Safe to say, there are not a lot of times in a season that a team will go 45 days between games.
But that was the challenge facing the Moose Jaw Generals, who entered the 2014 TELUS Cup having not seen game action since March 7, a span of a little more than six weeks by the time the puck dropped on Canada’s National Midget Championship.
“It’s definitely the longest I’ve ever gone between two games,” said Generals head coach Ray Wareham. “It was a first time experience for all of us as a staff, so we did the best we could to keep the boys on track. Hopefully it will pan out and we’ll be ready to go this week.”
Moose Jaw had aspirations of a long playoff run in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League, but came out on the short end of a first-round series with the Regina Pat Canadians.
The loss left the TELUS Cup hosts with a long break, but also a chance to do whatever they needed to get ready for the national championship, both physically and mentally.
“On one hand it’s good because we are all healed up now,” said assistant coach Jordan Ebbett. “We haven’t been through long and tough series like some of the other teams, so we like to think that we’ll be more rested than our opponents.
“On the other hand, there will definitely be some rust. No matter what you do to prepare, when you’re not playing in a real game, it’s hard to recreate that atmosphere. Simplicity will be key for us in that first game.”
After the Generals’ playoff elimination, Wareham gave his team two weeks to go home, rest and get away from the rink for a while, allowing minds to clear, and bumps and bruises to heal.
When the players returned, it was like training camp all over again.
“We came back and had a nice little boot camp,” said Moose Jaw captain Trey Tendler. “I think the first week back a lot of guys weren’t too happy with just skating. But it’s something we needed to do to get back in shape, and be ready for this tournament.”
The Generals did the best they could to simulate game action, bringing in alumni, a few members of the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors and local Midget AA players for a series of scrimmages.
The games served a two-fold purpose for the coaching staff: preparation, and a little bit of scouting.
“It was some competitive hockey,” said Ebbett, “so it also gave us a chance to see local guys who are looking to make our team next year, so that was a bonus.”
But a team can only do so much skating in 45 days, so the attention turned to off-ice activities to help the team bond away from the rink.
One day it was whiffle ball at the local field house, another it was paintball. And let’s not forget the second annual Generals Idol competition, where players lip-sync to their song of choice.
“It’s always good to get to know the guys away from the rink,” Tendler said. “When you’re together every day of the season, sometimes you can get annoyed with one another. It was good for us to take a step back and just have some fun being with the guys.”
Now that the Generals have had time to heal, bond and put their playoff disappointment behind them, the focus is back on the TELUS Cup, and on Moose Jaw’s chase for a national championship.
And it’s not only the team getting ready; the city is excited as well.
“We definitely feel the hype building. You see posters with your name on it and stuff all around it, that’s when it really starts to sink in,” Tendler said.
“We don’t feel any pressure, but we do feel that the community is getting excited,” Wareham added.
“The kids are going downtown with their parents and they see all the TELUS Cup stuff, schedules and paraphernalia. People in town are starting to wear our game jerseys and stuff to get behind us. It’s an awesome feeling.”