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le Mercredi 7 octobre 2020 16:59 | mis à jour le 8 avril 2022 19:22 Tribune-Express (Hawkesbury)

Hawks ready for new hockey season

The Hawkesbury Hawks focus on practice and refining their skills as they wait for official word from the Central Canada Hockey League on their first game of the new junior A hockey season. — photo Gregg Chamberlain
The Hawkesbury Hawks focus on practice and refining their skills as they wait for official word from the Central Canada Hockey League on their first game of the new junior A hockey season.
photo Gregg Chamberlain
The Hawkesbury Hawks are training and waiting for the league to confirm the start of the new hockey season.

“We’re going day by day,” said Rick Dorval, head coach for the junior A team, during a September 30 phone interview. “The (national) landscape has changed so much. COVID-19 has been tough on everybody, and hockey’s no exception.”

Two tryout sessions, one in mid-August and the other over the Labour Day weekend, have whittled a horde of 80 potential recruits for the 2020-2021 season down to 22 confirmed names on the Hawks’ roster, including about a dozen returning veterans.

Jérémie Payant, part of the Hawks’ high-scoring front line during the last season, is one of the returning veterans. “He’s already being looked at from an NHL perspective as a potential (future) draft choice,” said Dorval. “We’re going to count on him for having a big chunk of the offence.”

Dorval declined to single out for special notice or comment any of the new faces on the Hawks bench. But he expressed satisfaction with all of the rookie members confirmed for the team.

“We’re pleased with everybody we’ve acquired,” he said, adding that the Hawks are allowed a maximum of 25 signups for the season. The club’s scouts are still looking for a couple more potential additions.

Speed will be one of the main strengths of this season’s Hawkesbury junior A team. “We will be very, very fast,” said Dorval. “This could be one of the fastest teams I’ve ever had the luxury to coach.”

The executive for the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL) had hopes for an early October start for the 2020-2021 season. But the first weekend of the month has come and gone without even pre-season exhibition games on the schedule yet.

Dorval is not worried. He noted that the current pandemic has forced changes for scheduling and season planning for all sports leagues. He expects there will be a junior A hockey season. The question is how the CCHL plans to make the season work while still dealing with demands for public health safety for players during the pandemic.

“We should likely be playing a modified version of hockey,” Dorval said. “It’s going to be a brand-new style.”

He noted that there have been suggestions that the league may adopt new non-contact rules for teams on the ice. That would mean a game that emphasizes more passing the puck and more dodging maneuvers for players and fewer body checks. But Dorval observed that the league has made no official announcement yet on the subject.

“We’ve just been told to prepare,” he said.

The focus for the Hawks now is on practices four times a week. That and waiting for an announcement from the league for the date of their first official game of the new season.

“Every day we’re pumped and loaded,” said Dorval. “Just waiting for the green light.”