Wednesday, 7 September 2016

The Boys Are Back

With it being September, it's time for kids to return to schools across this great land. Ottawa is no different as kids head back to institutions throughout the city, but the University of Ottawa is welcoming students who have a specific set of skills for the first time in two years. The Ottawa Gee-Gees men's hockey team will return to the ice after being suspended for the last two years, and there's great anticipation that the recent suspension of the team will have cleaned up the program's image after some rather disturbing allegations surfaced.

If you missed the story two years ago, we go back to June 25, 2014 where University of Ottawa president Allan Rock suspended the men's hockey program pending a sexual assault investigation from February 2014. President Rock was serious in his statement when he stated that there would be a new program as the institution used the past two years to recreate and redesign the school's hockey program so that incidents like the one that occurred in 2014 never happen again. Emphasis on "never".

Today, spokeswoman Isabelle Mailloux Pulkinghorn told reporters that "the team began its training camp last Monday and will be finalizing its roster after open tryouts this weekend". And a new era of Gee-Gees men's hockey will begin this season.

Coaching the team will be Patrick Grandmaitre who previously served as head coach at Collège Nouvelles-Frontières in Gatineau. Grandmaitre played four years with the Victoriaville Tigres and a season with the Quebec Remparts in the QMJHL, five seasons with the AUS' St. Francis-Xavier X-Men in the CIS, a season with the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads, and four seasons in Germany. He's was an excellent scoring threat, and I expect him to play up-tempo hockey as the coach of the Gee-Gees.

Grandmaitre's assistant coach will be former Arizona Coyotes draft pick Ryan Lauzon. Lauzon played junior hockey with the Hull Olympiques, and played professional hockey with the AHL's Springfield Falcons, the ECHL's Mississippi Sea Wolves and Augusta Lynx, and the CHL's Wichita Thunder. He also spent two years at the AUS' St. Mary's University from 2003-2005, so he's very familiar with CIS hockey as well. Having Lauzon's experience behind the bench to assist Grandmaitre will give Ottawa two extremely competent hockey minds to run the club.

According to Mailloux Pulkinhorn, 21 players have been recruited to play with the Gee-Gees this season, and five are from the OHL or QMJHL. While the team will certainly go through some growing pains after spending the last two seasons on the sidelines, the Gee-Gees will certainly look to establish themselves as a solid team in order to help their recruiting in future years. If they get out to a good start, they may even challenge for an OUA Championship!

Before we start giving out awards, though, there will certainly be scrutiny on this team for its past. The results of the university's internal investigation were never made public, but there will be a cloud that follows this team around until they prove to the public that what happened in the past will never happen again. Yes, it's an entirely new team with new coaches and players, but there will be a stigma associated with this team. Fair or unfair, the players will need to cope with this stigma and work hard to make the public change its perspective on this team.

While the boys may be back at school for a new beginning, they can't let the weight of the past hold them back. The only way they're going to escape those preconceived notions about their team is by playing good hockey, doing exceptional community service work, and embracing and promoting messages against violence on women with sincerity and honesty.

Anything less than this is another failed program.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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