There is anxious anticipation ahead of the 2021-2022 Ontario Hockey League season. More so given that the entire 2020-2021 season was wiped out due to the coronavirus.
Now, with a return to a good degree of normalcy seemingly on the horizon, OHL teams such as the Soo Greyhounds have been spending the summer tending to internal and external business preparatory to the upcoming season.
Regular season schedule notes relative to the Greyhounds are follows.
• About a year and a half — 576 days to be precise — since they last played, the Greyhounds are slated to begin the 2021-2022 OHL regular season on Friday, October 8 with a home game against the North Bay Battalion. The very next night — Saturday, October 9 — the Hounds will conclude an opening weekend, Battle of Northern Ontario, when they play host to the Sudbury Wolves.
• The home portion of the Greyhounds schedule includes nine Wednesday, 10 Friday, 10 Saturday night (7:07 p.m.) and five Sunday afternoon (2:07 p.m.) matches at GFL Memorial Gardens.
• Unique to the 2021-2022 home schedule, the Greyhounds will entertain six teams in double header weekend action at GFL Memorial Gardens — North Bay Battalion (October 22-23), Guelph Storm (November 5-6), Windsor Spitfires (January 7-8), Sarnia Sting (February 11-12), London Knights (February 25-26) and Kitchener Rangers (March 11-12.)
Some summer sizzle relative to the Greyhounds is as follows.
• General manager Kyle Raftis confirmed that all three full time members of the coaching staff have received two-year contract extensions.
The extensions solidify the status of head coach John Dean, associate coach Jordan Smith and assistant coach Jamie Tardif through the 2022-2023 OHL season.
“I am really looking forward to getting back into the rink with John, Jamie, and Jordan. I have a lot of respect for each of them and feel really good about the leadership they bring to our players,” Raftis relayed.
Dean, Smith, and Tardif were all hired by the Hounds in July of 2018.
Over the course of two seasons — 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 — the coaching troika of Dean, Smith and Tardif piloted the Greyhounds to a combined record of 73-47-12 in 132 outings.
“I think I can say on behalf of the group that we feel more motivated than ever and can’t wait to help each player reach their potential and continue to push this program to heights,” Raftis said.
• Raftis confirmed the commitment of 2020 priority selections draft pick Connor Toms for the upcoming season.
A Sault Ste. Marie product, the slick, smart defenseman was the Greyhounds third round pick, 44th overall, in 2020.
“Connor can mobilize offense from anywhere on the ice due to his composure and elusiveness with the puck. This, coupled with his elite skating ability allows him to be a proficient two-way defender. Connor is going to be a huge addition to our blue line for years to come,” Raftis noted.
Toms apprenticed with the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League in 2020-2021 and was very impressive with four goals, 14 assists, 18 points in 19 games of the abbreviated season.
• The Greyhounds have inked their top two picks from the 2021 OHL priority selections draft.
Both first rounder Justin Cloutier (from the under 18 Ottawa Senators) and second rounder Marco Mignosa (from the Toronto Nationals) are forwards.
• Training camp for the Greyhounds is scheduled to begin on September 2.