Isles Tavares and DeFazio - Products of 'The Dungeon'


John Tavares has been a hockey problem child since his minor midget days when, as a gifted seven year-old, his parents requested he be moved up an age group to face tougher competition. He had natural talent but needed to be tested in order to improve. (Photo:

Five days before his fourteenth birthday in 2004 he knocked on the door of the Athlete Training Centre (ATC) in Mississagua, ON to begin training in the basement of the local YMCA in a facility known as ‘The Dungeon’ where he would train alongside Matt Moulson, who in 2001 became one of the first clients of the ATC and its owner and founder Richard Clark. If Tavares was going to compete against older players, he needed to work on his strength and conditioning.

As a fourteen year-old playing for the Greater Toronto Hockey League’s (GTHL) Toronto Marlboros, he would score 91 goals and offer up 67 assists in 72 games played. Too young to qualify for the CHL draft he petitioned the league to allow himself entry. The OHL introduced an “exceptional player” clause, allowing 14 year-old Tavares to be drafted one year early, making him the youngest player ever drafted in the league.

He earned the CHL’s rookie of the year award in his first season with 45 goals and 32 assists in 65 games. After the season was over, Tavares returned to ‘The Dungeon’ to continue his training and development.

On March 16, 2007, in his second season with the Oshawa Generals, Tavares scored his 70th and 71st goals of the season, breaking Wayne Gretsky’s OHL record for the most goals scored by a 16 year-old. He won the CHL’s player of the year award that year and returned to ‘The Dungeon’ for more work along side one of his best friends and newest New York Islander, Brandon DeFazio.

Brandon has decent puck handling skills, but he is no John Tavares (there are probably fewer than ten players in the world who even come close to JT). DeFazio learned early in his young career that his ticket to the NHL would be earned by the same fast and physical fourth-line play that his father Dean displayed in his years as a player. (

Dean DeFazio was drafted by the Penguins late in the 1981 draft and after his time in the WHL, ECHL and AHL played 22 games in the NHL before “some guy named Mario took (his) job,” as he whimsically notes on his training camp website. When it was his son Brandon’s time to set off on his own career, Dean convinced him to get his education first.

Recruited by Northeastern, UMass, Quinnipiac and others, the younger Defazio opted for Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY. The Clarkson ‘Golden Knights’ men’s ice hockey program is one of the most successful in NCAA Division 1.

Brandon completed his four years at Clarkson in 2011 and served as the team's alternate captain in his final two years. In his senior year he led the team in scoring and was awarded an AHL contract with the Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton Penguins and was assigned to their ECHL affiliate, the Wheeling Nailers.

It took only ten games, in which he scored 4 goals and 5 assists, before being called up to the AHL. The 2011-12 hockey campaign marked Brandon's first full season in the AHL, and he (along with his WBS Penguins' teammate Colin McDonald) was acquired as a free agent by the Isles this past July.

The former Penguin's AHL nominee for 'Man Of The Year', Defazio brings grit and leadership to the young Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He also brings the rugged physical style of play reminiscent of what Micheal Haley displayed when he was a fan favorite as a member of the Islanders and Sound Tigers.

Tavares, Moulson, Martin, Strome and DeFazio are just a few of the gifted athletes who return to 'The Dungeon' (now a 25,000 square foot state-of-the-art training facility) each off season. Each of them looking to become bigger, faster and stronger professional hockey players, none of them willing to give less than 100% "10 In - 10 Out".

- Mike Flannery

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