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Jason Cassidy's Blog: The holiday 'break' and welcoming new recruits

Jason Cassidy and his St. Thomas teammates will attempt to return to the playoffs after missing the dance last season.

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Jason Cassidy and his St. Thomas teammates will attempt to return to the playoffs after missing the dance last season.

The first half of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport season has come to an end. Well, it’s stopped for a breather, anyway. Starting around Dec. 1, regular season play is brought to a halt to allow students time to prepare for exams.

Coming out of the Ontario League, it felt pretty strange not playing right up until Christmas. In junior I remember getting home on the 22nd or 23rd only to be back skating on the 26th. With a full course load, this just isn’t possible.

For the smaller fellas like myself, it’s a nice chance to rehabilitate any nagging injuries and spend some quality time in the gym re-building my strength for the second half.

For anyone above the lightweight category, it can be challenging to keep off the pounds with the abundance of holiday treats available.

My dad always jokes and says, “C’mon Jay, you’ve only been off the ice for a week, how out of shape can you be?”

Ask any hockey player, if given a week off, it’s easy to “lose your legs” and fall out of game shape. And with a month-long break, it happens all the time.

I’ve begun to look forward to one of the most dreaded days. 

“Weigh-in after practice,” coach says.

A collective gasp of “uh-oh” fills the room while the boys recall all the nonsense they put into their bodies in the past 24 hours. Some guys hop on the stationary bike and try to cut as much weight while they can. I’ve seen other tactics, too, but I don’t suppose they’re appropriate for this blog!

I usually start drinking water and take a trip to the vending machines to get a few pounds on before the weigh in.

It’s funny, though; in a player’s mind they’re always either too heavy or too light.

My team at St. Thomas had a roller coaster first half. We had a good core of players returning and complimented them with a handful of quality recruits. After a dismal 2008-2009 campaign – in which we didn’t make the playoffs – our expectations were much higher coming into this season. We started out with a 3-4 record and felt good about our progress from last year. 

At that point the ‘pig flu’ took its course through the majority of our team. And before we realized it, we had lost five games in a row and the end of the first-half was approaching. We ended with a few wins leaving us with a 4-8-2 record and sitting sixth in the division.

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A 28-game season is tougher on teams than it sounds. When you don’t have the opportunity to rebound after a tough loss with a game the next night, it only increases the importance of those few games. And those games can come back to bite you later on.
  
Christmas is a time when teams have the ability to bring in a couple of recruits and bulk up their roster. Two seasons ago, I was one of them.

There are a few scenarios that cause a player to join a school midway through the season: when a major junior player leaves his team halfway through their overage season; or after they have tested out professional hockey and realized either, (a) it wasn’t where they wanted to be or, (b) they couldn’t find a position in the league. Personally, it was a decision I’ll never regret.

While playing for St. Mike’s in the OHL, I had broken my jaw for the second time in three years (not to mention a few others along the way) in our first exhibition game of the season. It was terrible luck and when I came back I wasn’t the same player. I was timid on the ice and couldn’t find my scoring touch, which was mainly psychological. Nevertheless, instead of being traded, placed on waivers, or sent to Jr. A, I opted for university.

Christmas recruits can give a university team a nice boost to their lineup, but they can also affect the dynamic or chemistry of the team. And don’t forget (especially, you, Leafs fans), when you bring in a recruit, you’ve made a four-year commitment to them, all of which include the almighty “no movement clause.”

Either way, hockey is a game about improving your team relative to those in the league. And if other schools are bringing in quality talent, you’ve got no choice but to follow along and take those risks if you stand any chance of winning.

Jason Cassidy is a right winger for St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick. He spent four seasons in the Ontario League's with the Brampton Battalion and St. Michaels Majors. He is from Whitby, Ont., and is working towards a degree in journalism and will blog on THN.com about his CIS and OHL career regularly. Read his other blogs HERE.

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