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HEADLINES & SIDELINES: The boys of winter, and weighty expectations

It’s that time of year, when the days grow shorter and the nights get longer. 
The Junior A Crusher hopefuls who are out-of-towners (only until they make the team) will be trickling into Pictou County this weekend, as the Crushers start training camp on Aug. 25.
They’ll have five days of practice and intra-squad scrimmages before heading to P.E.I. for the “Battle of The Bridge Tournament” during the final weekend of August. 
There’ll be around 40 players in camp – four of them goaltenders – all of them vying for roster spots (23 maximum).
The job pickings are slim this year, according to Crushers general manager Chad McDavid.
“We have 18 players with junior A experience coming to camp,” he said this week. 
“I’m expecting them to show up ready to go. If they’re not ready to go, it’ll be tough for them because we have some very good players we drafted or signed as free agents.”
At least five Pictou County born-and-bred players will be on the team this year: goaltender Andrew MacLeod, forwards Jake Martin (it only seems like he’s been a Crushers for 10 years), the Mason brothers – Kevin and Jaden – and defenceman Ryan MacLennan, whose older siblings Kyle and Evan are Crushers alumnus.
“All the local guys are expecting big years for themselves,” McDavid said.


EXPECTING SUCCESS

Expectations (there’s that word again) are high across the board this year. A franchise that missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons has a returning group armed with both talent and experience, and if the goaltending holds up, the Crushers could challenge for the South Division title.
Head coach Mike Danton and his lone assistant Tyler Noseworthy (everybody remembers ‘Nosey’ from his days as a Crusher, right?) will be tasked with molding them into a team, a unit with a single-minded purpose: get to work and get winning.
In an interview several weeks ago, Danton promised, among other things, that the Crushers will exhibit “an aura of team toughness.” 
By that, he didn’t mean out-and-out goonery, but as Danton said, “no one’s going to come into the Pictou County Wellness Centre and push us around.”
The Crushers have two exhibition tilts with the Truro Bearcats (Sept. 5 in Pictou County, Sept. 7 in Truro), before they open the regular season on home ice, a Sept. 12 game against the Fredericton Junior Red Wings.
Hockey is almost here again and the fans are hungry for a winner. The Crushers will be expected to do well, and while we don’t want to put too much pressure on the lads, to quote legendary Oakland Raiders’ owner Al Davis: “Just win, baby”.
Non-Sports Thoughts of the Week:
• I watched as a little old lady driving a little old car pulled out of Victoria Street and onto East River Road, right in front of a big old pickup truck, whose driver came a sudden halt to avoid crashing into her.
The little car kept going, its driver seemingly oblivious to the near-miss. The guy in the passenger’s seat of the pickup truck was laughing – because sometimes, that’s all you can do: laugh and keep going.
• I don’t care how many tickets they sold, I still think it’s wrong to exclude people under 19 from the Riverfront Jubilee. Don’t tell me it’s not about the beer when we all know it’s about the beer.

Kevin Adshade is a writer with The News. His column appears each week.

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