KITCHENER, ONT. - It has been quite a journey for Justin Bailey. The 17-year-old from Amherst is a projected first round pick in this spring's NHL draft.
He is the son of former Buffalo Bills linebacker Carlton Bailey, but the connection doesn't go much further than the name.
The elder Bailey and Justin's mom split up when he was a small child. The fortunate thing for Justin though, is the fact that at very opportune moments in his life, strong male role models filled the void of not having a dad in the home.
Justin's mother Karen Buscaglia is quick to point out that her father, Bob Tronolone has been the constant man in Justin's life. Along the way though, there have been others who steered his passion for hockey. Buscaglia's neighbors when Justin was born were Sabre players Rob Ray and Matthew Barnaby.
Justin took to the sport and excelled.
Last year, through a mutual acquaintance, the opportunity arose for Bailey to live on Long Island and play for a powerhouse team called the Long Island Royals. As big an opportunity it was to play for a nationally ranked team, the bigger opportunity was where he would live and by whom he would be coached.
That man was Sabre great Pat LaFontaine.
The year afforded him growth as a hockey player and a person. This winter Justin made the decision to play in the Ontario Hockey League rather than pursuing Division 1 college hockey. In his first year with the Kitchener Rangers, he is already turning some heads.
A success story in the making due to a lot of hard work, a strong mother, and some timely breaks along the way.