Henry hoping for one final season
The clock is ticking on Kurtis Henry’s Ontario Hockey League career.
The 20-year-old Niagara Falls native, who was scheduled to return to Erie for his overage season with the Otters, is biding his time on the sidelines hoping the OHL will find a way to have a season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve been staying positive the whole time hoping that there is going to be a chance to us to play, especially because it’s my last season,” the former Niagara Falls Canucks defenceman said. “I’m hoping I get a chance to play it out and see what happens. I’ve been ready to go for a while, just hoping they can get things figured out so we can get back there.”
Henry collected eight goals and 19 points last season and felt poised for his best season ever.
“I feel pretty good on the ice,” he said. “I feel stronger than ever. I’m really looking forward to my last year and seeing what could happen.
“I have some pretty big expectations. I’m pretty confident in myself. I don’t think I’ve been this confident. I’m ready to go and hope I get that opportunity.”
Erie assistant coach Wes Wolfe said the team has high expectations for Henry.
“Kurtis returns as an integral part of our team in a veteran leadership role both on and off the ice,” Wolfe said. “He was a major factor in our team’s penalty kill (fourth in the league) and we will continue to lean on him to play big minutes.
“What makes Kurtis so effective is how he is able to contribute offensively without sacrificing the heart of his game which is being a good defender. He makes efficient plays with the puck and has a good instinct for when his time to jump into the play is.”
Wolfe said Henry is a good role model for younger players.
“Now that he is entering his fourth season, we expect him to be more of a mentor to our younger players,” Wolfe said. “Kurt is very self-sufficient and knows what he needs to do to be prepared — you can often find him putting in extra reps in the gym after practices — but it was good to see him bring some of the younger guys into it towards the end of last season. Hopefully he embraces that leadership role even further and can set a good example for the next wave of Otters.”
Before the recent lockdown, Henry had been skating with Wolfe and other local junior and pro players.
“It’s been a bit of an adjustment from being so busy all the time to having so much down time,” Henry said. “It’s been good seeing family and friends and being home more than usual. You have to use the time to your advantage, train as hard as possible, and also enjoy the time with my family.
“There are a lot of other kids who are in the same position as me. We’ve been skating together and working out, trying to stay busy.”
Henry still has some belongings in Erie, but is hesitant to go retrieve them under the current circumstances.
“I haven’t been back. I’d have to quarantine when I came home and I don’t want to quarantine,” he said.
Henry already had a brush with COVID and was forced to quarantine when his brother tested positive.
Away from the rink, Henry took two university courses in the fall and plans to take a couple more in the second semester.
“I’m trying to stay busy,” he said. “I’ve always been playing. It’s a lot different than I would have thought. It’s the longest time I haven’t played hockey. It’s been almost a year. It’s pretty crazy. I’ve never gone this long without playing.”
Henry said he is considering playing at the Canadian university level down the road.
“I know there are some opportunities to play CIS. It’s great hockey so for sure I wouldn’t count that out.”
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