No start date yet — safety of everyone involved important 

Story by Jeff Gard/jgsportsmedia.com

Players haven’t returned to the ice yet, but the Cobourg Cougars are ready and waiting for the start of the Ontario Junior Hockey League season.

Sept. 14 likely would’ve been the first game at the Cobourg Community Centre for the 2020-21 season as the home opener is regularly scheduled for the first Monday after Labour Day.

Cougars head coach Dave DeMarinis said teams are allowed to be back on the ice for skill development with a certain number of players and social distancing in place, but it’s up to the individual clubs whether they do that.

“We don’t have a start date yet when we’re going to resume play, but we’ve decided to keep our boys at home, just let them train on their own back home and when we have a better indication of when we’re going to start we’ll call them in,” DeMarinis said. “It’s status quo right now, kind of a waiting game and once we get word we’ll get our guys in town as quickly as possible and have a good camp and get ready for the season.”

There is still hope for a start before the end of the year with other junior leagues targeting Dec. 1 to get up and running. The number of COVID-19 cases in Ontario could be problematic, especially with a number of teams based out of the Toronto area, but DeMarinis said the Cougars will just wait for direction from the provincial government, Ontario Hockey Federation and the OJHL.

(Photo by Tim Bates / OJHL Images)

“At the end of the day it comes down to the safety of our players, our staff…everybody that’s involved with junior hockey teams that make it run,” he said. “I know we all want to get back on the ice and compete.”

The off-season was challenging in terms of preparing for next season. With playoffs cut short, it took away more scouting opportunities for the Cougars and the club also couldn’t hold their annual rookie camp.

DeMarinis noted they did a good job of bringing in prospective players for tours of the CCC and to meet staff in January and February, which was important, but it was unfortunate to not get them on the ice in the spring.

“The kids you think could crack your roster, you like to bring them into the camp and see how they do in your atmosphere,” DeMarinis said, adding that “we’ve looked at every avenue and made sure the Cobourg Cougars are set up not only for this year, but years in the future as well.”

DeMarinis is excited about the mix of new and returning players.

Watch for more about the roster as the season approaches (or listen to the audio interview through the link listed below), but you can always track lineup changes through the Cougars’ social media pages on Facebook and Twitter (@CougarsHockey).

While the coach hopes to be competitive with the group currently assembled, he expects more changes could still be made.

“What I do know is we have a good foundation, a good group of kids, a good group of older and younger players that fit the style that we want to play so we really hope to be really successful this year, but we know we want to get a little bit better too before we actually drop the puck and start the season,” DeMarinis said.

Perhaps some players will come from the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League. The Cougars and Frontenacs announced a new partnership in the summer. Since that time, Paul McFarland left his job as an assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs to become head coach and general manager of the Frontenacs. DeMarinis believes that will only further benefit the relationship between the two clubs.

“Bob Breckles, our director of hockey operations, has a really good relationship with Paul and they’ve known each other for a very long time so actually it probably makes it even more of an easier transition to be honest with you,” DeMarinis said.

“It’s going to be a valuable partnership…and we’re looking forward to where it goes in the future.”

Players could go back-and-forth as required, which DeMarinis sees as a positive for the Cougars.

“Our league is a development league and I think a lot of people don’t understand that but we’re here to move kids to the next level not only in hockey, but in life,” he said. 

“If we can help a young kid – a 16-year-old or a 17-year-old – develop into a position where he can succeed at the next level, it’s a win for our program 100 per cent. It doesn’t matter if they’re 20 and they’re going to go to university or if they’re 16 and want to go play in the OHL, it’s developing people at the end of the day.”

NOTE: The Cougars are looking for billet families to house players. For more information, visit www.cobourgcougars.com.

To listen to the full interview with David DeMarinis, check out: https://jgsportsmedia.com/2020/09/17/audio-interview-with-cobourg-cougars-coach-david-demarinis/

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