very good with the puck," he said.

And a force any time he's in a game.

"He's a presence on the ice," Jarrett added. "You just want a guy like that on your team."

As for the Attack, they're enjoying a splendid season and are considered a legitimate contender for the OHL crown. Following its first 59 games, Owen Sound had a record of 36-13-7-3.

Only the 52-5-2-2 London Knights, who are playing host to the 2005 Memorial Cup tournament, had a better reord.

Though he's a couple of thousand kilometres away from home, Big Snake is obviously happy he ended up in Owen Sound.

"It's probably been the best change for me," he said.