The Tillsonburg Hurricanes are starting to come together for the 2016-17 hockey season, their first in the Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League.
But team CEO and general manager Ian Ellis said they still have some needs and positions to fill before training camp begins at the end of the month.
"We need billets," said Ellis. "It's a pretty hot item on our plate right now."
The team expects 15 players will need billets, and as of last week four local billets had been confirmed.
Billet families receive $425/month and two season tickets, he noted.
The team is asking that players have their own private area - a room at least - and that they have food in the fridge to make their own lunches and breakfasts. And their dinners are prepared for them.
"And treated as one of their own family members," said Ellis. "They're going to be there for Thanksgiving dinner, and some might be there for Christmas. So it's almost like bringing in another son for up to six months, from September to February, with the hockey season. It can really start a lifetime relationship with a hockey player in the family."
If you are interested in billeting a player, contact Ellis at email@example.com or 519-572-7223. More information is available on the Hurricanes' website, www.tillsonburgjrahockeyclub.ca.
"We're looking for good families. We do a good screening of these players - these kids are here to play hockey... relax in the evening, and then do it all over again the next day. These kids are mature."
Many of them are 20 and 21 years old, he noted.
"Some of these kids have already been working for the past year or two. They're young men - they have one common goal. They want to come in, develop, and grow as a hockey player so they can take the next step and aim it toward finding a scholarship."
Or in the case of at least one Hurricane, seeking a professional hockey contract.
"That's what we want to do - make sure we have the right guys on the same track. That's the plan."
The team has seven 21-year-olds signed currently, said Ellis, and each has paid league average for the pay-to-play Greater Metro Hockey Junior A League. He attributes that impressive number, in part, because of the program they have developed for their first-year franchise.
"The program is built properly," said Ellis. "The player who came from Nelson House, Manitoba, the way we introduced it to him, he saw that the program had value, and that when Alex (Primrose) comes in he's going to develop here. This is what we're selling to every player.
"I think we're on track to be a successful team."
Two of the 21-year-olds are goalies, and they have a third 17-year-old netminder.
"We've got a good department of development players, and players that we are developing to take to that next level. They want to go college. We're not selling them, 'we're going to take you to college..." They're coming here to develop so they have a better chance to go, and be seen by colleges."
They still have players they are trying to recruit before the August 29-31st training camp at the Tillsonburg Community Centre.
Ellis likes what they have so far, a generous mix of size with smaller skilled players.
"I've got a nice mixture," said Ellis. "When you look at (Ryan) McDonald, Primrose, Brendon Grey, they're all in the 6-2 to 6-4 range. Those guys are going up and down the wings. Logan Kerner (4th Round), he was one of the toughest kids to come out of the Alberta Junior Hockey League - not a big-framed kid, but one of the tougher players. Same as Ryan McDonald - he's not a slim build, he's a tank.
"The one's we have signed are all coming in with Junior experience, like three, four, five years experience."
Teams can be built around their goalies, and Ellis expects that to be a position of strength.
"There's no set 1-2-3-4 goalie system. You come in, you work hard, and you earn your spot," said Ellis, noting the philosophy of head coach Dan Nadeau.
Their 17-year-old Texas goalie, he said, will be competing for the No. 1 with veterans from Switzerland and New Jersey.
"He needs to prove to the coach that he needs to be on the game sheet come game time... that's all up to those goalies."
One of them has a contract with Ohio State, and may leave in December. Or he might stay.
"Goalies do leave during the season, so if you just ran with two goalies through the season, well... The league suggest you go with four. Some teams go with five, but I think four's our magic number."
From the 12-round draft, five players they drafted or traded have signed.
"Luke Fraser (3rd Round), Logan Kerner (4th Round), Quinn Gaetz (7th Round) and Ryan McDonald (8th Round). And we traded for goalie Patrick (Bosiger) in the 10th round. I'm very happy with that - we're almost half way there and I think that's a pretty good statistic."
Their first-round pick, Ingersoll's Mitchell Fitzmorris, has been offered a spot on the UWO Mustangs, said Ellis, Tillsonburg's Troy Lamoure, a 9th Round pick, is staying with the Norwich Merchants, and 12th Round Jake Schneider, captain of the Navy Vets, is staying in Woodstock.
"Kyle Rarick (Florida - 2nd Round) is staying in the States to finish high school. School does come first... but that's not to say he won't be back next year when he graduates."
Fifth Round pick, Matyas Kovacs from Romania, won't be coming to Canada.
"But he'll probably end up playing for his home country again in the World Juniors."
With four weeks left before training camp, Ellis said the team is well positioned.
"We're happy with where we are for a new team. There's a lot of teams through the league that have a full roster of 30 guys, which is a lot of players. Right now, with the players we have coming in for our training camp, we have probably 25 players. We'd like to get to 45 players for our training camp."
The goal is to have three training camp 'teams' with practice in the morning and a game at night. They also have fitness trainer for camp.
During the season Ellis plans to have a full four-line team, and a couple of practice players in case of injuries.
"We're sitting in a good position," he said, looking forward to their October 7th home opener at 8:30 p.m. "It's not OHL-calibre hockey, but it's going to be good, competitive hockey."
The off-ice staff is also taking shape.
"I put the right people in the right position," said Ellis, noting Warren Nye joined as the Sports Mental Fitness Mentor, and Jason Dopaco as assistant coach.
He also connected with Prospects of America for players seeking promotional packages for scholarships. And Crosier Conditioning for team strength coaching.
"We're still looking for a team doctor," said Ellis.
They also have Tillsonburg's Taylor Declerq as director of promotions, and Jonas Lillies, who was with the Norfolk Vikings, as director of game day operations.
"We really hope to have some great events happening," said Ellis.