Stray Casts: Long ago angling ‘companion’ gets drafted into the NHL

There was an incident that kept cropping up in the Sports pages over the past week that had the Stray Caster wondering where all the time had gone.
The National Hockey League draft is not normally connected to this column, or fishing, except that a good number of NHL and OHL players are among those who enjoy fishing and hunting. It has always been thus that stars in some Sports also enjoy the great outdoors in their spare time.
What had the Stray Caster feeling more than a little old came in the first round of the draft, when Cody Hodgson was selected tenth overall from the Brampton Battalion by the Vancouver Canucks. All those long years ago, the Stray Caster and a couple of Fergus resi­dents had gone fly fishing on the Grand River with Cody, his older brother, Clayton, and his dad, Chris.
Chris, of course, was at that time, the Minister of Natural Resources. He had indicated an interest in seeing a river that had gone from basically a cess­pool 40 years earlier to one of the best trout rivers in all of Canada, and certainly one of the most publicized. The fishery had been built through the efforts of the Grand River Conservation Authority’s War­ren Yerex, Ministry of Natural Resources biologist Larry Halyk, and an Elora resident, the late Walt Crawford, who was, in those days of the late 1980s and early 1990s, on the Ontario board of Trout Unlimited Canada.
MPP Ted Arnott was inter­ested in promoting the Grand River and all the work that was being done at the time, as an example of how partnership be­tween governments and private groups could help cut costs and work more efficiently. (As well, Arnott is also interested in angling.) It had cost the gov­ernment virtually nothing to suddenly find itself with a world class fishery and renowned river.
Then, too, that movie, A River Runs Through It, had just been released, and fly fishing was highly fashionable. So Ted arranged for Hodgson to coming fishing on the Grand River, and the Stray Caster ar­ranged for Wally Ward  and Terry Ryckman to come along and teach them to fly fish. Hey, the Stray Caster wanted only the best for them, and the best did not include him as a guide.
Chris brought his kids along, and that’s how we met. We spent quite a bit of time on the river, and, as luck would have it, nobody, and I mean nobody, managed to tie into so much as a single fish. It was just one of those days.
The Stray Caster worked with Cody and Clayton, and it was the latter who managed to get a bite as his line came to the end of the drift. Unfortunately, he was just a little too slow, or possibly unfamiliar with any kind of fishing, to set the hook.
While there were no fish caught, Ted, Chris, and the kids all came back the following year and we took them out again – and again we got skunked. Hey, there are no guarantees in fishing.
We later heard that Clayton had some health problems, which, we hope, are cleared up. Meanwhile, Chris Hodgson, who had been touted by some as a possible candidate for the leadership of his party, left politics. One of the stated reasons was to spend more time with his family, and, with Clayton’s health issues, we believe him. In fact, in our talks, we wondered why any­one would want such a thank­less job, anyway.
In any case, the Stray Caster remembers that part of his fishing life, when a couple of kids in short pants spent a couple of idyllic hours on the Grand River in search of a fish.
Cody went on to play for the Markham Waxers of the Ontario Hockey Association, and was drafted in the first round, 17th overall, by Bramp­ton in the Major Junior A circuit in 2006. Two years later, he was the captain of Team Canada’s under-18 team and led it to a gold medal, being the top scorer of the tournament.
In his next season with Brampton, he finished with 85 points in 68 games. He was rank­ed ninth among North American skaters by NHL central scouting; he chosen 10th overall in the draft..
The Stray Caster cannot help but wish him well in his hockey career, even though, like in fishing, there are no guarantees.
Still, we’ll bet he still manages over the years to wet a line or two. He was a deter­mined kid all those years ago.