Liston honoured with Reid scholarship
Sixth recipient of the $1,000 John Reid Memorial Scholarship
Saturday, Jan 18, 2014 06:00 am
The sixth winner of the John Reid Memorial Scholarship was awestruck as the recipient of the prestigious award.
“I’m happy and honoured and obviously humbled that the committee found the same qualities in me that John obviously stood for,” said Liam Liston, a St. Albert Minor Hockey Association alumnus and former Western Hockey League netminder.
The $1,000 Reid scholarship, established by the parent group of the 2004/05 St. Albert Gregg Distributors Sabres, is presented to a St. Albert player who played in the bantam AAA Sabres’ tournament and attends a post-secondary education institution.
The goal of the John Reid Memorial Scholarship Society is to challenge players to grow academically into educated contributing members of society in the same way Reid made an impact in the St. Albert community as a coach and mentor while displaying a positive attitude.
The former Alberta Golden Bear and Alberta Junior Hockey League forward with the St. Albert Saints and Sherwood Park Crusaders left a lasting impression on the lives he touched as a dedicated minor hockey and lacrosse coach in St. Albert.
Reid died of leukemia at age 41 on Nov. 6, 2003. The next year the Sabres’ tournament was renamed in his memory.
“I was lucky enough to know John a little bit as a younger kid. My dad and John came up through the coaching ranks together. John coached me in lacrosse and I kind of came into contact with (Reid’s sons) Casey and Brady at the same age that my dad and John met when they were younger. It’s a family that I’ve been fortunate to know for a long, long time and having all of us come up through St. Albert minor hockey and the Raiders Hockey Club just lends more meaning to it,” said Liston, a political science student at the University of Alberta who aspires to be a lawyer.
Previous scholarship winners were Ryan Harrison, Brady McCorriston, Steven Woolger, Joshua Maeda and Justin Kueber.
“Hopefully we can encourage more people to apply for this award and awards like it and continue to exhibit the spirit of the tournament as a whole,” said Liston.
The John Reid division all-star netminder at the 2008 tournament has fond memories of St. Albert’s most prestigious annual sporting event.
“When you’re a Grade 9 kid and all of a sudden you hear all of your classmates talking about going to the tournament that weekend and they don’t really know who plays on the team, all of a sudden you realize, ‘Hey, I’m playing in that tournament,’” Liston said. “As a younger kid watching the Tyler Bunzs and Taylor Frasers playing in the tournament before you, you kind of understand what it’s all about but to skate out for the opening ceremonies and see a full Performance rink, which doesn’t happen very often unfortunately, that stands out. I remember we played Notre Dame in the feature game (Liston faced 43 shots in the 5-2 win) and that was obviously a big deal because they’re generally considered a powerhouse.”
Liston finished 2-2 in the tournament with a 3.25 GAA and .915 save percentage as the Sabres lost 3-0 to the Sherwood Park Flyers in the semifinals. The Sabres were outshot 44-16 as Liston kept the score respectable.
In the final the Flyers edged the Winnipeg Monarchs 3-2.
Duncan Siemens of the Flyers, the 11th overall pick in the 2011 NHL entry draft by the Colorado Avalanche, was named the tournament MVP and top defenceman.
Michael St. Croix of the Monarchs, a fourth-round 2011 draft pick of the New York Rangers, was selected the tournament’s top forward. The former Edmonton Oil King racked up 16 goals and 23 points in seven games.
Tournament all-stars included defenceman Dillon Simpson (Edmonton Oilers’ draft pick) and forward Mark McNeill (Chicago Blackhawks’ draft pick) of the SSAC Southgate Lions and forwards Mitch Holmberg of the Flyers and Joshua Winquist of the Sabres. Winquist was also honoured as the Sabres’ recipient of the John Reid Memorial Award for heart and hustle.
Holmberg (42 goals and 84 points for the Spokane Chiefs) and Winquist (27 goals and 62 points for the Everett Silvertips) are currently ranked first and third, respectively, in the WHL scoring race.
“Obviously our 93 birth year was very strong for Alberta and as a whole,” Liston said of talent level at the 2008 tournament, which included Sabres’ teammates Travis Ewanyk, Colton Parayko, Colten Mayor and Connor Hoekstra. “It really speaks to the calibre of player that this tournament draws. Obviously, with it expanding now into international teams and American teams, it becomes an event that everybody looks forward to for the whole year, whether you live in St. Albert or somewhere else in western Canada. It becomes an event that your team pushes for to make because obviously you have to qualify to get selected so that becomes a goal for every team at the start of the year.
“It really is probably the best place in western Canada to see so much elite talent over a four-day period, and with a great facility and great staff there really isn’t very many better tournaments that I can think of.”
Liston went on to be picked by the Brandon Wheat Kings in the third round (57th overall) in the 2008 WHL bantam draft. He played for the midget 15 St. Albert Flyers in 2008/09, was between the pipes at the 2009/10 World U17 Hockey Challenge with Team Pacific (only midget player on the roster), was the 2010 winner of the Bill Ranford Trophy as the most valuable goalie in the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League with the St. Albert Raiders, attended U18 national goalie camps and played in the 2011 CHL Top Prospects Game.
Liston also spent three seasons in the WHL and in 80 games with the Brandon Wheat Kings (he was the team’s third-string goalie during its 2010 Memorial Cup run as the host team), Lethbridge Hurricanes and Vancouver Giants, compiled a 30-40-1 record and posted two shutouts.
Liston was 1-10 with a 4.53 GAA with Vancouver when he retired after the Christmas break in 2012.
Liston admitted not getting drafted in 2011, despite the hype surrounding his status as a highly-ranked WHL goalie, was “a letdown”, but it wasn’t the deciding factor in hanging up the pads.
“I was fortunate to have lots of cool opportunities but I think at some point it hits home that it’s a business and it was probably the first time I got traded (with defenceman Spencer Galbraith to Lethbridge for goalie Brandon Anderson and two 2012 WHL draft picks) when I realized I’m not entirely sure if the uncertainty is what I want to live with for the rest of my life,” Liston said. “From the time I was drafted (by Brandon) to my 18-year-old year with Brandon I cultivated all these relationships with the guys, billets and coaches. Those guys were my family for the better part of two, three years, and the fact that somebody could up and take that away with a phone call and throw a wrench into things like that without taking into account all the work that you’ve put into these relationships, it really didn’t sit well with me and from that point forward it was kind of hard for me to focus on hockey, considering that I knew that there was all these other stuff out there I wanted to experience. I wanted to be a regular kid. You give up a lot (to playing in the WHL). I gave up a couple of years of high school. You don’t get to hang out with your buddies. You don’t get to go grab a beer on the weekend, once you’re of age, stuff like that.
“I was lucky enough to leave at a time where I knew it was OK and I knew I wouldn’t have any regrets. It would certainly be different if I had been forced out of the game by injury or something like that but the fact that I could leave on my own volition, it became my choice rather than somebody else’s is probably what’s made it so easy.”
Liston, 20, took advantage of the WHL scholarship program and is enjoying life as a student.
“It’s definitely different. My days are not any less busy, they’re just busy differently with studying and stuff like that, as opposed to physical exertion.”
Liston still plays hockey, but as a forward with the Jets in the St. Albert division in the Edmonton Municipal Hockey League.
“Honestly, I’m probably a bigger fan of the game now than I was when I was playing. I still love the game of hockey and everything that it stands for.”