Bonding is defined as an attachment that forms two entities, be it a parent and a child, two close friends or in the case of the Essex 73’s Junior Hockey Club, a chance for the 2016-17 squad to grow as a team in preparation for the upcoming season.
Head Coach Cam Crowder’s vision of a well-rounded team depends on many factors. One of them being a team that is as strong off the ice, as on. The trust and relationships that form between the players and coaching staff can be a direct result of the all-important “bonding process” which helps to solidify a team as it progresses from the early stages of training camp straight through to the playoffs.
“ Bonding of players on any team is very important. It’s everything really”, says Crowder, who enters his first season as Head Coach of the 73’s. “It really is the base of what makes a team strong”
The seven-time, All-Ontario Champions are currently winding down training camp and took time away from the rink this weekend to hold the first of a series of bonding events planned by Crowder and his staff. The first event taking place this Saturday and Sunday at the Gesstwood Camp and Retreat Center located just outside of Essex. This is the hockey club’s 6th consecutive year assembling at the weekend retreat prior to the start of the regular season.
“This is one of the last times we can get the group together off ice before the season starts to have the time to let the guys enjoy something like this and use it as a platform to begin the season” says Rick Schuchard, Director of Hockey Operations. “It’s an important part of our process that helps develop these kids into young men”
For 73’s returning veteran forward Dallas Pereira, coming to Gesstwood has been an enjoyable experience for the past 3 seasons.
“For me, every year it seems to get better and something I look forward to”, boasts the 20-year old from Woodslee, Ontario. “This is really an opportunity for the new guys to come out of their shell and be more comfortable with themselves around everyone. It’s where friendships begin between players”
The weekend agenda for the players was comfortable and offered a number of activities for the players to participate in from Ping Pong to the well know ROPES Program that the Gesstwood Retreat is noted for.
The experience is especially new for rookies and new comers to the team. For Blake McConville, this is something he never had the opportunity to do before in his young hockey career.
“This is a completely new thing for me.” says the 16-year old LaSalle native. The rookie forward, who played Windsor-AAA last season, is using this experience to get to know his new teammates better.
“ I knew a few of the guys, but for the most part its given me a chance to get to know all the guys better which helps a lot when your new to a team. Being able to do it away from the rink makes it a lot easier”
Coach Crowder is hoping that the players take away something more than just the bonding aspect from the overnight experience.
“The bonding part of it is important of course, but this is also a chance for friendships to develop between the players”, says Crowder, who is the son of former NHL player and Essex native Keith Crowder.
The players and coaching staff have worked extremely hard the past two weeks in preparation for the upcoming season. Stepping away from the rink to Gesstwood this weekend has provided a nice break and alternative setting that still involve the players in a team atmosphere and competitive mindset.
Crowder is pleased at what he has seen during training camp. The team possess a good mix of returning veterans as well as some new young talent coming in.
“We're very happy in what we are seeing in camp so far”, says Crowder. With 16 of 23 players set to return this season, Crowder feels this make’s his job a little easier when it comes to the team transitioning into a new head coach. “I’m not here to rewrite very much. We have a good system in place with good people involved. Our coaches and veterans are leaders and know what to do.
With the exhibition season knocking on the door step, the 73’s will pack up and leave Gesstwood on Sunday afternoon, making their way to Amherstburg for the first of two consecutive exhibition matchups with the Admirals. The two teams will circle back to Essex Tuesday evening with a second tilt to close out the short exhibition season. Both contests begin at 7pm.