After sweeping the Winnipeg Blues in four straight games to open their 2020 playoff run, the Steinbach Pistons hopes of returning to the Turnbull Cup Championship series were also swept away in the process.
Just one day after their opening round series victory, Pistons veteran, Curtis Ireland and the rest of his teammates would receive news that the remainder of playoffs would be canceled.
“We felt pretty good about our team, we were playing some good playoff hockey,” Ireland said. “There was a lot of friendship and camaraderie that was going on in the season. After game four we heard some stuff going around and then a few things were coming out, we kind of had a feeling that we were going to get cancelled and it was pretty disappointing. It was understandable but still pretty tough finding that out.”
Following his return home where he spent a couple of months close to family, Ireland was able to return to a new normal on and off the ice as restrictions loosened around the province.
“When everything came to a halt, I came home and spent time with family. From there I got a job with the City of Winnipeg and I’ve been skating and training for a couple months, it’s been a good summer overall.”
“I think all hockey players were pretty eager to get back on the ice, nothing too much has changed and you still have to play hockey. There’s rules around the rink and in the dressing room to follow, it’s not too different for the most part.”
As the season inches closer, the excitement felt around the league is palpable. While a big part of the junior hockey experience is playing games, Ireland looked beyond that and shared his excitement to resume the relationships he’s built in Steinbach.
“Just seeing a few other leagues have been postponed, it’s going to be so exciting to get back with the team and see everyone you don’t get to see all the summer like my billets and coaches. A lot of guys I have really good friendships with, and not being able to see them has been tough. It’s really exciting to for sure.”
“For me there’s a lot of people that make junior hockey, the people in the community and people that are close to the team as well. You hang out with the guys and play a sixty game season, practice, work out and train with them everyday. You become really close with them and it’s obviously really fun when you’re with them all the time.”
While the disappointment in last seasons ending may sting for some, Ireland isn’t too worried about that. According to the veteran blue-liner, he’s going to control what he can control and let everything else take care of itself.
“I’m not going to worry about outside factors, I’m just going to be true to myself and play my game while being responsible defensively. I’ve been with Steinbach for quite a while now so being really familiar with the team helps. Being a role model, a leader and an acting member in the community is important.”
“We’ve always been competitive and always have had that type of team. We want to be a hard-working, hard-nosed team to play against that other teams know they’re in for a battle when they play us. Paul (Dyck) does a great job with us,” Ireland finished.