Former Flin Flon Bomber Joseph Leonidas loves playing for the Lakehead University hockey fans.
“Every home game we play is in front of over 2,000 fans,” he said of the Ontario University Athletics team. “Nowhere else in this league will you see a fan base like this. We are figures in the community and people look up to us, so it’s really great.”
When healthy, the second-year defenceman was an important contributor to his Thunder Bay school squad. Leonidas had two goals and 10 points in 18 games. He was third on the team in points by a defenceman.
“Joseph Leonidas has the ability to skate very well in our league,” Lakehead University head coach Andrew Wilkins said. “Joseph plays his best hockey when he uses his skating ability to help make plays and create offence.”
Leonidas has enjoyed playing in the OUA conference in U Sports, the highest level of university athletics in Canada.
“U Sports hockey is a high-calibre league,” Leonidas said. “Players in this league are all very good major junior or Junior ‘A’ players. You see guys moving on to the (American Hockey League) or ECHL and all over Europe consistently, which speaks volumes about the league skill level. There are no easy games and every team can compete at a high level. If you’re not ready to go on any given night, you won’t be successful.”
Leonidas is succeeding off the ice at Lakehead. He was an Academic All-Canadian in his first season and loves the university’s small class sizes.
“You build relationships with your professors and they are always there for you,” Leonidas said. “Here at Lakehead, especially being a varsity athlete, the professors see how hard we work and will always go out of their way if we need help. It goes a long way when you want to maintain good marks.”
He is pursuing an honours bachelor of commerce degree with a major in finance.
“After I finish playing university hockey and hopefully play professional, I plan to have a career in investment banking,” Leonidas said. “I love learning about everything that goes with analyzing risk, markets and companies.”
A Calgary product, Leonidas’ junior hockey career was definitely a journey. The talented offensive defenceman spent his first three seasons playing for his hometown Mustangs, Whitecourt, and Drayton Valley in Alberta as well as Amarillo in Texas.
In 2015-2016, he was acquired by the Bombers. Leonidas said playing in Flin Flon was one of the best times of his life and that he made a second family with the Rideouts, who billeted him. He played a big role during the Bombers’ run to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League finals to play Melfort.
“One thing that sticks out the most is our playoff run my 19-year-old year. The way the community rallied behind us and supported us was amazing. Thinking about that season still gives me goosebumps. It’s never fun to lose, but losing in Game 6 at home had to be the worst feeling I’d ever experienced as a hockey player,” he said.
“Our entire team had completely bought in and we all believed that we were going to win so it was just heartbreaking when we were so close. I grew up a lot during my time in Flin Flon and I made some lifelong friends. It’ll always have a special place in my heart.”
Leonidas returned the next season on a talented, veteran team. Tough decisions had to made due to the number of 20-year-olds on the roster, and he was traded to Steinbach to cap his junior career.