Cody Monds knew this year would be about building on his standout rookie season with the Victoria Grizzlies. What he didn’t know was it would be played wearing a full face shield, with spit catcher, and likely in empty arenas.
“It will be different,” said Monds, about performing amid a pandemic.
The BCHL has requested 25 per cent capacity for a regular season beginning Dec. 1, but the league is not optimistic that the provincial health officer will allow fans into the arenas.
“We will rely on the team making its own noise from the bench. We’ll have to hype each other up. Just like they are doing in the NHL. It’s been pretty good watching it,” Monds, said Tuesday on the first day of Grizzlies training camp at The Q Centre.
Monds was a revelation last season in leading the Grizzlies in scoring with 22 goals and 59 points in 57 games and being named runner-up for the B.C. Hockey League rookie-of-the-year-award. He is committed to NCAA Div. 1 Providence College for the 2021-22 season.
“I have a comfort zone now and know I will be stepping into a bigger role this season with the Grizzlies. I want to maintain the level of productivity and intensity I had last season,” said the five-foot-10, 170-pound native of Brockville, Ont.
Monds is a deft offensive talent, but also knows coaches are looking for all-rounders in the modern game.
“I want to work on the defensive side of the puck and playing without the puck. I want to learn the penalty kill, too,” said the 19-year-old.
But the pandemic has placed many aspects of his development out of his control. He crossed trained with golf and swam in the St. Lawrence over the summer and was fortunate to be able to access an Ottawa gym that was among the earliest to reopen and allow socially-distanced work outs. The BCHL regular season is set to open very late, which means an unusually long training camp and exhibition season. Also, the NCAA season won’t begin until Jan. 1. If somehow it doesn’t take place, seniors will be eligible to return in 2021-22.
“That could create a backlog [at Providence for freshmen]. But you just have to play it all by ear at this point,” said Monds.
That’s about all any players can do in this current situation. It’s just good to be back on the ice in a meaningful way, he said: “It’s nice to see the returning guys again and meet the new guys after a long summer. I’m anxious but also excited. We have a deep group with some good recruits. ”
Monds said the ultimate academic goal is to earn an MBA: “That will be a good starting point in life. Then I hope to play pro hockey overseas.”
The Grizzlies hit the ice Tuesday for their first training-camp sessions. The scrimmage squads are named in honour of the franchise’s alumni luminaries, including Stanley Cup-champion Tyler Bozak, Stanley Cup finals-bound Dallas Stars captain and Olympic-champion Jamie Benn, brother Jordie Benn of the Vancouver Canucks, first-round NHL draft pick and Colorado Avalanche prospect Alex Newhook and Florida Panthers draft-selection Carter Berger. “When you see the names of the teams in scrimmage, it’s an impressive list, and is something that inspires and to look up to,” said Monds.
The main intra-squad game is Thursday. The Grizzlies will open with a “pre-exhibition set” Sept. 25 in Nanaimo against the Clippers followed by a game Sept. 26 against the Clips at The Q Centre. That will be followed by the pre-season Island Cup tournament Oct. 2 to Nov. 27 featuring the Grizzlies, Clippers, Cowichan Valley Capitals, Alberni Valley Bulldogs and Powell River Kings.
The five teams in the Island Cup will be put into two cohort groups of two and three teams to be decided. There will be a two-week quarantine break before teams switch over to play teams from the other cohort group.