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Heading into the Ontario Hockey League trade deadline, fans often look past the people who are involved in the trades and the reality of moving to a different team. To some it is just a name, a number, and some stats....
I saw first-hand Friday the aftermath of the Sarnia Sting/Windsor Spitfires trade that was completed earlier in the day. At around 5:00pm, I headed towards the Windsor dressing room and bench area. The visitors had not arrived, but found new Spitfires defenceman Brent Sullivan and goalie John Cullen hanging out on Windsor bench. Sullivan working on his stick like he normally does before a game, but on the opposite bench from his normal routine in Sarnia. Cullen was still in street clothes as he was told he would not be dressing for Windsor on this night. The two players still socialized with their now former Sting teammates, but with some separation. You could tell there was some awkwardness as well. The "rules" of hockey took over, with Cullen and Sullivan staying on the Windsor side of the dressing room area, now members of the visiting team.
Then the Windsor bus rolled in and their new teammates arrived. Associate Coach D.J. Smith came to the bench and introduced himself to Sullivan and Cullen and had a chat with them. "We've got '11' for you tonight, that's what we had," said Smith, telling Sullivan the number he would wear for his debut. They'll discuss his permanent number next week. Smith also confirmed to Cullen that they will stick to the original plan of having Josh Malecki back-up Jack Campbell on this night.
Then down the hall came a tall goaltender, carrying his equipment over his shoulder and pads in the other hand. Visiting players in Sarnia normally turn left into one of the first two rooms. But this was Troy Passingham, who rode the Windsor bus to Sarnia to join his new teammates with the Sting. Passingham continued past the Windsor room, through the black curtain and onto the Sarnia side of the dressing room hallway. There he was greeted by Sarnia trainer Jason Kaszycki. Kaszycki welcomed him to Sarnia and checked to see what he had with him, including whether he brought a stash of goalie sticks. Passingham was then greeted with handshakes from some of his new teammates in the hallway.
"Hi, I'm JC"
"Brandon, the other goalie"
Passingham then returned to the Windsor bus to gather his luggage and lock it in a storage room near the Sting dressing room before Kaszycki directed Passingham to go into the dressing room and get ready for the upcoming game.
After that, being a hockey player took over. Passingham backstopped his new team to a 9-4 win over his old mates. Sullivan saw plenty of icetime on the Windsor blueline. Cullen, watching the game from the stands, joined me for a live TV interview in the first intermission. The well-spoken Cullen is never short of words, but you could tell the emotion in his voice of knowing he was on the move, for the third time in his OHL career after stops in Niagara and Kingston before Sarnia. He admitted to me that he had to remind himself of what had happened. 24 hours prior, he was in the stands watching his Sting mates fall to Kitchener 3-2. When the Sting scored in this game - they were the opponent.
After the final buzzer, Sting captain Nathan Chiarlitti retrieved the game puck and delivered it to his new goaltender. Once out of uniform and back in street clothes, Passingham was back to being "the new guy". He looked for his billet, and had to be directed where the Sting administrative office is.
The most unique part of this story - Sullivan and Passingham, two of the players switching places in the trade, spent Friday night at the same billet house. Sullivan will pack up his gear on the weekend while Passingham will get settled in to his new surroundings. Two players who were never teammates, will be roommates.
The icing on the cake, so to speak, Sullivan will spend his 21st birthday Saturday packing up to prepare for a move to Windsor.
UPDATE: I had a few requests for this - here is the intermission interview with John Cullen about the trade.
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