by Randy Pascal
The French River Rapids would love nothing more than to take a page right out of the 2016-2017 yearbook of the Blind River Beavers.
For the majority of their years in the NOJHL (Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League), the Beavers have found even reasonable competitiveness within the ranks as a somewhat elusive goal.
That was until this most recent campaign, that is. After posting a record of 32-20-4-0 and finishing second in the West Division to the Soo Thunderbirds, coach Kyle Brick and the Beavers would slip past the Rayside-Balfour Canadians in game seven of the divisional semi-final, advancing to their first ever league final with a series win over the Soo Eagles.
And though Blind River trails the Powassan Voodoos 2-0, scores of 4-1 and 3-2 on the heels of everything that has transpired this year would suggest that the Beavers are well on their way to claiming their spot as a legitimate contender.
That is exactly the path that French River owner Paul Frustaglio wishes to see his Rapids travel.
A resident of the Toronto area, Frustaglio would take two steps this week in that direction. First, he confirmed that former OHL star Ken Strong would remain on board as head coach.
A long-time friend of Frustaglio, Strong coached for many years with the Toronto Marlboros minor hockey ranks in the Greater Toronto Hockey League, moving on more recently to work as Head of Player Development for the Salzburg Red Bull International Academy in Austria.
Strong stepped in to coach the Rapids over the final handful of games to close out the 2016-2017 season. Joining Strong on the team staff is long-time OHL management personality Sherry Bassin, assuming the role as Director of Hockey Operations.
With over forty years of hockey involvement as a general manager, coach and owner, Bassin was the chief architect behind a Memorial Cup winning Sault Greyhounds’ team. His impressive resume also includes stops with both the Oshawa Generals and Erie Otters, as well as serving as an assistant GM with the Quebec Nordiques for several years.
Both gentlemen are expected to be in Sudbury this coming weekend, as the French River organization hosts a series of spring tryout sessions at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex.
Details are as follows:
Friday, April 21st – 7:15 p.m. to 9:15 p.m.
Saturday, April 22nd – 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Sunday, April 23rd – 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Rayside-Balfour Canadians will follow suit one week later, welcoming potential prospects to the same venue on April 29th and 30th. Coach Dave Clancy and company will run players through their paces from 1:00 until 4:00 p.m. on Saturday (April 29th), and again from 3:15 until 6:15 p.m. on April 30th.
The camp is open to skaters born in 1997-2001. Midget aged players (2001 & 2000 and 1999) will need to have a permission to skate form signed by the minor hockey association they played for in the 2016-17 hockey season.
American players will have to have the USA Hockey forms signed as well. Downloadable forms are available on the Rayside-Balfour team website. Any player without correctly signed forms will not be allowed to skate.
All midget aged player (1999-2001) are asked to please maintain their full face mask (cage), unless they have already signed a junior card.