Huskies not distracted by uncertainty

The Fort St. John Huskies are preparing for the 2020-21 season the way they would any other year, despite the lingering uncertainty of how the season will be shaped by COVID-19.

"Realistically, instead of preparing myself for ifs and buts, I prepare how I would normally for this time of the year. I am keeping in touch with the guys who would be returning, we have our depth chart in place, and (GM Jeremy Clothier) knows who he needs to be recruiting," said Head Coach Todd Alexander. "Whenever they say we can play, we'll be ready to go."

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The team could be making excuses to not be as ready as it normally would, or could be pessimistic about the chances of a season, but instead, the team's motto is to control what it can control and put in the work all the same. 

"I don't know if we'll be able to run a normal camp this year, or how it will look. Regardless of what style of ice time we're able to have, we'll be ready for it and will make it work. I just need to be able to evaluate the players and I'll have that," Alexander said. 

The same holds true for the recruiting of new players and constructing the new roster. 

"I am recruiting as if we'll start playing games in October. If I just sit back and wait and hope, it'll be too late," said Clothier. "We are actively recruiting and players are committing, though some are waiting to hear about schooling, if they'll actually be busy with another team or not." 

A late decision on hockey seasons around the country could make for a mad rush of players hurrying to sign with other teams, and it would likely be no different for Clothier. However, for now, he is focused on filling the holes on the lineup left by the departure of key players. 

Last season's MVP Jared Loewen and captain Jeridyn Loewen will not be wtih the team next year, leaving two big holes on the back end, and d-man Carter Spenst is joining the Junior A Winkler Flyers in Manitoba.

Replacing three of the team's top four defenders won't be an easy task and will keep Clothier busy all summer long. Top scorer Gary Loewen will be moving on as well.

Goalie Tyler McArthur is expected to return, but the backup spot will be open with Braedyn Funke pursuing an opportunity with the University of Oklahoma. 

"I don't feel like we need to do a ton, we have a good core coming back with some Trackers players moving up to fill some holes. I'm pretty confident with where we're sitting," said Clothier. 

The Huskies began holding a player showcase last summer with the Castlegar Rebels, where players in Alberta and come to a camp in Edmonton and be evaluated by Clothier and other scouts. Unfortunately, the two teams decided to cancel this summer's camp and will look to get it up again in 2021. 

Team president Michael Bacso has his hands full when it comes to deciding what a season could like this year and how it would work.

There are more questions than answers at this point, but Bacso is in constant communication with the NWJHL, and is paying close attention to announcements from both Hockey Alberta and B.C. Hockey, as with the city's guidelines for using the Pomeroy Sport Centre and North Peace Arena, which have yet to be announced. 

"It's really up in the air, and we should know more in a couple weeks. We are going forward with a training camp, with more to be decided," said Bacso. 

Bacso acknowledged a 2020-21 season would be tougher financially on the team, as sponsorship will likely be scarce and the loss of fans in the stands would be a big hit on revenues. All options are being considered in how to best operate the team this year, including putting more focus and presentation into an online stream of games. 

"We've applied to some grants and are doing what we can. We have a new logo reveal coming and we're hoping this season would be special, but we're going to go forward all the same," Bacso said. 

Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at sports@ahnfsj.ca

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