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#18 - The Ballad of Ethan Bear

Undersized attacking defenseman Ethan Bear may not be high up the Top 25 Under 25 but he can still move a man to poetry.

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Ryan Scott Ben Shona Zach Jeff Matt Curtis Zsolt Sunil
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I took assignment to write the post of the youngster Ethan Bear,
Whenever, wherever or whatsoever the manner of skills he wear.
Whether he play in the blaze o' glory or never leaves Saskatoon,
In Seoul or Edmonton, bigs or bush, preseason or playoff June.
On smoothest ice or frozen slough, with pros, old men, or kids,
On days when he's an All-Star and those when he hits the skids.
At defense, forward, or (oddly) goal, while there's still puck in his head,
I swore to the staff I would think and write till I had this player dead.

For Ethan is a smallish kind of D, and his body's mighty light
To cruise the big league with skill and class and win the sudden fight.
And if he shoots and if he scores, it doesn't matter a damn
When the offense going the other way puts our goalies in a jam.
So I checked online, "does he pay the price in his defensive zone?"
(Which the same you cannot say of some short Ds we have known.)
Then, painted on three feet of stone, I saw "he was a second-rate +1."
Which, on a team like his Thunderbirds, ain't the best he could have done.

But in the years that pass in the WHL it has been a story strange,
When an Ethan Bear-led powerplay has failed to find its range.
When a pass back to the blue line doesn't mean a solid shot,
Or when he can't corral the puck even if it's zipped in hot.
So I think of his defending, which isn't "bad", just kinda "err..."
And I think "good feet, a righty shot, and a useful one-timer."
So I packed myself full of optimism, though that ain't my usual way,
And said "I think this little kid might make the NHL someday."

You know what it's like in the WHL when your team can flatten any foe;
When the defenseman playing next to you is going to the Show;
When goalie's glove goes crack like a whip above your head;
And veteran forwards take shots that hit the other guys like lead;
When you're just a little guy, and the pros look awfully big;
And your draft waits 'til the fifth round with the goons and all the pigs;
When, however much you score, the scouts don't find the strength to care;
Well, it's hard to face those odds, so full marks to Ethan Bear.

Oh, when he took on Riley Wittingham Ethan ate a big right hand,
He tried once more to rise and fight a bitter final stand;
Half dazed, half crazed, 'til Riley's fist thumped him down again,
And the linesman scraped him off the ice on which he had just lain.
That showed the kind of guts which only the real prospect knows,
Small in size, but big in heart to go seek out those blows.

So we bury him in the higher teens, with the players no-one rates,
And Ds for whom the American league is their very best-case fates.
And I sit here thinking to myself, "Have we been a little cruel?"
And I say "he's small and all, but who says that has to rule?"
"For I know another smaller D whose size was surely his career's mortal blow,"
"But he made good in the end, did little Mark Giordano."

(With apologies to Robert Service.)