Teammates with the Barrie Colts, Bryan Little recalls the times he and Daniel Minor would hang out away from the rink.
“He’d give me rides in his minivan all the time, to school, practice or a team movie,” Little said of Minor, who passed away suddenly last Friday at the age of 32.
Little, a current member of the Winnipeg Jets, was drafted 12th overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft and it was only a couple of years later when he started his NHL career that Minor went down to Atlanta to visit him.
A trip that Little will always remember fondly.
“I took him to see the city a bit and (we) checked out the famous Atlanta Aquarium,” said the former Colts all-time scoring leader, who played just seven games last season with Winnipeg and will miss all of this year after sustaining a concussion after being struck in the side of the head by a shot.
“I think the most excited he got though was checking out the locker room and meeting some of the guys post-game, and getting an (Ilya) Kovalchuk stick,” added Little, who played with Minor over parts of two seasons beginning in 2006. “He was just a real easy, laid back guy to be around.”
While Minor would only play 30 OHL games in Barrie, he would make a lasting impression with teammates, coaches and anyone the Dunnville native came across.
A loving father to his son Jack and a loving husband and best friend to his wife, Haley, Minor’s death has hit Little hard. He had such a young family and Little admits he has been thinking a lot about it the past week.
“What I remember most about him was not necessarily Dan the hockey player, but that he was a very kind person and just a genuine, great guy,” Little said. “He got along with everybody and knew how to lift the mood of everyone around him.”
A third-round pick by Barrie in 2005, Minor would get into two games with the Colts during the 2006-07 season and then 28 games the following year before being released by the team.
“I remember him very well,” said Marty Williamson, who coached Minor those two seasons in Barrie. “He was always a big, happy kid. He had unbelievable hands. We used to sit around and talk if we could just use him on the power play and in the shootouts, he’d be valuable to us.
“He wasn’t the best skater in the world, but he’d go back and put-up big numbers in Jr. B so we’d bring him back the next year. He was so close. He just didn’t quite cut it.”
Williamson said it wasn’t hard to cheer for a kid like Minor to succeed.
“He was a real likeable kid, always smiling, always happy,” he said. “Just infectious that way, so it’s just sad. He’s got a young son and when you see that and realize he’s one of your guys 14 years ago and now he’s gone it’s a tragedy.”
Minor would finish his junior career the following season with the Orangeville Crushers in the OJHL. While his playing days were behind him, his love for the game led him to give back to it.
When he wasn’t on a boat, Minor could be found at the arena.
He spent many hours on the water learning the family fishing business, but his love for hockey was profound.
Minor would go on to coach his hometown Dunnville Mudcats.
“He had talent, he had those soft hands,” Williamson said of the then six-foot, 214 lbs. winger. “You always talk about putting two players together and give him lots of speed, he’d be an NHLer. It just shows how hard it is to play in the league.
“He was always extremely respective and when you had to make those tough decisions with him, he understood.
Former teammate and goaltender Andrew Perugini remembers those hands quite well in practice.
“He did have a good set of hands and great patience,” said Perugini, who played both years with Minor, “He had a way of slowing the game down around him and make a play.”
But what Perugini remembers most is the person Minor was.
“I remember Dan to be a great teammate, a compassionate person and someone you could always count on to lift the spirits. This is very sad; he was such a good person.”
Minor, said his obituary, was someone “who shone brightest when helping others” and wouldn’t hesitate to do anything for anyone at any time.
“To know him was to love him,” the obituary read. “From his charismatic smile to kitchen dance moves, Dan offered no shortage of light to those around him.”
The “proud son” of Tom and Michelle Minor, he was the loving brother to Lynsey and Zack Schmidt and adoring uncle to Harper and Ainsley.
He also leaves behind grandparents Dan and Jeanette Minor and several cherished uncles and aunts.
“I know there will be a lot of people that will be extremely sad about losing Daniel, because he was a pretty happy kid,” Williamson said.