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Cancer survivor blessed to be a Tiger once again

January 14, 2021   ·   0 Comments

Dermot Anderson has 12 surgical scars emblazoned over his body. One, an eight-inch incision down the centre of his spine to repair melanoma and 11 others from carcinoma in situ.

The 46-year-old, single father of two had no choice but to become – in the purest of forms – the definition of a warrior. In March 2019, Anderson was diagnosed with skin cancer, shortly after signing one of the most lucrative contracts in the Ontario Junior Hockey League, to become the first general manager of the Collingwood Colts.

His two sons – a 17-year-old with type-one diabetes and a 13-year-old having to enter adulthood even if he wasn’t ready to – witnessed a fight of the ages from their father. They watched a third family member simultaneously tackle the disease. Anderson’s mother is fighting cancer for the third time as well as his father-in-law.

A superhero to his sons, his family and to the OJHL hockey community, Anderson showcased exactly what comes with that kind of title. He endured living with constant cancer treatments and sleepless nights to be handsomely rewarded this past year free of the disease.

Upon his recovery, the Collingwood Colts went into another direction. The club Anderson helped put together finished their inaugural season with a 27-17 record. Good for second place in the North Division.

Collingwood hired a new general manager in his place. He was now a free agent, fresh out of the gate, looking to do what he loves: manage a team.

In June, he received a phone call. It was Jim Thomson, Team Governor of the Aurora Tigers.

Thomson, without hesitation, offered Anderson a deal to come back to the jungle, the place where it all started.

“I’m speechless when it comes to that, the respect that I have for him. I shouldn’t have left him in the first place because of what he did for me. But he also taught me to push and not leave opportunities that were beneficial for my family,” Anderson said.

“I’m even more thankful and blessed he offered me my job back.”

Anderson was first introduced to the Tigers in 2016 by the Director of Hockey Operations Tim Armstrong while on the job as a stone mason.

He was hired in 2016 as the head scout and roughly 6-8 weeks later, to his memory, he became the general manager of the club.

In his second year, Anderson’s managerial efforts helped lead the Tigers to a 36-12 record and a 24-24 record a year later.

Entering the picture now once again, Anderson is delighted to be working with newly-hired assistant General Manager Paul Noad, Head Coach Jim Wells, Jr., Assistant Coach Robert Powers, Greg Johnston, Tim Armstrong, Equipment Manager Clayton McConnell, Jenn Vaicunas, Rachel Wayne and Thomson himself.

Following a 7-43 record, the Tigers posted the second worst offense in the league and conceded the most goals: 266 to be exact.

“My mentality is, we win the first faceoff, we win the shift, we win the periods, we win the games, we win the division. We win,” Anderson said.

“We have to get everyone thinking that.”

From the moment Anderson sat at the helm, his first intention was to repair a leadership flaw he saw in the dressing room. Too many players wanted the final say. Too many chiefs were in there trying to call the shots.

So, Anderson took on the younger route. Traditionally, it isn’t what he’s used to. But, he loves the drive, the determination and the commitment these younger boys bring. With four 20-year-old players and the rest of the group in their teenage years, the boys are hungrier more than they have been in the past three years for results.

So, he went out on in search for the hungriest players out there.

Anderson has brought in 17 fresh, new faces to the roster this season along with eight players returning. It’s why co-captains Trevor Grasby (returning player) and Rocco Testa Basi (who Anderson had in Collingwood) were the perfect leaders chosen by Tigers staff; a wonderful fusion of the old and the new.

“We’re destined for a good season. There’s a lot of work to do still. That work is a little uncertain because of how the times are. But, what I can say, every single night I’m searching every CJHL league. Players from the States, all the transactions whether teams are playing or not. Even watching NCAA games just to see which kids might be a certain fit for a team and go to bat and push them harder towards that program or ask that program to take a look at these guys a bit more,” Anderson said.

He continues to educate himself on his players and continues to seek out viable avenues for their careers. It’s a personal goal of his to get these players to the NCAA.

“I want Aurora to be known as one of the teams that keeps sending kids out to scholarships in the NCAA.”

After his cancer journey, Anderson is humbled to be a part of hockey, healthy and happy once again. To be able to give back to the community and to be a part of the journey for the majority of these players is what he looks forward to. Onwards and upwards now for him and the Aurora Tigers.

By Robert Belardi



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