This article, which was published in the January 2018 Hamilton Post, was updated on Jan. 2 for clarity.
It’s no wonder Steinert ice hockey captains Jared Dudich and Cameron Kontura formed a friendship through ice hockey. It’s hereditary.
“We were around seven, and we were playing hockey together for the Lawrence Flames,” Dudich recalled. ‘It just so happened our moms were completely the same psychotic ladies. They loved to have fun at tournaments and stuff; they loved screaming from the sides. True hockey moms. They got along, me and (Cameron) got along. He’s a good guy. It was a bonding thing. Since we got dragged into it, it happened to work.”
The two remained tight up until the unfortunate passing of Donna Dudich due to illness in October of 2015. Heather Kontura has continued on without her friend and has even settled down over the past few years, although Cameron said with a laugh, “my grandmom is more crazy than my mom now.”
Let’s get something straight. This is a good crazy, an enthusiastic crazy that every hockey mom (or soccer mom, or wrestling mom, etc.) has in support of their kid. The term “psychotic ladies” was used by Jared for embellishment, not an honest appraisal.
The two moms started watching together when Andrew Dudich played for Steinert from 2008-12 and Nick Kontura laced up the skates from 2012-16. Andrew was so proud of Donna’s support, and of her as a person, that he has named his catering company in her honor – Mama Dudes.
When the older brothers played, the younger ones were also on hand.
“I used to come watch Nick,” Kontura said. “I always enjoyed watching him play. I’d come to the games and Jared was there and we would talk.”
By that time, the younger brothers had already embarked on their own careers.
Cameron started playing for the Mercer Chiefs at age 4, where he has been for most of his career. He spent one year with the JAGS and one with the Flames, which is where he met Dudich. Jared followed in Andrew’s footsteps and has played for Lawrence his entire travel hockey career.
The two arrived at Steinert as defensemen in 2014 and got a smattering of playing time as freshmen. They began getting regular shifts the following season and proved to have offensive skills as blue liners. Dudich had a goal and six assists as a sophomore and nine goals and 11 assists as a junior. Kontura had two assists in 10th grade, when he missed much of the season with a concussion, and four goals and eight assists last year.
This season, Kontura had five assists in Steinert’s 1-3-2 start while Dudich had two goals and four assists. The two are not teamed on regular shifts but are together on the power play.
“That’s enough for us,” Dudich said. “For the team, it would definitely weaken us if we were both out there the same time, because then the other times neither of us would be out there. It’s more about working together and making the team better rather than us having some kind of gratification playing together.”
First-year coach James Nobilio, who was promoted from assistant when Bob Weiss stepped down, feels its imperative he spread them out for as much ice time as possible.
“They’re both the heart of the team,” Nobilio said. “Every shift we have them on the ice, it gives us a better chance of winning and playing better. Both are good defensively, they both can skate the puck up. Jared’s a better hitter, and Cameron’s more-easy going. We’re a completely different team without them.”
Because they can carry the puck out of the zone, it provides an added dimension.
“We count on them immensely,” Nobilio said. “You can’t win without defense, you can’t win without offense; and if the defense can’t move the puck up you never get to offense. You can’t replace the skills that players like Jared and Cameron bring to the game.”
Kontura understands why the two can’t be regular partners, but feels that when it does happen, the potential is there for good things.
“We have good chemistry out there, we love playing with each other,” he said. “On the power play we work well together. It’s just awesome playing with him.”
It is only fitting that the two have gone from alternates to captains this year but, as Kontura noted, it’s more about what happens on the ice than what’s on the uniform.
“I don’t mind so much about having the letter, I just want to lead the team,” he said. “I just want to make sure all the boys are doing what they’re supposed to do, playing the way they’re supposed to play.”
Dudich agreed, saying, “we just want to come in here and build this up and do something good this year.”
In assessing each other’s ability, the players both agree with their coach that Dudich is the physical guy and Kontura is the skating guy.
“I think we’re at the same level,” Kontura said. “He’s got an eye for the game. He sees it very well. He’s a physical player, and his playmaking abilities are pretty good.”
“He’s a good player,” Dudich said. “I would put us both on the same level. I would say I’m more physical but he’s more technical, a better skater. I think he’s a better skater, he’s got more speed than I do. . . not that much but he’s got more than I do.”
Between the two of them, they make a nice combo.
As did their moms.
An earlier version of this article that appeared here and in the Hamilton Post was written as though Donna Dudich were still alive. Writer Rich Fisher was unaware of her passing in October 2015. Community News regrets the error. “I felt awful when informed by Donna’s son Andrew,” Fisher says. “And I would like to thank Andrew for being so understanding in this matter when we talked. I sincerely apologize for the mistake and any negative emotions it may have caused.”