DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
While summer tempeartures continued to soar outside the arena, Uxbridge’s boys of winter, the Bruins were back in action last weekend, after the team opened training camp in Stouffville preparing for the 39th season of Junior ‘C’ hockey in the community.
With 40 skaters and six goaltenders in training camp vying for roster spots, difficult choices are looming for Head Coach Geoff Hodgkinson and the rest of the Bruins’ staff.
“The calibre of play has gotten better and better over these first three days,” Hodgkinson told The Standard during Friday night’s exhibition opener in Stouffville, a 3-2 loss to the Schomberg Cougars that saw the Bruins have several great scoring chances turned aside in the final 10 minutes.
“I feel we, as a staff, have really done our homework and have put people in positions to make our decisions very tough over the next three weeks. We know that we’ll have to let some good players go.”
Following the game on Friday, night the Bruins took another rookie-heavy line-up to Port Hope on Saturday night, where they dropped a 4-3 decision to the Panthers in overtime.
Entering his third season behind the bench for the team he captained to the provincial semi-finals in his final year as a player, Hodgkinson knows first-hand how valuable veteran leadership can be. He added that he hopes that with the team having had their season ended in three straight COJHL finals, that desire to bring a Cougar Cup championship to Uxbridge for the first time since 2009 will motivate an experienced core of Bruins.
“Hopefully that desire to win a championship is the driving force behind them. We have five really strong 21-year-olds, but unfortunately can only take four of them,” said Hodgkinson.
Establishing depth and having the right mix of players is the main objective for the Bruins’ staff as they continue training camp in Stouffville this week, with a tilt against the Alliston Hornets at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 28.
“I’m confident we’ll be deeper this year. One of the things we need is players that can play in every situation. You want the right mix of players and not have your top powerplay guys to also be your top penalty killers,” added Hodgkinson. “Character is the toughest part to figure out and knowing who will buy into that Bruins’ way of playing, who will do everything inside and out that you ask for.”
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
Although it may still be more than a month away, the Port Perry MoJacks and Uxbridge Bruins are both busy with preparations for the upcoming 2015-16 COJHL season.
The Bruins opened training camp in Stouffville on Monday, Aug. 17, for the first of two sessions prior to opening their pre-season schedule at Stouffville Arena on Friday, Aug. 21, when they will tangle with the Cougars, of the Georgian Bay Mid Ontario Junior Hockey League (GBMOJHL), with the action getting underway at 7:15 p.m. On Saturday night (Aug. 22), the Bruins will hit the road for a match-up against last year’s provincial finalists, the Port Hope Panthers.
Due to a change with the ice installation schedule in Uxbridge, the team will be based out of Stouffville for much of the pre-season.
On Friday, Aug. 28, the Bruins will square off in a 7:15 p.m. tilt against the Alliston Hornets at Stouffville Arena.
Meanwhile, the MoJacks will open their training camp on Saturday, Sug. 29, with fitness sessions at ETS in Whitby followed by the for the first of back-to-back sessions on the ice at Campus Ice Centre at Durham College, in Oshawa.
The MoJacks will begin pre-season play on Tuesday, Sept. 1 at 8 p.m., in Lindsay with a match-up against the Little Britain Merchants. The two sides will renew hostilities at Scugog Arena on Thursday, Sept. 3, at 8 p.m.
From Sept. 11 through 13, both teams will once again be taking part in the annual Pre-season Junior C tournament in Alliston.
The Bruins open the COJHL regular season on Friday, Sept. 18 at home against the defending COJHL champion Clarington Eagles in a rematch of last season’s championship round.
The MoJacks will begin the season on Thursday, Sept. 17 in Bowmanville against the Eagles. On Sunday, Sept. 20, the MoJacks kick off the home portion of the schedule at 2:25 p.m., at Scugog Arena when tangle with the Lakefield Chiefs.
Local fans will have to wait until Friday, Oct. 16 for the first ‘Battle of North Durham’ of the 2015-16 campaign, when the MoJacks trek to Uxbridge, with the two teams squaring off again on Sunday, Oct. 18 in Port Perry.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
Jumpstart’s Uxbridge chapter recorded another win last week, with a new benchmark contribution from the Gary Roberts and Friends Celebrity golf tournament at Wooden Sticks.
Over the past six years the tournament, which draws stars from across the NHL to Uxbridge, has raised more than $210,000 for the local Jumpstart chapter, which provides funding for youth to be involved in recreation.
“This great cause is what I think keeps bringing people back year after year,” Mr. Roberts told The Standard. “For me, it’s great to be involved in a great event like this in my hometown that has benefitted a lot of people. For kids to be better athletes, it’s important to play a lot of different sports. That’s what’s so great about the Jumpstart program, that it offers assistance for many different sports and activities.”
