After going through a 14-day quarantine period, the Calgary Hitmen were finally able to step back on the ice as a team on Saturday at the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex.
Talk about appreciating the moment. These young players hadn’t been together on the ice for nearly a year because of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Defenceman Tyson Galloway says it was awesome and they were like kids in a candy store.
“I remember we were all kind of waiting on the bench and we were all getting pretty excited to go out there,” Galloway said.
“The first couple of drills we ran everyone was smiling and everyone was having a good time and it was awesome. It was a long time coming so it was good.”
And it wasn’t only the players who were happy to be back on the ice. During the break, head coach Steve Hamilton got a job with Nabb Contracting. It gave him something to do but he says it also made him realize how much he loves coaching.
“I was framing houses with them during the break and they’re awesome guys. For me it was completely about mental health,” Hamilton told CTV.
“It was completely about having purpose in my day. That was good for me but you also get to a point where you realize that you know that this is what I do. And so to be able to get back to doing what you love to do and the energy of being among the players and the staff again you just realize that it is a special job."
Since they haven’t been on the ice for a long time, the biggest challenge for Hamilton and his coaching staff will be to knock the rust off the players.
Hamilton says he knows that won’t happen overnight.
“That was one of the conversations that we had as a coaching staff was that we’re going to have to be understanding and that we’re gong to have to be patient," he said.
"There’s going to be some shrapnel coming off and some rust but overall it’s been good. I mean we felt like we want just the energy to be high and the execution will come.”
The Hitmen will open up the season on March 5 against the Red Deer Rebels at the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex. The same two teams will face each other the following night in Red Deer.
In all, they’ll only play 24 regular season games but they’ll all be important for draft eligible players like the 18-year-old Galloway.
He says he’s appreciative for any games he will get to play.
“They obviously haven’t declared when the draft is this year, whether it’s on the normal scheduled time or they’re going to push it back a bit,” Galloway said.
“But like I said the 24 game exposure is definitely big. It’s definitely key for sure.”
The Hitmen will only play games against Alberta-based teams in the Central Division. All games will be played on weekends.