Tillsonburg Hurricanes, a new entry in the 28-team Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League, has a new team name, new coach, and after Sunday's GMHL player draft in Bradford, a roster that is filling up ready to play junior hockey in Tillsonburg in September 2016.
In the three months leading up to their August training camp, Owner/GM Ian Ellis, and head coach Dan Nadeau will be focusing on recruiting, billeting, and sponsors.
And, of course, getting the town excited about its new junior hockey team.
As the newest entry, the Hurricanes selected 28th in the 28-team, 12-round draft, which earns GMHL rights to players, but does not guarantee players will sign with their respective GMHL draft teams.
"We traded a couple picks away for players already from the league that are going to be coming to Tillsonburg," said Nadeau.
"We spoke to most of the players before we drafted them. We know there is somewhat of an intention to report. Obviously, we still have a little work to do on our end. But all the guys we took knew that we had plans on taking them in the draft. It wouldn't have been a surprise to them, rather than wasting picks on guys who had no idea. We took 10 guys in the draft and our hope is eight or nine will report here."
Their first pick, Mitchell Fitzmorris from Ingersoll, might report, said Nadeau, but the 21-year-old, who has OHL experience with Kingston and Niagara, will be also be looking at offers from schools.
The rest of the picks, and players acquired in trade, included a Florida goalie, an Alberta forward, a Romanian forward, a Swiss goalie, and several locals including Tillsonburg's Troy Lamoure from the Norwich Merchants, Brantford's Ryan MacDonald, Waterford's Quinn Gaetz, and Woodstock's Jake Schneider.
Although they had limited time to contact players, Nadeau said it wasn't a major disadvantage at the draft.
"I have a pretty big catch basin of Europeans and Americans through my contacts in the States and Europe where I played," said Nadeau, who coached the inaugural GMHL Norfolk Vikings in Simcoe from November 2015 until the end of the season before parting ways due to a "philosophical difference" with the owner.
"I'm not the same as a lot of junior hockey coaches and general managers that throw a million promises at a kid. If you come to Tillsonburg, you expect 'this, this and that.' I don't try to sweeten the pot... that's not the team we are, we don't have that budget. We're not a million-dollar budget team.
"I aggressively pursue kids, but I don't tell kids a bunch of things I know they want to hear. I tell them what they are going to get. I operate on the basis of 'honesty is the best policy.' Then there's no expectations that they're coming to an NHL franchise, right? For 16-21 year olds, if you're telling them what they want rather than what they can actually expect, to me is garbage. I won't do that. I'll lose players because I won't do that, but that's fine. I can go home and sleep at night knowing I didn't lie to an 18-year-old kid. It's just how I operate."
That recruiting policy will continue as they work to complete their 2016-17 roster.
"We have at least another 12 spots to fill," said Nadeau. "I'm hoping, when people see our draft selections, it creates a bit of a buzz. It helps us recruit.
"We're looking at a couple more Europeans and Americans. I also have some people out in Western Canada where I grew up that are helping out in scouting. We'll have a healthy balance, which I think is exciting for the town of Tillsonburg to have kids coming from all over the world. It kind of becomes a melting pot here for these guys to come in to Tillsonburg and be a part of the culture and community."
Response in town, so far, has been positive Nadeau.
"We're going to be very active in town, at schools, reading at the library... helping out with some food drives for the food bank, Salvation Army. Tillsonburg's given us a home to play, so now we have to treat our home with respect, just like if we were still in our home towns. It's up to us to start giving back. Not just being here, but immersing ourselves in the community."
That plan begins with Turtlefest during the Friday Night Block Party.
"We want to be around and be helpful," said Nadeau.
The majority of the players will arrive in August, but the search for billet families has already begun.
"We're looking for as many (billet homes) as possible. They get $425 per month plus a season ticket for each member of the family.
"We're looking for people who understand it's not going to pay your mortgage. You're going to get a good kid in your house, who can be a role model if you have children. The $425 a month helps offset groceries and some utilities. We don't have more than one or two players per home. They are expected to be good citizens and help clean up after themselves.
"We're looking for a good, positive family environment for these kids who are coming from all over the world. I want them to be comfortable where they are living because I want them to be able to perform at a high level for us. I know, from my playing days, I still talk to my billet family in Europe. If you do it right, you can form a life-long bond with these players.
"I think it's pretty cool to be able to say that you got to play a part in their growth and development, not just as athletes, but as human beings."
Nadeau said they would take 20 billet homes, although they might not need that many.
"I won't say no if they're good houses," he smiled.
Standard police checks are required, he noted.
"I'd like the players to have their own bedrooms, not sharing with other family members. They're going to be very busy, and playing hockey can get very stressful, so they need their own room."
For more information on billeting players, go to www.tillsonburgjrahockeyclub.ca online or email Nadeau at email@example.com or Ellis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We will do house checks to make sure it's a safe environment," said Nadeau. "And interviews. And we'll try to match billet preferences and player preferences.
"It really takes a community to have a successful junior hockey franchise," said Nadeau, encouraging people to step forward as billets. "The more help we have in the community, the more successful we'll be."
A complete list of drafted players, with their recent hockey teams, is available on the Hurricanes website.
Round 1 : Mitchell Fitzmorris, Ingersoll
Round 2: Kyle Rarick, Florida
Round 3: Luke Fraser, Goderich
Round 4: Logan Kerner, Alberta
Round 5: Matyas Kovacs, Romania
Round 6: (trade) Marcus Scolund, Sweden
Round 7: Quinn Gaetz, Waterford
Round 8: Ryan MacDonald, Brantford
Round 9: Troy Lamoure, Tillsonburg
Round 10: (trade) Patrick Bosiger, Switzerland
Round 11: Ross Kennedy, Great Britain
Round 12: Jake Schneider, Woodstock