February 7, 2008

Feature: Fox a Shark with a Future

The following article featuring former Union forward T. J. Fox appeared in the February 5 issue of the Hockey News.

By Phil Janack

Being only halfway to a degree in economics didn't keep T.J. Fox (Oswego, N.Y.) from recognizing a valuable offer.  

An undrafted power forward playing for small Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., Fox didn't exactly have scouts beating down his door. The San Jose Sharks saw enough promise in his game to give Fox a two-year contract.  

"I felt like it was a great opportunity to take my game to the next level, which is ultimately what I want to do," Fox said.  

The 23-year-old is only the second player in Union's Division I era, which began in 1991, to leave early for a pro career. The other, forward Troy Stevens, never made it above the ECHL before retiring in 2001.  

Fox is already beyond that, spending his rookie season learning the trade in Worcester. He had six goals - two of them game-winners - and nine points through 30 games.  

"He's been coming along real well," said Sharks assistant coach David Cunniff. "At the beginning, he was just unsure, coming out of college and going, ‘Geez, do I belong?' We all know he can play. We just had to convince him of that."  

Part of the process was moving the 6-foot-1, 197-pound Fox from center to left wing, where he played himself onto a line with San Jose first round draft pick Devin Setoguchi.  

Another was teaching the finer points of the game to a player who had not been defensively lacking, but was counted on more to be an offensive catalyst in the past. From the time he began playing hockey, Fox had led nearly every one of his teams in scoring, establishing a school record at Union in his sophomore season.  

"It's been frustrating at times, but I understand my role on the team," Fox said. "Hopefully, over the rest of the season and into next year, I continue to get better and get that opportunity to be a go-to guy here, as well."  

Cunniff feels Fox has all the ingredients to make it.  

"He's strong and he's got good hands," Cunniff said. "He's got a great release and he can skate. He'll be big for us down the stretch. I think they really found something in him."  

Fox has realized one childhood dream, skating alongside boyhood idol Jeremy Roenick in his first pro training camp with San Jose.  

"When I was younger, a lot of coaches told me I played like Jeremy Roenick, a gritty, in-your-face style with some skills," Fox said. "He's been one of my favorite players since I was a little kid. Just to skate next to him and be on the same team as him, listening to him out on the ice and watching him, it was unbelievable."