Gavin Klaassen is beyond grateful for his time in the City of Possibilities. The Ypsilanti, Michigan product came to the Portage Terriers midway through last season and scored six goals with seven assists in 29 regular season games.
Klaassen inquired about when he should be back in Portage, but instead, he found out the Terriers planned to go in a different direction this season.
"Coach Spiller said he wasn't going to bring back a ton of returning players. He wants to have a younger team," Klaassen explains. "He helped find a spot for me. Being a Michigan guy, I thought the OJHL would be a good spot for me since it's closer to home. Kind of by luck, I ended up getting in contact with the coach in Buffalo, which happens to be the only American team in the OJ. They were interested, and the trade went through."
The forward says he's looking forward to his next chapter; however, he's going to miss the atmosphere of a Terrier game at Stride Place.
"I was a little sad about leaving Portage. I really enjoyed my time there. It's a great hockey town. I'm going to miss the dedicated fans when I'm in Buffalo. I don't think it's going to be quite the ruckus that it was in the Dog Pound out there."
TRADE ALERT - The Portage Terriers have traded F Gavin Klaassen to the Buffalo Jr. Sabres (OJHL) for Future Considerations. He had 13 points in 29 games last season. We wish him the best of luck with his new team! #MJHLTerriers #Trade pic.twitter.com/Fku8OJBESc— Portage Terriers (@PortageTerriers) August 9, 2023
While he will miss being a Terrier, Klaassen says he's now only going to be a five-hour drive away from home compared to the 19-hour drive that it was from Portage.
Klaassen will be remembered by many Terrier fans, despite only being on the team for half of a season. It will not be for his shot or stick-handling ability, but two major moments will be ingrained in a lot of fans' minds when they remember Gavin Klaassen.
"The first thing that comes to mind is the injury. I feel like that was quite big. And then to come back from that, and in my first game back, I scored. It felt like the fans went crazy," Klaassen continues. "I was the player of the game for that game. That was a special moment."
He says the Centennial Cup was also an unforgettable experience, but nothing quite compares to his first goal back from the head injury, especially with it being his first big playoff goal.
"Last season was my first season of Junior Hockey. So, I could score cool goals in AAA, but they don't really hold any weight," says Klaassen. "After my injury, going around the community, at like 7-11 or anywhere I went, people would notice me and wish the best of luck on my recovery. It felt like the community was backing me. When I came back, to hear the cheering after the goal, it was super special. It might have to rank number one for the most memorable goal I've scored."
Going into his final year of Junior Hockey, there's one lesson, in particular, Klaassen was glad he learned in Portage.
"There's always people that are trying to take your spot and there's always people that are trying to be better than you. Coming from the NAHL (North American Hockey League), which is historically a good league. There are a lot of players that commit to college out of there. I thought coming to the MJHL would be a slight step down and be a bit easier for me, but it was just as difficult. Everywhere you go, guys want it so bad. Now, going to a new place, the expectations are high, and you can't be scared of that."
Klaassen can't wait to help the Jr. Sabres contend in the OJHL, but he thanks the Portage community for making him feel like a celebrity for a few months.
"When I got traded a couple of days ago, I had a lot of people from the community reach out and wish me good luck. It feels really nice. Even though I'm the only American on the team, I still get that love from the Canadians," Klaassen continues. "I didn't have the opportunity to venture out into the community when I was in the NAHL, but in Portage, I went to a colony and went to a couple of schools to read. It was nice to see that wherever you go around town, people know who you are and what you do. I'd be at practice, and I'd see some of the kids from the colony that I played pond hockey with. They would recognize me on the ice and wave. I'd wave back. I'm going to miss those moments. It was unreal being in Portage."
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