~ written by Jamie Neugebauer, image courtesy Kelly Kocur Jacobson
Conventional wisdom says that after a whole year off from hockey it might take a player a little bit to get rolling.
When ‘conventional wisdom’ called, Flin Flon Bombers’ defenceman Cole Vardy was not interested in answering the phone.
The 20-year-old missed the entire 2020-2021 season after a shoulder injury from late in the previous campaign required surgery and rehab, but if there was an early pick for Defenceman of the Year in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, Vardy might be it.
“(Cole is) big and strong with a heavy shot,” said his head coach Mike Reagan.
“He’s a great team guy and embodies everything about being a Bomber.”
A native of Hammonds Plains, NS, Vardy played minor hockey in nearby Bedford just northwest of Halifax, before moving to Dartmouth and then Cole Harbour – the home of Sidney Crosby – for his U18 years between 2017 and 2019.
A 30-points-in-34-games season as a defenceman in 2018-19 with the Cole Harbour Wolfpack earned him a Nova Scotia U18 first-team all-star selection, and he made his junior debut that year as a call-up for St. Stephen County Aces of the Maritime Junior A Hockey League.
The 6-foot-3, 216-pound right-shot Vardy joined the Bombers for the 19-20 season, where he played 43 games in the regular season, adding nine points while often figuring in alongside a veteran blue line that featured the likes of Mason Martin, Dane Hirst, and Ryder Richmond.
His injury during the playoffs that season projected to extend his absence till well past the point that the pandemic eventually shut everything down.
“It’s not a quick recovery,”, Reagan said at the time to writer Eric Westhaver of website ‘theReminder.ca’.
“I really feel bad for Cole. He had a tremendous season as a rookie last year and we were extremely excited about what he could do this year, in a much more prominent role. He played in our top four at the end of last year and he was going to be a top-two defenceman for us, maybe our number one.”
Through 12 games in 2021-22, the Vardy has amassed five goals and 11 points, both best among SJHL D-men, and with Division I NCAA committed Xavier Lapointe on his left, has formed one of the best pairs in the league.
Lapointe, a 19-year-old slated to attend the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2022-2023, is second in the league with 10 points, only behind his partner Vardy.