Persistence Paying Off for Clarenville’s Liam Leonard

You could say Liam Leonard fell in love with the game of hockey the minute he stepped on the ice.

Leonard’s first recollection of playing organized hockey was in novice when his family received an unexpected call.

“I got called up to Atom as an underager, that’s my first real memory of playing the game.”

Persistence, character, and hard work has always defined Liam Leonard‘s journey in the game.

Leonard is quick to credit his father Terry for instilling his unwavering work ethic, passion and love for the game.

“My dad always had me on the ice since I was two years old,” Leonard said proudly.

“He showed me how to play and how to skate, he always took me to

“Can Skate” and little general skates and stuff like that, from there I kind of picked it up on my own.”

“I took Liam to general skating at the local arena one night, put him on the ice for the first time and he literally took off skating and never looked back. That weekend, I started on the back yard rink,” confessed Terry Leonard.

The Leonard’s outdoor rink served as the neighbourhoods’ winter oasis.

“I spent hours and hours out there, and I kind of kept progressing and progressing through the years,” admitted the gritty two-way forward.

“For Liam, his younger brother Taran and all their buddies, that rink became a hangout for the next decade or so,” said Leonard who to this day still misses the outdoor rink.

“On weekends, they were there from after breakfast in the morning until after midnight. It was amazing to hear them all out there, sometimes stopping to sing Oh Canada before they’d start a new game.”

“Liam spent countless hours out there, either alone or with Taran, skating, shooting and practicing various moves. For the most part the boys looked after keeping the snow cleared away and I took the late night shift of flooding the ice,” explained Leonard.

From the backyard rink to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Leonard has had to put in the work every step of the way.

As they say persistence pays off.

Leonard like so many other players born on “The Rock” realized if he wanted to achieve his hockey dreams that would mean one thing, living home.

“For me it always a dream of mine to go away and play,” Leonard said.

“I always wanted to go to prep school when I was younger.”

“I realized it was better for me to take off and move away because there’s isn’t as much opportunity back home.”

Leonard left home at fifteen to play for Bishop’s College.

“Playing for Bishop’s I had a lot of exposure and scouts watching me, that’s definitely where I got my first opportunity to move up in the game.”

Leonard caught the eye of the Quebec Remparts who eventually selected him in the 7th round 116th overall. The kid from Clarenville, NFLD was one step closer to realizing a lifelong dream to play in the QMJHL.

Nevertheless, the tough skilled two-way winger found himself on the outside looking in with the Remparts.

Leonard was one of the final cuts from the Remparts that season.

He would eventually play two games for the Remparts, but the writing was on the wall.

If Leonard wanted to play in the Q he would have to keep working hard.

Leonard decided to come home and play Midget AAA in hopes of cracking QMJHL the following year.

You could say Liam Leonard had a chip on his shoulder wanting to prove he belonged at the next level.

The intrinsically motivated and driven forward turned in a stellar year. Leonard was awarded NLMMHL MVP honours and also lead the league in goals.

Q scouts definitely took notice, but one team in particular were interested in Leonard, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan who acquired his rights from Quebec.

Leonard chose a different route not by design, but by necessity.

“Bathurst were obviously going for the Memorial Cup so it was better for my development to go play in Edmundston,” confessed Leonard.

“I think my time with the Blizzard really helped me.”

The proud Newfoundlander was the first ever draft pick of Edmundston Blizzard of the Maritime Hockey League formerly known as the Dieppe Commandoes.

“I got to play with a lot of good leaders, guys that had already played in the Q, and older guys like 19 and 20 and getting to practice and play with them every single night.”

“That experience gave me a taste what it was going to be like to play at the QMJHL level.”

“I’m thankful for my opportunity in Edmundston, and really feel it prepared well to play in Bathurst.

Leonard took full advantage of his time in MHL.

The high energy speedy winger helped the Blizzard win the MHL Championship and was named to the league’s Rookie All-Star team.

In 48 games with the Blizzard, Leonard scored 16 goals and added 23 assists for 39 points during the regular season and was tremendous presence in the playoffs.

“We were very happy to get Liam 7th overall in the 2017 draft,” said Blizzard Head Scout Michel Gauvin. “Liam was happy to be in Edmundston and quickly became a fan favorite. He was a big part of that championship team as a 17 year old and deserved to make the jump to the QMJHL,” Gauvin added.

Liam Leonard had proved he could contribute at the Junior A ranks, but like most other players on the cusp of the next level, the skilled gritty forward just needed an opportunity. Leonard would finally earn that opportunity with the rebuilding Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

“It’s really special,” Leonard said of playing in the QMJHL with the Titan.

“It’s been a dream since I was a kid watching the President Cup and Memorial Cup on television.”

It took a long time for Leonard to become a regular in the league, something that he certainly doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s just really special to be here,” of his time in the league and with the Titan.

Leonard burst on the scene a season ago and was one of the bright lights in a very dark rebuilding season for the Titan.

Leonard amassed 27 points in 65 games with the Titan last season, but more importantly provided grit, determination and resilience to the Titan line up. The kid from Clarenville was named the team’s Rookie of the Year.

Unfortunately Leonard sustained an injury in the final preseason game in all places Edmundston, but is as driven as ever to help his team win.

“My role this year is really the same as last year, get pucks deep, use my body, use my size to protect the puck, make space for my line mates.”

“It’s just playing simple and going hard night in night out trying to help the team win every single night and get myself noticed.”

People across the QMJHL have taken notice of the in your face approach Leonard brings to the game.

So what about the nerves or high expectations entering his sophomore season with the Titan?

“Just play my game and I think it will be alright,” admitted Leonard.

There’s no question, Liam Leonard’s persistence, willingness to compete and drive continues to pay dividends for the young upstart Titan.

“Liam is a rock solid kid who is a big leader with our group,” said Titan Asst. General Manager Roger Shannon.

“In hockey we call a kid like Liam, ‘a players player’ because he stands up for his teammates.”

Whether it’s standing up for his teammates, taking a hit to make a play or paying the price in front of the net to score a dirty goal, you can guarantee Liam Leonard will do whatever it takes to help the team win.

That’s persistence, that’s Liam Leonard.

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