Hellstrom discusses the fact that L.U. hockey is back (updated)
by Randy Pascal
Further to the initial announcement that hockey is returning to Laurentian University, Athletic Director Peter Hellstrom took some time to
discuss both the process, to date, as well as the road that lies ahead.
"It's been a process that has gone through stages," said Hellstrom on Wednesday morning, clearly relieved that the light at the end of the tunnel has
arrived. "I flew back from the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) meetings in Ottawa on Friday and as I arrived in Sudbury, I received a text
message that the budget is approved - hockey is a go."
"It's kind of a surreal feeling right now," Hellstrom added. "It's been a lot of hard work, obviously not just by myself, but numerous people - and the
leadership of Dominic Giroux (university president), Carol McAuley (vice-president), Chris Mercer, Robert Kerr - the leadership has
While there has been a tendancy, at times, to look at the re-introduction of hockey as a stand-alone issue, Hellstrom felt the key was aligning the
process with the overall direction of the institution. "Projects like hockey fit into the Strategic Plan - community minded, able to garner national
attention, improving student life on campus," he said.
While it won't be noted as a major factor, the long-time Sudbury resident acknowledged that there was surely some impact by the fact that Nipissing
University in North Bay had moved forward with icing a men's team since the Voyageurs had folded some twelve years ago, adding a ladies squad earlier today, just days after
Laurentian brought the women's hockey league size to 12 teams.
"When you're in northern Ontario and sister universities are jumping forward in certain areas, whether it be academic, or research, or athletics, you
compete with everybody, but you have that extra competition within the north," Hellstrom said.
With the financial model on solid footing for a number of years to come, the head of varsity athletics turns his attention to the on-ice product, an
area that will move forward, it seems, very quickly.
"We want our full-time coaches (both men's and women's) in place, on campus, in mid-August of 2012," Hellstrom indicated. "We want them to be able to
hit the recruiting trail a year out. It's all about recruiting - people have to understand, you have to be able to recruit to Sudbury."
Still, Hellstrom fully believes that the available talent pool for both genders remains deep and strong. "I think there's a ton of OHL kids out there,
where we are going to add another venue to play, and not just the OHL, but also the "Q" (QMJHL in Quebec)."
"And I truly believe that there are plenty of players not in the OHL that can still play," Hellstrom said. On the women's side of the ledger, Hellstrom
is even more optimistic, pointing to the success of the local Sudbury Lady Wolves programs on a provincial scale as a clear sign that competitive
talent is being produced in the north.
With that in mind, it's full steam ahead on the coaching trail. "The job descriptions are set and ready," Hellstrom noted. "I've been quietly looking
around, without any real concrete program to go with. We're going to go through a process and ultimately come up with two quality coaches."
Though nothing has yet to be set in stone with regards to the venue for the Laurentian hockey tandem, Hellstrom noted a clear preference. "We're
hoping for Countryside Arena," he said.
"The (Sudbury) Arena is a great place to play, but we want to get a buzz going, build some atmosphere." That goal becomes a little more challenging
in a venue that seats nearly four thousand versus the much more intimate multi-pad location at the south end.
"Becoming very competitive very quickly will be the goal," Hellstrom stated. The game-plan to reach that goal picks up speed, in earnest, in the coming
********** Original Story **********
Whether the Laurentian Voyageurs hockey team comes back with a splash remains to be seen, but they will return with more company. The university
confirmed on Monday, via their budget announcement, that the men's hockey program will resume with the 2013-2014 hockey season and will be joined, at that
time, by the inaugural edition of the Lady Vees hockey team.
The rumoured move came with a price-tag of $ 2.8M by 2017-18, part of the $ 132.1-million budget that was recently approved by the university board
of governors. Director of Varsity Athletics, Peter Hellstrom, also noted that all systems are go for a puck drop in the fall of 2013, though
plenty of work remains to be done over the next 14 months or so.
More details are expected in the days to come.