ST. PAUL - Shawn Germain will be returning to the Clancy Richard Arena for the 2021/22 hockey season, taking the helm once again as head coach for the St. Paul Jr. Canadiens.
Coming out of the pandemic, Germain anticipates there will be some challenges to overcome.
"A lot of these kids have had very little opportunity to find ice over the last season and a half. That naturally will stunt some growth as a player. It'll be our job as a staff to try and accelerate that growth again and get the players to where they should be at this point in their playing careers."
Another challenge will be the fact that Germain and his young family have made a recent move outside of the community, residing in the Edmonton area now.
"The distance will be a challenge, but I also have the best staff imaginable and we've been able to build this thing together. They know the expectations and how we do things better than anyone," says Germain, when asked about how things will look. "I will still be around for most day-to-day activities, and I'm confident we'll be proceeding with a business as usual mentality."
When asked why he decided to return as head coach, Germain says coaching has become a passion for him, "and I feel like we've assembled a fantastic group of kids that have really set the bar on what we expect and what we feel a St. Paul Canadiens should be."
Other members of the coaching staff for the Canadiens will include assistant coaches Corey Demoissac, Brent Labrie and Gilles Gervais. Derrick Germain will be returning as the team's goalie coach, and Dean Smyl is the Canadiens' general manager.
The team is also in the process of hiring a skills coach, but details are not yet available on that position.
The 2021/22 team could look quite similar to the 2020/21 squad, with 14 players off of last year's team now committed to coming back.
"We also have a lot of new recruits that are hungry for spots in our line-up. Many of those being local kids, which is even more exciting," says Germain. "The competition at this year's camp should be tremendous."
The community didn't get the opportunity to watch last year's team in action other than a few exhibition games and a couple of league games. In late 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down hockey for the remainder of the season. The pandemic also shortened the 2019/20 season, and the Canadiens were unable to finish the final round of playoffs against the Lac La Biche Clippers.
Scoring goals and setting goals is of course part of any hockey season.
"Our number one goal going into any season is to win a championship. We came close a couple years ago but that truly means nothing now," says Germain. "It's a new season and we're going to have to earn everything we get. On top of that, we want to continue to move players on to the next level. That's probably the thing we're most proud of at this point. The amount of kids that have gotten a chance to pursue Junior A opportunities in the last two years is incredible and a true testament to their hard work."
Germain acknowledges that it's been an extremely difficult time for every junior hockey organization in the world, due to the pandemic. But, the team continues to appreciate all of the support from sponsors and fans, "as we hope to create that same buzz and excitement we had before the pandemic."
The Canadiens play in the North Eastern Alberta Junior B Hockey League (NEAJBHL). At the end of the 2019/20 season, Germain was named Coach of the Year for the league.