With 15 players committed to returning from last year, the Applejacks have the core of next season’s roster. Now the coaching staff is looking ahead to fleshing out the team with an open training camp at the end of August.
The Jacks’ training camp is usually held after Labour Day but it’s been moved up to Aug. 29 this year because the season gets off to an early start Sept. 18.
Head coach and general manager Kevin Fitzpatrick said he’s looking to add five to seven players at this year’s training camp. The camp, which starts at 7 p.m. in St. Clements Aug. 29, is open to players aged 17 to 20. The only other requirement is that would-be recruits have an OHA-approved, signed permission-to-skate form to be allowed on the ice.
The Jacks will be putting their lines to the test soon after the roster is finalized. They’ll be playing in a tournament hosted by the Wingham Ironmen Sept. 10 and 11 that will see the team play four games in two days.
“It’s a bit of a conditioning stint but it also allows you to try certain things; work on power plays, work on penalty killing, see what your lines combinations may look like, allow some people to try different positions,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s usually very good competition because it’s all Junior C teams.”
Helping the players settle into their team roles will be captains Pat Doyle, Chris Armstrong, Chris Givlin and Ben Jeffries. The coaching staff hasn’t decided who will wear the “C” yet, but all four will have a leadership role on the team.
“They bring an attitude and a commitment that we were looking for,” Fitzpatrick said. “I was asking them what they wanted, what they were hoping to achieve, what their goals were – for the team and individually – and where they felt things needed to improve, and they were looking for the same things [as the coaching staff].
“The important thing with them too, is they can relate to what will be the whole hockey team, not segments of the hockey team.”
A fundraiser to get the team’s finances in better shape is also well underway. The team is raffling off tickets to Toronto Maple Leaf and Raptor games, hoping to sell 300 tickets at $10 each.
Fitzpatrick said they’re offering five different entertainment packages, with the winner taking their pick.
“If you hate hockey and basketball, you can go to the Drayton Theatre.”
All the recent changes to the coaching staff, executive and fundraising have been made with the goal of improving the on-ice performance. The Jacks have struggled through the past few seasons, exiting the playoffs in the first round the last three years in a row.
The Jacks aren’t guaranteed a spot in the playoffs this year; with the addition of Port Stanley to the Bauer Division, only the top four teams will make the playoffs.
The Junior D league had considered rearranging the divisions so teams would play more games against neighbouring opponents, but ultimately stuck with the status quo. The only change will be the addition of Port Stanley, joining Wellesley, Thamesford, Ayr and Tavistock.