Virden Oil Capitals forward Brett Paddock is excited to hit the ice for his final junior season.
“I’ve really been looking forward to this season over the past couple months,” said the 20-year-old Brandon product, who is heading into his third season with the Oil Caps. “I’m so familiar with the town, my billet family and the team now, which makes everything more enjoyable. And being my last season in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, I’m going to try to enjoy it as much as I can, and hopefully bring a championship to Virden.”
The Virden team saw its season end abruptly last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Oil Capitals held a 2-1 lead in its first round series with Winkler when things were shut down.
With 17 players returning, the Virden squad hopes its veteran crew can help it attain the franchise’s first championship in the Oil Capital of Manitoba. The MJHL has targeted Oct. 9 as the first day of the new season – with protocols, such as players wearing face masks in rinks when not on the ice.
“We feel very fortunate to have a plan in place that is going to allow us to start our regular season,” Virden head coach and general manager Tyson Ramsey said. “There is lots of work ahead to make sure that the experience of having junior hockey return in our province is safe and enjoyable for teams and for fans. We can't wait to get started.”
The Oil Capitals will host their main camp Sept. 18-20. Under the new Return to Play protocol, the camp is limited to 34 players.
“Certainly, being limited to a smaller number for main camp has its challenges but at the same time we fully understand the need for that to happen,” Ramsey said.
Last season the Oil Caps had about 80 players in camp. A number of them were prospects the team was looking at for the future. In early August this year, the team held a prospects camp. Ramsey said it gave the squad an opportunity to see its younger players and it can bring an older group to main camp.
The prospects camp featured 60 players. Most were on the team’s 50-man list, but there were some free agents.
“I think for us the most exciting thing about being able to have that camp was to see the progress that some our prospects have made over the course of last year and in the offseason as well as getting our newly drafted guys out to Virden and on the ice for the first time,” said Ramsey, who noted that a number of veterans attended but skated separately and did not participate in the camp. “It was a great weekend and we continue to be very excited about our future.”