Humber College men’s and women’s hockey teams are on major rolls as they gear up for playoffs at Sunnydale Outdoor Rink
TORONTO, February 10, 2023 – Over the years, Humber College Hawks men’s hockey team racked up no less than eight Ontario Colleges Athletic Association titles, before the OCAA league was disbanded in 2004 (due to a shortage of teams).
Under the revamped, extramural Ontario College Recreation (OCR) league, the Humber men’s and women’s hockey teams may be playing under new rules – with no body checking, no scholarships, shorter 48-minute games, and a tournament only format – but the tradition continues, as both the guys and girls shape up as solid contenders heading into the Challenge Cup championship tournament, March 22 at Georgian College in Barrie.
The men’s squad is made up of five ex-Junior A players, eight AAA players, and eight AA players, while the women’s side is similarly high-pedigree.
“We’re 15-1 this year, and we’ve won two of three tournaments so far,” says head coach David Eccleston, before his, and the women’s team hit the ice Tuesday for respective practices at Sunnydale Outdoor Rink, in Etobicoke.
“It’s an exceptional team.”
Meanwhile, under head coach Mallory Lawton, the Hawks’ ladies have won their last six games in a row, taking the recent Wilfred Laurier tourney in Kitchener.
“I think we’re high-scoring, and we have a lot of communication on the ice,” offers forward/defence player Kylie Ogilvie.
The OCR’s new tournament format means that, periodically, teams play four or five games in one day, rather than a game at a time under a traditional league schedule.
“It’s cost-effective to bring everybody to one location to play,” Eccleston explains.
But exhausting for the players, one would think.
“It is demanding. But I love hockey, so I like playing all day. No problem,” says forward Isabella Liscombe.
Particularly without the hitting, left winger Evan Spencer says, “It definitely takes a little getting used to.”
“(But) we’ve got a great group of guys, and we’ve had a lot of success this season…We’re really (excited) heading into the Challenge Cup.”
In her 17th year as Humber’s recreation coordinator Jennifer O’Reilly cites a gender equality at the campus rink — with, “the same programs, the same (quality of) coaching, the same coaching opportunities.”
“It has been going well,” she says. “There are lots of tournaments, lots of people at tryouts…For our home tournament (at Westwood Arena), it’s full.”
“It gives people an opportunity to do something fun outside of the classroom,” she continues. “(And) the teams are good.”
This past off-season, the Humber Hawks took part in the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) Pathway Development Skates program, working with GTHL players on their skills — with the knowledge that many families seem unfamiliar with the college hockey alternative after finishing Under 18 minor hockey.
“We had some of the guys and girls helping them,” O’Reilly relates. “I think it’s really helpful, We have players they look up to. It (improves their skills), and gets everybody ready for tryouts.”
Eccleston is in his second season as head coach at Humber, after spending the previous two with the Seneca College Sting. He has more than 25 years of experience in coaching, scouting, and player development (for men and women), and is the current GTHL Executive Series Chair. This Mississauga native (whose son Justin is a left winger on the Hawks) played Junior B for the long-defunct Port Credit Titans, and AAA in Oakville.
“I’ve worked in minor hockey my whole life,” he offers.
He credits Humber’s Ray Chateau (co-recipient of the 2021-’22 Canadian Colleges Athletic Association Athletic Director of the Year Award) for doing, “an incredible job” with Humber’s gold and blue.
by Mike Beggs
photography by Stephen Uhraney
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