StarPhoenix article (First round hopeful draws strength from family)June 19 2012 at 7:32 AM
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First-round hopeful draws strength from family
Blades' Dalton Thrower has entire clan of battlers behind him after enduring trying times
By Daniel Nugent-bowman, Saskatoon StarPhoenix
June 19, 2012
Dalton Thrower could hear his name called out in the first round of the National Hockey League draft on Friday with his entire family by his side.
That possibility would be a dream scenario for the Saskatoon Blades' defenceman, especially since it was his family that encouraged him to continue with his hockey career throughout the young man's challenging times.
Thrower was just weeks into his 2009 rookie Western Hockey League season as a 15-year-old when his father, Murray, became ill. It took doctors until last November to discover a cancerous tumour in his stomach.
When the diagnosis was finally determined, Thrower contemplated returning to North Vancouver to be with his father.
"There would be times when I was in Saskatoon that I'd get a call from [my family] when I was 15, 16 saying, 'Your dad's bleeding out again.' They weren't sure what was happening," he said.
"Last year, with my dad having cancer, it was definitely tough for me being in Saskatoon. There were points last year where I wanted to come home and be with my family. They wouldn't let me and kept pushing me toward my dream. I fell like that's brought us stronger together."
Murray's cancer has been treated by taking pills as a form of chemotherapy, which he will continue to do for two more years.
However, having already watched his mother, Melanie, battle a severe form of breast cancer when he was younger, Thrower wanted to provide support for his younger sib-lings. His brother, Josh, 16, is a prospect of the Calgary Hit-men and is slated to begin his WHL career in the fall, and his sister, Danae, 10, is an aspiring dancer.
Melanie has been cancer free for seven years after undergoing a year of intense chemo-therapy as the cancer spread down the left side of her body.
"That was a lot different than my dad," Thrower said. "She lost all her hair.
"Just to see your mom so weak sitting right in front of you not even being able to feed herself and listening to her being sick at night because of all the chemo, it wasn't a good point in my life having to go through that."
Not being home for months at a time has been a struggle for Thrower, too. And a period he said he wouldn't have been able to do without Jackie and Roger Bahnmann. The couple, along with their now-13-year-old son, Mitchell, began billeting Thrower three years ago. Because of his Dec. 20 birthday, Thrower was 15 for the first half of the season and relied on the Bahnmanns for everything from driver's training to trips to the barber shop.
Thrower also relied on them for moral support.
"We got him through the first year," Jackie said. "There were definitely times when he was so homesick and he was ready to pack it in. But he stayed focused.
"It's just being here for him if he needed an extra hug or to sit and chat. It's tough to watch him go through that. You want to make that go away, of course. But he's a tough kid. He man-aged to get through it - and play through it."
The Blades selected Thrower with the 30th overall pick in the 2008 Bantam draft. Known for his offensive skills, Thrower scored the overtime winner in the B.C. midget AAA championship series for the Northwest Vancouver Giants.
He managed 27 points over this first two WHL seasons, and started the season with 18 in his first 30 games.
However, those totals weren't enough to earn him a spot in the Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game when the rosters were announced Dec. 15.
"That's where I've really seen him grow as a person and as a player," Murray Thrower said. "Personally I challenged him with that to go out and prove people wrong right after Christmas.
"Rather than feel sorry for yourself and think this isn't fair, he made a statement. As a hockey player, that was the biggest step that he needed for his maturing and understanding that there are going to be lots of hurdles in his path from this point forward."
Thrower responded by being named Canadian Hockey League player of the week when he potted 11 points in the team's first four games following the holiday break. He would eventually be named as an injury replacement to the Prospects Game.
Buoyed by a strong second half, Thrower wound up eighth in scoring among WHL defencemen with 54 points on 18 goals.
That late-season surge bodes well for his draft stock, said Mark Seidel, chief scout of North American Central Scouting.
"You always want to be drafting guys that are getting better and Dalton was certainly a guy that has got better," he said.
While Seidel is skeptical that Thrower can continue that kind of offensive output at the pro level, he believes the six-foot, 185-pound blue-liner is a "safe pick."
Having watched Thrower play since he came into the league, Seidel believes his character and all-around skill will make him an NHL player one day.
"He's a guy who definitely has the ability to move the puck and make the right offensive play," said Seidel, who has Thrower rated 47th overall - a mid-second-round pick.
"But it's his willingness to battle and compete and do things that winners do - block shots, get in the way, do whatever it takes, fight if he has to and stand up for his teammates."
Thrower is pegged as high as 20th overall in some pre-draft rankings and even lower than Seidel's 47th slot in others.
Wherever Thrower is selected, Seidel's records indicate he will be the first player drafted who was born in Squamish.
Thrower was interviewed by 19 different teams at the NHL combine earlier this month and is nervously awaiting the big moment.
"It's kind of stressing me out a bit," Thrower said. "Once the day comes, and it's all over and done with, I've got to focus on the team I'm picked by and I'm going to camp ready."
Given all his family has endured, waiting to be drafted is the least of Thrower's concerns.
On top of his parents' cancer battles, Thrower, his brother and his parents survived a terrible car wreck years ago.
When Thrower was six, a car that Murray was driving hit a patch of black ice on the Coquihalla Highway, ejecting everyone except the Blades' defenceman out of the vehicle along the side of a mountain.
"The way I look at it is, I'm more grateful than anything that I still got everybody in my family," Thrower said.
"Going through my mom having cancer and my dad having cancer and the car accident, I'm not taking any negatives out of it. I'm taking all positives.
"You've just got to look for-ward in life for great things. I feel like all the bad things have happened."
The good news may happen as early as Friday night at the NHL draft in Pittsburgh.
Whether he's drafted in the first or second round, Thrower admits there will probably be some tears - something his father confirms.
"I've envisioned it a hundred times. I'm getting emotional right now," Murray Thrower said. "If he goes on the first day on TV, I really hope I can keep it together. We don't take this for granted."
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