GRAVENHURST - For the first time in half a decade, Gravenhurst’s Dylan Sontag won’t be lacing up to take the ice with the South Muskoka Shield.
Sontag's number retired to the rafters.
NUMBERS GAME. Gravenhurst’s Dylan Sontag (right) had his No. 9 jersey retired by the South Muskoka Shield Sept. 7 before the puck dropped on the 2012-13 season. Former team owner Gord Carey (left) presented Sontag with the puck he scored his 502nd point with last season to set the GMHL all-time points record. (Photo by Neil Etienne)
But the 22-year-old former right winger who spent his entire Greater Metro Hockey League (GMHL) Junior A career with the local club will be a permanent fixture in the centennial centre. His No. 9 jersey became the first retired by the club during a ceremony Friday night (Sept. 7), just prior to the opening puck-drop of the regular season.
“This means a lot to me,” Sontag told a packed house of fans, family and friends. “It’s a great honour. It was never a goal of mine to have my jersey retired, I just don’t think it’s anything a person could ever expect or plan for.”
“I think mainly that’s because no one ever wants to think about retirement, but now that I am retired, I can honestly say this is the biggest honour I could ever think of playing for,” he said, wishing the current Shield roster the best of luck this season in their hunt for the Russell Cup. “The fans deserve it, they are the best in the league.”
During his time with the Shield, Sontag was a multi-time player of the year nominee, all-star, a Russell Cup champion in 2009 and accumulated 502 points to take sole possession of the all-time GMHL career points-total lead.
Stephanie Walker, Sontag’s aunt, spoke to a large crowd on behalf of the family, explaining he had started playing hockey at the age of five at the old centennial centre, showing determination from a very young age.
“He fell about every four feet, but he never gave up,” she said. “He was determined; he was hooked and continued to improve every year.”
“He sets goals and is determined to achieve these goals year after year,” she added in praise, saying over his minor career, he had the opportunity to lace up against current NHL stars like Steven Stamkos, Michael Del Zotto and Cameron Gaunce.
Gord Carey, former owner and general manager of the Shield who signed Sontag some six season ago, praised not only the player, but the young man’s character and leadership. Carey managed so snag the puck from this past March’s semifinal rounds when Sontag scored his 502nd goal and presented the player with it.
“I’ve never seen a more dedicated team player; he gave everything for us,” Carey said. “He’s been a great credit to the South Muskoka Shield hockey team and is also a great credit to the Town of Gravenhurst.”