BY LIAM ROWE
With new faces, a new logo and high expectations, the Oakville Blades kicked off their regular season against the Georgetown Raiders on Sept. 8.
The Blades have entered this season looking to redeem themselves after being eliminated in the conference final of the Ontario Junior Hockey League playoffs last year.
“Every year we try to win as many games as possible and this year is no different,” said 29-year-old Blades general manager Jordan Selinger, now in his second year running the team. “We lost a lot of guys from last year but I think we’ll be a real hard-working team with lots of speed and skill.”
The Blades lost nearly their entire roster from last year due to college scholarships and the Ontario Hockey League, which is something Selinger said is the whole reason why he does this.
“Our goal for every season is to try and get as many commitments for our players as possible,” said Selinger. “We want to see our guys develop and succeed at the highest-level hockey they can reach.”
Throughout the history of the organization, the Blades have proven to do very well for themselves when it comes to moving players on to the next level.
Since 1993, the team has seen 120 players graduate to play College hockey, 70 players move on to play major junior hockey and 91 players play professional hockey, and these accomplishments don’t go unrecognized Selinger explained.
“We get players and agents contacting us all the time trying to get the chance to be a part of this program, and I think that speaks a lot to what myself and Mike Tarantino have been doing here,” said Selinger.
Tarantino, Blades head coach and, former player, is entering his fourth season behind the bench with the team.
Since Tarantino’s arrival the team has consistently been improving every year, which Tarantino says is all do learning and evolving as a coach.
“I’m always looking to make changes and adjustments,” said Tarantino. “The game is always evolving and as a coach, you need to do the same.”
With a 1-1-1 record to start off the season fans may be worried about what the rest of the season holds for the team, but not Tarantino.
“I’m not too concerned about it,” said Tarantino. “It’s a long season and we’re a young team, so it’s a good learning experience for us.”
Along with Tarantino is long-time fan and volunteer Greg Furjanic who says the Blades will have a strong year as well.
“I think we lost a lot of depth on defense but our depth on forward is one of the tops in the league,” said Furjanic. “We have four lines who can score, skate and hit so it’ll be good.”
Only being three games into the lengthy 54 game regular season, Furjanic’s comments seem to be accurate as the Blades are currently ranked 10th in the league when it comes to goals for.
With their current pace, by season’s end the Blades will have scored 180 goals and have a 500-winning percentage, which when compared to last season’s statistics is good for the teams fourth consecutive playoff berth.
“I think that we can make the second round again,” said Furjanic. “I hope we make it all the way but I’ll be satisfied with however far the team gets.”