Uxbridge Canadian Tire owner Pat Higgins noted the positive impact that the event has had on getting young people active the community. The local chapter has supported more than 2,500 kids to be invloved in activities such as hockey, dance, soccer, karate, baseball and lacrosse, among others. Nationally, Mr. Higgins explained that later this year, it’s expected that Jumpstart will assist its one millionth Canadian child to have a chance to play.
“It's true that one in three Canadian families can't afford to get their kids involved in sport and recreation. Many kids right here in Uxbridge can't experience the benefits that being active can have in their development,” said Mr. Higgins. “Every dollar from our local events such as today's stay right here in Uxbridge to help as many kids as possible. Over the past few years we have supported over 2,500 kids allocating more than $200,000 in registration fees and program assistance.”
As the local Jumpstart program has grown under the leadership of ambassadors Amanda Ferraro and Rebecca Harman, it has expanded its focus, and in addition to helping offset fees, now hosts events aimed at getting families involved in recreation.
“Our focus here continues to be on helping those in need with their registration fees as our primary goal,” added Mr. Higgins. “However we continue to grow our overall participation by supporting all the township kids summer camps this year as well as free family swims, family bowling nights, free skating and an after-school program complete with a nutritional snack for the kids”.
Ms. Harman explained to The Standard that, “the tournament is the cornerstone of Jumpstart in Uxbridge. It is literally what enables us to put our programs together and it would be a tremendous struggle every year without the support of Gary Roberts and his team.”
As Ms. Harman explained, the ability of the program to reach beyond individual registration fees and into also providing more family-oriented activities has created a ripple effect of activity in the community.
“A healthy community is a happy community,” added Ms. Harman. “It’s not just about the funding or the money, it’s what it does emotionally when you being active and involved in the community.”
As well, Mr. Higgins took the occasion to announce that Jumpstart has partnered with Mr. Roberts to offer another new program in Uxbridge this fall.
“I am very excited to announce that we are in the planning stages of our first Jumpstart games. We are planning a hockey skills training day in November complete with both on ice and dry land training. Gary Roberts will be assisting us with the development of this program and we are forecasting 300 to 400 kids to register,” explained Mr. Higgins.
As always, the tournament brought several NHL stars to the community for the event, including Steven Stamkos, James Neal, Teddy Purcell, Mark Scheifele, Derek Roy, Josh Anderson, Chris Tierney, Cameron Gaunce, Chris Tanev, Glenn Healy, Anthony Peluso and Devin Shore. Stamkos and Neal have been a supporters of the tournament since it began in 2010.
Neal, a Whitby native and Nashville Predators forward noted that he is pleased to be able to offer his support to the cause every year.
“It’s close to home, and getting kids involved in sports is something really special when you are able to see the positive experiences they’re able to have,” Neal told The Standard. “I can’t say enough about how great the Jumpstart program is for giving kids that chance to be involved and active.”
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DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
A pair of Uxbridge teams were part of the action last weekend as thousands of lacrosse players from across the province descended on Durham Region for the annual Ontario Lacrosse Festival.
The tournament continues this weekend at venues throughout the region, with the Novice Uxbridge Enforcers taking to the floor.
The Enforcers will be up against tough competition in Division ‘B’ and open at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 7, at Iroquois Park in Whitby against Orangeville. Later in the evening, the Enforcers trek to Pickering to tangle with Toronto Beaches at Don Beer Arena, at 6 p.m.
At Noon on Saturday, Uxbridge is back at Don Beer to wrap up round robin play with a match-up against London. Playoff action begins Saturday evening, before wrapping up with the championship round on Sunday.
The tournament kicked off on Friday, July 31, with the PeeWee Enforcers tying Centre Wellington 4-4, before falling by a single goal to Barrie. The PeeWees couldn’t cup up with the win they needed to move onto the playoffs on Saturday, as they settled for a 4-4 tie with the Toronto Stars.
The Tyke Enforcers rounded out the Uxbridge entries at the Festival, and they opened play with a great 12-5 victory over Niagara-on-the-Lake on Sunday, Aug. 2.
Later in the day, Uxbridge tied Barrie 6-6, before falling by a score of 8-6 to Six Nations to finish their round robin action.
The Tyke Enforcers would advance to the playoff round, and engaged in a thrilling match-up with Orillia. Unfortunately, Orillia managed to squeak by with an 8-7 win, ending a tremendous tournament run for the Tykes.
Games continue at the Festival throughout the week at several venues throughout South Durham including Iroquois Park and the McKinney Centre in Whitby, Oshawa’s Legends Centre, the Garnet B. Rickard Complex in Bowmanville and Don Beer Arena in Pickering.
As well as crowning 36 provincial champions over the course of the 10-day festival, on Saturday, Aug. 8, the Canadian Championships for Midget and PeeWee boys.
Local lacrosse fans can follow along with all of the action, including regularly through the Festival’s web site at www.ontariolacrossefesitval.com.