In a season of change, the Rayside-Balfour Canadians are throwing another curveball your way.
Well, make that the Greater Sudbury Cubs that are unveiling a new pitch.
Late last week, the management of the local NOJHL team announced the move and rebranding of the area franchise, with the Canadians moving their base of operation and home rink from the Chelmsford Arena to the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex.
"This probably goes back to the spring time when it was announced that Laurentian hockey would not be returning," said Blaine Smith, Managing Director of the team.
"We looked at the possibilities then and were informed that the ice time (being relinquished) belonged to minor hockey groups. It was really the ice allocation group, led by Leo Verrilli (Copper Cliff Minor Hockey) and Jody Cameron (City of Greater Sudbury) that got the ball rolling as far as moving ice around.".
"We were thinking that we would be staying in Chelmsford and playing some games here," Smith added. "Then the Chelmsford ice condenser went down so we couldn't start there either."
With pandemic rules adding another item to the checklist (limited attendance at games), there were plenty of reasons why the move made sense.
"We have 900 seats here, so with 50% capacity, we can still have 450 fans," noted Smith. By comparison, maximum fan seating at Chelmsford would number around one hundred.
"I think convenience is always an issue when it comes to people attending games. Here, you've got plenty of parking and backed seating. The dressing room is so much newer, ventilation is better, stalls are wider, player treatment area is larger."
"From a pure practicality standpoint, it made so much sense to move a junior team to a rink like this."
New to the team this year, forward Kyler Campbell and defenceman Cole Quevillon enjoy little in the form of perspective, moving from one venue to the next.
A twenty year-old native of Huntsville, Campbell has played the past two years with the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners however, allowing Sudbury GM Jeff Forsyth to have a really good sense of exactly what he was acquiring in a summer trade.
"I'm a tough player to play against," he said. "I like to forecheck hard, lay the body. If I'm lucky enough to chip in a goal, then I chip in a goal."
On a team that currently lists nine returning Canadians along with OHL camp attendees Owen Perala (Sudbury Wolves) and Samuel Assinewai (Flint Firebirds), the injection of more veteran presence was viewed as a priority.
"I've been in the league for a couple of years, but now coming into a team and not knowing anyone," said Campbell. "There are some good leaders here already, so I will just try and do my part to help bring the team up."
While Quevillon is new to the NOJHL, the native of Oro-Medonte who was retrieved from the Brockville Braves has plenty of family in the area, his parents originally from the French River region.
The 18 year-old blueliner also has an appreciation for the ice surface at Countryside, having attended local tournaments from his minor hockey days with the North Central Predators.
"When you are playing a two on one or three on two, you have an extra few feet on each side," said Quevillon. "There's an adjustment playing with that. Forwards have more room to make plays, so you're going to have to be smarter with your decisions."
Based on his style of play, it was only natural for Quevillon to veer off towards his own end of the ice when looking at the necessary tweaking that accompanies a move to a larger ice surface.
"I think the defensive side of my game is more of my strong suit, being a tough defender, battling in the corners, trying to lock down the top lines."
The new-look Cubs will take to the ice for the first time in a game setting this Sunday evening (September 12th), facing off against the French River Rapids at 6:30 p.m. at Countryside.
"Game intensity is a lot different than just training during the summer or even practices," suggested Quevillon. "I think that's going to be the biggest adjustment, just the compete level."
Regular season play begins this Thursday, with the Espanola Express providing the opposition. In light of the pandemic, the Cubs have lowered their game day ticket pricing: adults = $10; seniors/juniors = $5; children under 12 = free, if accompanied by an adult.