The OHL’s summer break isn’t three weeks old, but teams and fans are already looking ahead to September. Last week, the OHL released the 2018-19 regular-season schedule, and it gives the teams, and fans, a chance to plan out their season.
For the Windsor Spitfires, it marks the start of leveling up. Last season, general manager Warren Rychel sold off major assets and the team went into full rebuild mode. They made the playoffs, though, losing to the Sarnia Sting in Game 6 in the first round.
Now, Rychel sets up his roster to possibly compete for home-ice in the first round. This roster is young but, with a year under their belt, could prove some critics wrong.
Are You Ready for Some Hockey?
First up for the Spitfires is their opener against a conference foe that is sure to create some hardnosed hockey.
On Thursday, Sept. 20, the Spitfires will drop the puck at 7:05 p.m. as they take on the Guelph Storm to start their new season. The Spitfires and Storm were in a heated battle for playoff positioning as the 2017-18 regular season ended. In the end, the Spitfires won the sixth seed while the Storm finished seventh. They’re two clubs eager to make that next step in the OHL ranks.
The next night, the Spitfires travel up the 401 for a Friday night showdown with the London Knights. It marks the second straight season the Spitfires take part in the Knights’ home opener. The Spitfires came away with a 5-2 win last season.
Following the game in London, the Spitfires come home for four-straight contests before several road games.
You can check out the entire Spitfires schedule here.
Games to Remember
Every season, there are key dates on the schedule, including major road trips, homestands and the Mickey Renaud Game, to name a few. Here are some games you’ll want to circle on the calendar:
Four-Game Homestand – Thursday, Sept. 27 – Sunday, Oct. 7 – Saginaw Spirit, Kitchener Rangers, London Knights and OHL Champion Hamilton Bulldogs
Eastern Road Trip – Friday, Oct. 12 – Sunday, Oct. 14 – Frifsu at Ottawa 67s, Saturday at Peterborough Petes and Sunday afternoon at Kingston Frontenacs
Four-Game Home Stand – Saturday, Nov. 3 – Thursday, Nov. 15 – Sarnia Sting, Guelph Storm, Saginaw Spirit and Oshawa Generals
New Year’s Eve Game – Monday, Dec. 31 versus Mississauga Steelheads
Northern Road Trip – Thursday, Jan. 31 – Saturday, Feb. 2 – Thurs. at North Bay Battalion, Fri. at Sudbury Wolves and Sat. at Owen Sound Attack.
Mickey Renaud Game – Monday, Feb. 18 versus Owen Sound Attack. This marks the 11th annual game in memory of former Spitfires’ captain Mickey Renaud, who passed away in 2008.
Four-Game Homestand – Monday, Feb. 18 – Thursday, Feb. 28 – Owen Sound Attack, Soo Greyhounds, North Bay Battalion, Peterborough Petes
Spitfires Sign McDonald
Rychel and the Spitfires took another step towards the future on Thursday by signing 2018 second round pick Kyle McDonald to a Standard OHL Player and Education Package.
McDonald, an Ottawa native, played for the Jr. Senators AAA last season. The 6-foot-4, 181-pound winger scored 25 goals and 21 assists in 40 games with 50 PIM.
After being drafted in April, Rychel told the Spitfires’ website that McDonald is the kind of player teams “crave.”
“He’s a power forward who’s right-handed, the kind of player you really crave to have in your lineup,” Rychel said in Apr.
“He gets better all the time; he works at it. Probably the best prospect in Ottawa this year, we thought.”
Following the signing last week, Rychel told windsorspitfires.com that McDonald is a power forward and an exciting player.
“He plays a two-way game and has an excellent shot,” Rychel said. “We’re looking forward to him contributing to our lineup in the near future. He’s an exciting player and is going to score some goals.”
In a roundabout way, McDonald is also part of the Logan Brown/Austin McEneny trade deadline deal between the Spitfires and Rangers. The Spitfires acquired the Spirit’s 2018 second-round pick in the deal, which they used to select McDonald, along with the Spirit’s third round pick (used to select Dylan Robinson).
McDonald will join the team in late August for the 2018-19 training camp. Dates for the camp will be announced later in the summer.
Packwood Joins Spitfires
On Friday, the Spitfires announced that Mark Packwood has been hired to be the new Head Athletic Therapist. Packwood takes over from Joey Garland, who was with the club for 13 seasons.
Packwood, 29, played parts of four seasons in the OHL from 2004-08 with the Rangers and Generals before playing parts of two seasons with Brock University. After hanging up his skates, he studied, earning a degree in Kinesiology at Brock plus a Masters from University of Western Ontario. It was while he was at UWO that he joined on with the London Knights, helping out where he could.
He told the Spitfires’ website that he lost some passion after hanging up the skates, but it found it again when he joined the Knights.
“To be honest, when I was done playing, I lost a little passion,” Packwood said.
“My junior career didn’t go the way I wanted. But then I got into coaching a bit and eventually into therapy and it started to become a big part of my life again … To be able to be back and to experience things again. The winning and losing. The ups and downs. To have the excitement back and the emotion. It’s a motivator for me.”
For Rychel, Packwood brings it all to the team.
“Mark played in the league and has been around the game a long time,” Rychel told the Spitfires’ website.
“But what really impressed me was his intelligence and his commitment. He’s got more than enough education to be here and now the practical experience to replace Joey (Garland), who, let’s face it, is a hard act to follow.”
Garland was one of the most recognizable faces around the team during his time with the Spitfires. One thing about him, though, is he’s always been approachable, appreciative and down-to-earth. That helps Packwood, despite the big shoes to fill.
“When I met Joey, the big thing that stuck out for me was I couldn’t believe how humble he was,” Packwood told the Spitfires.
“For all the success he has had, he’s completely down to earth and has been totally helpful. I’d heard from people not only that he’s a great therapist, but also a great guy. And it’s all true … I’ve got big shoes to fill. I only hope I can attain even some of the things he’s done. I hope to be part of something special here.”