January 17, 2015
By Derek Holtom
MJHL Web Correspondent
It’s been a tumultuous time for the OCN Blizzard in recent weeks, what with the recent passing of general manager Derek Fontaine and the resignation earlier this season of head coach Clay DeBray.
The team also suffered through a tough stretch which only saw them win two of 10 starts.
However, head coach Jason Smith and newly named assistant coach Andre Murphy are determined to move the franchise upward and forward.
“We’ve had some ups and downs, as I’ve tried to get all the players on the same page,” said Smith. “It was a bit of a challenge at first. We would play games and be in it in the first period, and then we’d lose it in the second period and get back into it in the third.
“We were hanging with teams, but it seemed like we were finding a way to lose,” he added. “But our game in Wayway before the (Christmas) break, I thought we played really well, but we just couldn’t buy a goal, and that seemed to be how it was going for us during that stretch.”
The Blizzard had a lengthy stretch off between Dec. 20 and Jan. 9, and when they got back they learned there had been some changes with the players, as Smith started dealing veterans for younger players and draft picks.
“I think what we needed was some youth back in our system,” said Smith. “We also want to bring in more Aboriginal players, and get back to that, but what we’re looking for is quality kids. We don’t just want hockey players, but good people off the ice as well.”
Smith knows the high expectations placed on this proud hockey franchise. Smith hails from The Pas and brings a wealth of hockey experience to the Blizzard organization. He played his junior hockey in the WHL with Tri-City Americans and Swift Current Broncos, and played professional hockey extensively throughout the minors throughout North America and in Europe.
The offensively-minded defenceman even played some roller hockey in Philadelphia. And of course he got his start at home, playing minor hockey in The Pas and OCN, and playing midget AAA in Thompson.
“It’s a different game over here compared to Europe, but I’d like to think I can bring some things from each team I played for and against to the Blizzard,” he said.
Smith said he’s basically at the rink all day as he learns adjusts to his new position, though he said things have settled somewhat since Murphy has come aboard.
Either way, the Blizzard organization is dedicated to icing a good product on the ice for their loyal fans.