Running a professional hockey team on the island of Newfoundland brings some interesting and unique challenges, especially during a pandemic. There’s no situation where that is more apparent than when the team needs players on short notice just to ice a complete roster.
That was the situation the Newfoundland Growlers management group found themselves in during the team’s last home games from Dec. 10 to Dec. 12 against the Trois-Rivieres Lions. In the closing moments of the Dec. 10 game, forward Orrin Centazzo was injured by an awkward check in the corner.
Due to injuries on the Toronto Marlies, the only players on the Growlers’ roster at the time who were not dressed for that Friday night game were a pair of injured players, and with under 24 hours until the puck drop of their next game, it did not leave the Growlers with many options.
“Earlier in the week, we were calling around the SPHL and Federal League, everybody that we could,” said Growlers head coach Eric Wellwood. “It’s difficult to get players out here right now with (COVID testing requirements) and a number of teams in the American league are dealing with outbreaks, so we couldn’t get anybody that’s played professional games.”
The Growlers looked local and inked a contract with Dan Cadigan, a constable with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. Cadigan, 32, is a well-known member of the St. John’s hockey community. The Outer Cove native made a name for himself as one of the top offensive defencemen in the province’s senior leagues, scoring 177 points in 107 games over six seasons with The Bigs Northeast Eagles. He’s played for the Southern Shore Breakers these past three seasons and continued his dominant production with 63 points in 39 games played. Cadigan also coaches local youth and high school teams.
“He was awesome,” said Wellwood. “It’s not easy to never play a pro game before and just step right in, he’s a great guy, awesome on the bench, awesome in the dressing room. We’re really happy to know that if we need to call somebody, we got a great person to call. He made a lot of great plays and started to look more comfortable. At his age, it was very impressive.”
“Caddy,” as he became known to his new teammates, was recommended by Growlers captain James Melindy. The two have skated together in the past.
“He called me yesterday morning and asked if I was available for the weekend,” said Cadigan after his debut. “It was a long, long, long day waiting for the call back, but then last night after the game, Welly called and said they needed me, and that’s when it became real. I got kinda overwhelmed and excited and I didn’t get much sleep last night, but I was down here (at the rink) pretty early this morning to get this thing going.”
Cadigan was certainly not out of place in his two games with the Growlers. During the 5-4 win on Dec. 11, Cadigan didn’t make an impact on the stat lines, but he did with the over 2,300 fans that assembled at the Mary Brown’s Centre. With thunderous applause and a cheering ovation, Cadigan was celebrated from the moment he first took the ice right up to the closing moments of the night, when he was named the hardest working player of the game.
The following night, a 5-4 overtime loss was slightly more impactful for Cadigan (from a personal stats sense), he was +1 and registered two shots on goal. He says the support he’s received is overwhelming.
“Everyone, all my family and friends and all my work buddies jumped on board and really helped out in order to make this happen. It was an amazing experience right from the get-go. They’ve all been a class act with me and made me feel like this is normal. I just really felt like I was a part of it all. So yeah, really enjoyed this weekend and I’m sad it’s over, for now.”
As of this moment, Cadigan is still listed as an active member of the roster. However, given his prior commitments as a police officer, it’s a given that he would not have been travelling with the team had their final road trip before the holiday break not been postponed. However, the door remains open to him should another opportunity arise later in the season.
“Can’t speak highly enough of the guy,” said Wellwood. “He’s a great asset to have in our back pocket.”
“It’s just an awesome memory,” said Cadigan, summarizing his takeaways from the weekend and voicing appreciation for the media attention and having those stories shared with the kids that he coaches.
“It gives me an opportunity to put smiles on some kids’ faces and send them a couple videos and that sorta stuff. That’s definitely something I’m happy to take forward out of this, bringing some joy to the community of hockey in our province. I think that’s awesome, I’ll remember this forever.”
Cadigan says his jerseys from this weekend- the standard Growlers black and gold as well as a special Leafs-themed blue and white alternate- are going on display in his basement. He’s returning to his normal life ready and willing to answer the call should they need him to suit up again.
“This was an unbelievable weekend, and I’d jump at the chance to do it all again.”