As a successful junior A hockey coach for well over a decade, teaching is a big part of what Ian MacInnis does.
But he can’t teach newcomer John Richer what the defenceman already possesses:
“I can’t teach size,” said a smiling MacInnis, with a line that a lot of basketball coaches have uttered.
Richer, 17, of Apple Hill, is 6-foot, 4-inches, 195 pounds, and a strong candidate to anchor the Cornwall blueline corps in 2019-20 in the Central Canada Hockey League.
Richer was selected by Cornwall in the 2017 CCHL Bantam Protected Draft two years ago, and the Colts are thrilled to have him in the stable, after he played and studied the last two seasons at the Ontario Hockey Academy in Cornwall.
While hockey coaches have no influence on how big their players are, MacInnis should be able to help Richer grow into his role, playing in a very fast league, and in an era when the term “stay-at-home defenceman” is rarely spoken anymore.
“Like every big guy, he’ll need to work on really understanding his length, and how it applies to the game,” MacInnis said. “In this day and age, all of the (defencemen) have to activate, you have to push and go.”
It shouldn’t be an issue for Richer, who last season with the Ontario Hockey Academy Gold team collected 32 points (five goals) in 45 games.
Now that he’ll be playing for a young Colts team that has made a flurry of deals and transactions early this summer – which has seen the departure of several veterans – Richer, at just 17, will likely be looked upon as one of the skaters to lead in the rebuild.
“He’s got a really good opportunity to carve out a good identity for himself,” MacInnis said. “He’s dedicated and he works hard.”
Richer said “it’s a good feeling” to sign with Cornwall, a Colts franchise he’s followed closely for a few years.
He said he’s anticipating going the NCAA route when it comes to future hockey opportunities beyond the junior level, but Richer is also property of an Ontario Hockey League team, chosen in the ninth round by the Erie Otters in the OHL Priority Selection in 2018, where he’ll at least make an appearance at training camp later this summer.
The expectation is Richer will play for the Colts for two seasons, and his immediate future education-wise will be a homecoming of sorts.
“I’m going back to Char-Lan (District High School) for Grade 12,” Richer said.
The Colts followed this signing with another one on Tuesday, announcing Nicholas Yuill, a defenseman, will lace up for Cornwall later this year. Yuill played for Rothesay Netherwood School in New Brunswick last season, also lacing up for 18 games with Amherst in the MHL, including some experience at the Fred Page Cup. Yuill was picked up by the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in the 2017 QMJHL entry draft.
So there’ll be a lot of changes late this summer for Richer, and for the Colts, who’ll have access to their home rink, the civic complex, for the pre-season, but not the start of the regular campaign. That’s because Cirque du Soleil takes over the building on Sept. 15, in preparation for three shows early in October.
The Colts will move over to the Benson Centre, for their first four regular season contests (Sept. 19 and 26, Oct. 3 and 10).
The first regular season home game at the civic complex isn’t until Oct. 17.
“(The schedule) looks OK, other than we’re not starting at the civic complex,” MacInnis said. “That’ll be a little difficult.”
In a departure from longstanding tradition, the CCHL showcase will not be kicking off the regular campaign. The Colts actually have two regular season road games – Sept. 6 in Hawkesbury and Sept. 8 at Navan – before skating in three games at the showcase in Kanata, Sept. 13-15.
As for training camp, the Colts U-18 team, MacInnis said, will get started on Aug. 21, with the Jr. A Colts team “a little bit later.”
Pre-season games will be announced at a later date.