By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – Not even the prospect of spending the coming winter in a community notorious for chilly temperatures and abundant snowfall could wipe the smile off the face of Halen Cordoni.
“I am pretty excited,” said the newest member of the Timmins Rock during a telephone interview following a shift at his summer job Monday evening.
“I have never left home to play hockey. I have played for the (Ridge Meadows) Flames (of the PIJHL) since my rookie season.”
The Rock acquired the 1997-birth-year forward in exchange for a player development fee earlier this week.
With the transaction, Cordoni becomes the fifth former Flames player to head east and don a Timmins Rock jersey, following the path of former captain Jordan Rendle and blue-liners Brendan Campbell, Joe Olson and Andrew Castagna.
“Brendan told me playing in Timmins was one of the most fun experiences he has had in hockey,” Cordoni said.
“That was one of the key factors in my decision to join the Rock for my last year of junior hockey.
“Both Brendan and Jordan had pretty good seasons this past year and they both got scholarships.”
In addition the paths they chose to pursue a Junior ