Anthony Latina spent his summer handling a hammer for his father Angelo’s construction company and setting up tables and booths for his mother Diana’s trade show business.
Latina is also a work of art on the art of work at the rink. His toolbox is packed 24-7 as Vernon Vipers’ fans have witnessed nine games into the B.C. Hockey League season.
The 20-year-old right winger from Scarborough, Ont. is with his fifth Junior A team, fitting in half a season with Major Junior Quebec Remparts on the resume.
“On and off the ice, I’m a well-rounded individual and I think I owe it to all the coaches that I have had over the years,” said Latina, recruited by Jason Williamson after skating with the Carleton Place Canadians in the Royal Bank Cup in Vernon.
“I just try and learn from whoever I can. Being around these great hockey guys and different teams, I try and learn everyday from all of them so it’s been good.”
The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder also spent a few moments in the off-season disecting a devastating loss to the Yorkton Terriers in the RBC final and considering his next hockey destination.
“Being in the town, I knew it would be a great fit for me. I knew it was a real good hockey community and I couldn’t wait to get here and I’m glad I did.”
As one of six 20-year-olds, he is expected to provide leadership. He makes a point of hanging out with rookies and showing them proper behaviour while inserting some fun within coach Mark Ferner’s fast-paced practices.
“I think we’re a hard-working team,” added Latina, the oldest of four siblings. “We’re a little smaller than what the Vernon community is used to. It’s gonna be an adjustment period. Even though we’re small, we’re just gonna have to work twice as hard to skate a little harder and outwork the bigger guys. Mark has put down a really good structure for us and once we perfect it there won’t be any team that we can’t beat.”
Viper d-man Luke Shiplo was a Latina teammate when the two were rookies with the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots in 2011.
“He’s a pretty nice guy and he gets along with all the players,” said Shiplo. “On the ice, he’s definitely a real good player and helps the team a lot. He’s always working hard in practice and he’s great to be around in the room. He can be funny if he wants to be.”
Latina scored once in the RBC, but is better known for taking an enormous bodycheck from bruising Viper blueliner Josh Bryan in preliminary play.
“Everybody asks me about the hit,” smiled Latina. “I don’t remember much from after the hit took place. I remember getting to the bench and just kind of wondering where I was. I went into a dark room after that and then I watched the hit and thought it was a little late. I sat out for the next game and came back the game after that. Probably a bit too soon, but it was the RBC Cup so you gotta do what you gotta do.”
Said Viper alternate captain T.J. Dumonceaux: “I didn’t see it until he was on the ice and then I watched the replay later. I just remember him (Bryan) getting a penalty and hearing him say he shouldn’t have got one. It’s funny to look back at it now.”
Dumonceaux says Latina, who is second in Viper scoring with four goals and seven points, brings a variety of positives to the den.
“He’s a more vocal guy for sure. It’s really good to have him here. It shows a lot about our organization having him come all this way to play. We’re excited to have him; he’s a big part of our team. He’s scored some big goals for us already. He works hard and he’s showing up in the gym and doing all the right things as a 20-year-old.”
Latina attended the all-boys St. Jean de Brebeuf Catholic High School from Grades 9-12 and also took some classes at the University of Toronto. He’s a Leafs’ fan who played the midfield in soccer, outfield in baseball and scrum half in rugby.
He has been a trade-deadline upgrade a few times, last year collecting two goals and four points with the Remparts before ringing up 15 points in 10 regular-season tilts and another nine points in 16 playoff games for Carleton Place.
Performing in front of huge crowds in hockey-crazed Quebec City was a huge thrill.
“They don’t have an NHL team in Quebec City and Montreal is about two and a half hours away so we were the real deal I guess. It was great, the support, the fans, it was a great hockey community. Vernon’s great in a different way. I like it here a lot. Ten thousand fans or 2,500 or 2,000 that we get here, it’s all good.”
The 5-3-0-1 Vipers entertain the 8-1 Penticton Vees tonight. The Vees, who are ranked No. 4 in Canada, have 13 players with U.S. scholarships, including 16-year-old Tyson Jost, their leading pointgetter with 13.
D-man Dante Fabbro, 16, has nine points with the Vees. He was the 2013 HockeyNow B.C. Minor Hockey Player of the Year. and racked up 61 points with the Major Midget Vancouver Northwest Giants last year. Ex-Viper Demico Hannoun has 6-4-10.
SNAKE BITES: Viper 16-year-old Jagger Williamson is playing like a veteran. “I’m feeling great out there,” he said. “The jump from Midget Triple A is big, but I try to slow the pace down to my level and just move the puck and don’t make too many mistakes.” Williamson and Fabbro are both Seattle Thunderbird drafts…G Danny Todosychuk (groin injury) practised this week and may be ready tonight…Vernon visits West Kelowna Warriors Saturday night…Viper grad Colton Sparrow plays for the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks, not the Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves, as reported Wednesday.