Veteran centre cites lack of ice time as one of the reasons for wanting to be moved
By Pat Payton
In a shocking turn of events, team captain Blair Butchart left the St. Marys Lincolns early last week — requesting a trade to a Jr. ‘C’ team.
The swift-skating centreman has returned to his former Jr. ‘C’ team, the Mount Forest Patriots. A straight cash deal was reached between the two hockey clubs last week.
Butchart and head coach Trent McClement joined the Lincs at the beginning of last season after helping Patriots win back-to-back North Pollock division playoff titles.
Butchart was leading the Lincolns in scoring when he asked to be moved, apparently citing a lack of ice time and not being used in certain roles such as penalty-killing. St. Marys was also 13-5-1-2 and in third place in the Western Conference standings when the 20-year-old Palmerston native requested a trade.
Butchart was playing on arguably the Lincs’ top line with wingers Mason Mantzavrakos and Cayse Ton. The trio, almost always, was the team’s first powerplay unit to hit the ice.
Accepts centre’s decision
“We’re not happy about it, but we’ve said from day one that we only want players who want to be here,” Lincolns’ General Manager Greg Smale told the Independent last Wednesday.
“Obviously we’re disappointed that a player of Blair’s calibre and captain of our hockey team asked to be traded at this time of the season. He came here last year and was one of the first players who decided to sign up for our re-build in St. Marys. So it’s disappointing that he’s decided to leave. I don’t necessarily understand his decision… but I will accept his decision and our team will move on.
“I wish Blair and his family all the best, and I hope things work out for him in the future.”
Butchart first told Smale that he was unhappy in St. Marys on Saturday, Nov. 9. He played the next night in Chatham, picking up two assists in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Maroons. He had six goals and 26 points in 20 games when he left the team.
“As a coach, it’s always a disappointment when you lose your captain, especially this far into the season and when the team is doing so well,” coach McClement said at practice last Thursday. “Blair had his own reasons for wanting to leave.
“Hockey is the ultimate team game, and I think you will see other kids step up and kids will be put in different situations and succeed. I think a lot of the younger kids are looking at it as an opportunity and a chance for them. You could see it at practice (last) Tuesday, they had an extra jump in their step. In hockey at this level, everybody is looking for their chance.”
McClement didn’t put pressure on Butchart to change his mind.
“It seemed like he and his family talked about it and it’s something he wanted to do,” the coach said. “It has more to do about school and that sort of stuff. He’s 20 years old, and the family wants him to concentrate on work and save up for school. That’s what they told us it came down to.
“But we also have 21 guys in that room who are still hungry and want us to be a top team, and we have to keep working towards that goal.”
McIntyre strong candidate
McClement says second-year forward Justin McIntyre is a strong candidate to replace Butchart on the team’s top line.
“Right now, we’re looking for that player,” he replied when asked the question. “(Joe) Mazur’s line is playing so well right now that we’re not touching that line. I really think Justin is excited to get this chance. On Tuesday, I think he had the best practice he’s ever had. I think Justin’s going to step up to the occasion.”
McIntyre centred Mantzavrakos and Ton in Sunday’s game in St. Thomas.
Enjoyed his time in St. Marys
When contacted by the Independent last week, Butchart said he enjoyed his time in St. Marys.
“I had a wonderful experience in St. Marys and met a lot of great people, I’ll never forget the support from all the fans and especially all the kids coming every night to cheer us on and it’s those people that I will miss the most,” he said via email. “I wish all the players success, on and off the ice, and thank them for all the great memories and lasting friendships.”
Last season, Butchart led the Lincs in scoring with nine goals and 56 points in 43 games. At the year-end awards banquet, he picked up three team trophies–leading scorer, regular-season most valuable player, and the fan appreciation award — which is voted on by the fans.