Over the weekend, our 2018 OHL Draft and 2018 OHL U18 Draft classes made their first visit to the Niagara Region!
The players, as well as their families, were greeted at our opening breakfast by General Manager, Joey Burke, Head Coach, Billy Burke, Director of Scouting, Roger MacLeod, and many other supporting members of our hockey operations staff. Alternate Captain, and Vegas Golden Knights’ draft pick, Ben Jones, also made the trip back to Niagara for the day to welcome our newest members to the IceDogs family. The prospects learned more about our teams’ values, goals and aspirations that we work toward every day. They also learned about the expectations we hold of our players to be responsible, upstanding members of our community through our philanthropic endeavours, social development, and academic pursuits.
From there, the prospects and families boarded our team bus, en route to the prospective high school they will be attending as members of our organization.
At the school, they had the opportunity to learn more about how we are able to ensure the players receive the best education possible while accommodating the demands that our season schedule has, as well as practices. Governor Simcoe Academic Advisor and Guidance Counsellor Tim Tope explained how the players can ensure they are taking the proper courses that not only allow them to be successful on the ice but off it as well. Tope stressed the importance of each player succeeding in the necessary secondary school credits while keeping their options open for post-secondary success.
Billet Coordinator Jill Saxton helped walk the parents and prospects through the billet process. Saxton helped put the parents’ minds at ease about the process she goes through when selecting a family to take in and care for one of our players as though they are their own. Ben Jones spoke about his experiences thus far with his billet family, noting that they’ve become his second family. He spoke about the support they’ve provided him, and the closeness that’s developed between his parents and his billet parents.
Other areas of support were discussed by the team’s pastor, Pastor Moe. He spoke to the spiritual guidance he helps to provide our players throughout the season. Though his background is related to religious beliefs, Pastor Moe lends another form of support to our players to help them through the trials and tribulations that come with playing in the OHL and being away from home during such formidable years in a young man’s life.
After meeting and learning about our external support systems, the players made their first visit to our home, the Meridian Centre! The prospects were bright-eyed and excited to see the arena, and dressing room, that can become their new home for this step of their hockey careers. The players walked into the dressing room to find their own name bars in stalls that may one day be theirs. Although the ice has been removed from the rink, the players got a great first-hand look of the view from the rink all the way up to the concourse, imagining what it will be like to step onto the ice for training camp.
Throughout the day, the prospects had the opportunity to chat more with Ben Jones, learning more about the experience of playing in the league from a true leader on our team.
The successful day ended with a closing lunch and final remarks from our management staff.
We were so excited to meet each and every one of our prospects this past weekend and we’re looking forward to seeing everyone on the ice at training camp in August!
Stay tuned for a video coming introducing you to our most recent litter of pups!