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From the Branches: Honoring all the pros

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If you've spent your entire hockey career in the minors, it's still more professional hockey than most people get to play.

Welcome back, Denver!
Welcome back, Denver!
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

What motivation is required to play a long hockey career in the minors? Is it a love of hockey so vast that it overwhelms the discomfort of year after year on the bus? Is it because the player has a higher goal of a coaching position, and wants to maximize playing time for extra credibility? Is it expedience, because the player doesn't have a different career, and needs to earn money while learning a new trade?

An ESPN article from 2007 posits that around 5% of junior hockey and NCAA players go on to become players in the NHL, and a hockey agency page has slightly different, but also low, numbers. The end result of a swift google points to the fact that so few people who love and play junior hockey get to be professional that it's perhaps worth sticking with the career, whether it's always in the minors or not.

Which brings us to the minor hockey news of the day: 27-year-old Denver Manderson (from Fergus, Ontario) has agreed to terms with the Solar Bears, and will spend a third year with club. Two years ago he was the Solar Bears' MVP, playing a season in front of Garret Sparks on the way to their playoff berth in the South division. Last season he was only able to play 25 games due to injury, but had 16 points in those games. According to the press release, "His 66 career points with Orlando rank sixth in team history."

Why is Manderson back, after playing 213 professional games (only just squeaking under the 260 game limit for veterans), with (among other teams) the Wheeling Nailers, WBS Penguins, the Marlies, and the Bears? Maybe he's back because he wants to win hockey games. In his words: "I think we have a very strong team shaping up for this season and I'm excited to be a part of it."

Will the Solar Bears be stronger this year? I think Anthony Noreen learned a lot from his experiences last season, and from the player moves the Bears have done this summer, they are leaning heavily on older, more experienced minor league professionals to guide the coming crop of sent-down Toronto kids. If you want to read more about Manderson's junior career, you can find it at the press release, here.

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