Blackhawks looking to fly high
Goaltender Anthony Tremonte is one of a dozen returning players for the Thorold Blackhawks this season. BPSN file photo.
What a difference a year can make.
Last year at this time, Scott Barnes was about to embark on his first season as owner/head coach of the Thorold Blackhawks of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League with only a few short weeks to get prepared.
“It’s been night and day going into last season to where we are now going into this season,” Barnes said. “We’re feeling pretty good about ourselves.
“Looking back where we were last season and all the things we still had to do like getting the gear and hoping the jerseys were going to be in on time. We were just running around trying to get things ready to go. This year, we’re in a good spot.”
On the ice, Barnes remembers the Hawks also had their share of challenges.
“Last year going into the Showcase Tournament, we only had four defencemen signed. We just couldn’t find anybody. Basically two guys came out and we signed them because we needed two more,” he recalled. “This year, we already had four returning so we were already ahead of the game.
“It’s such a nice feeling to know we are in a good spot and it’s only going to get better.”
Barnes quickly learned there are only 24 hours in a day and only so much can be accomplished in that time.
“You don’t want to put too much on your shoulders. If I look at my to-do list, you can go crazy because there are so many things I want to do to make this organization better,” he said. “I know if we chip away at things and get them going hopefully in a couple of years it’s running itself. That’s where we want to get to.”
Barnes admits he has to walk a fine line between being an owner and a coach.
“There is still a ton of work to do and my main focus is still the on ice product to make sure that is going well,” he said. “I had a five-year plan with the business off the ice making sure we try to put fans in the stands and getting a good business model and making it run.
“A lot of work goes into it but we’re chipping away at it with what we think we need to do to get better, not only on the ice, but off the ice as well.”
Barnes looks back on that first season and rightfully tips his cap to the organization’s volunteers, something the Blackhawks have always been known for.
“We had a really good volunteer base that came back and they really helped out on game days. We needed to have a good support system, which luckily we have.”
On the ice, the Hawks finished in fifth spot with a respectable 20-22-3-5 mark before being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Niagara Falls Canucks.
The Hawks are returning 12 players from last years team and have high hopes for a strong season.
Back are goaltender Anthony Tremonte along with Nick Gidney, Devon Thibodeau, Brendan Charlton, Daniel Rocco, Trevor Neumann, Bailey Stumpo, Blair Jenkins, Camillo Rodrigue-Melo, Jacob Mastrangelo, Patrick McCluskey and Austin Jensen.
“We’re trying to be a fast team to play. We’re trying to play fast this year,” Barnes said. “We have good hockey IQ. We really like our team.”
The Blackhawks open the 2018/19 season Thursday, Sept. 13 versus the Lockport Regals.
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