Burke keeping busy
Under normal circumstances, Niagara IceDogs head coach Billy Burke would be spending at inordinate amount of time at the Meridian Centre this week.
But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, normal circumstances are a thing of the past for the time being.
The IceDogs were slated to begin training camp this week and Burke and his staff would be watching intrasquad games and evaluating talent while preparing for the exhibition season.
Instead, the Ontario Hockey League is playing the waiting game and hoping they can begin an abbreviated 2020/21 season beginning Dec. 1.
“It’s kind of a sad little feeling. It’s a weird feeling that we’re not there,” said Burke, who is entering his fourth season as head coach. “For me, it’s starting to feel like it’s dragging on, obviously.”
It has been almost six months since the IceDogs last game, a 9-1 loss at Ottawa, before the OHL shut down the league due to the pandemic.
“It would have been a long off season in a normal year, but to have to continue to wait, it’s certainly frustrating,” Burke said.
The down time has given Burke, associate coach Jody Hull, new assistant coach Sean Teakle and general manager Joey Burke ample opportunity to scout and watch hockey.
“On the positive side, it’s great watching all these NHL playoff games, recording the games and talking to the coaches,” Billy Burke said. “We certainly feel we could open up training camp tomorrow and hit the ground running.
“It’s just continuing to be over prepared and get on the same page as the staff.”
Billy Burke, who has complied a 97-79-23 record since taking over for David Bell behind the bench, has also been in regular contact with the majority of the players.
“I’ve been taking to the players pretty consistently throughout the playoffs about certain teams to watch and things like that,” he said. “We definitely are more ramped up and dialled into hockey now than we were a month ago.”
Next up, Billy Burke is hoping to hear some concrete plans from the league about training camp.
“I would love to get a mini-camp date and start to move forward,” he said. “Waiting for word from the league on training camp protocol, the amount of people, dates, if there are exhibition games, things like that.”
The 34-year-old Newmarket native feels about a month would be the optimal time for camp.
“I’m hoping Nov. 1. That would be perfect, a best-case scenario to get back and get used to any new regulations,” he said. “If it’s not early November I would be shocked if it were any later than the second week of November.”
The down time has given the Billy Burke the opportunity of a lifetime to spend with sons Willy and Harry and wife Jamie.
“With the two young boys, there really are times where it doesn’t feel we are in the middle of a pandemic because we’re in our Groundhog Day a little bit with the kids,” he said. “To be able to spend as much time with the family that I have has been great. Even in a normal summer, I wouldn’t be home this much. It certainly has been very nice that way.”
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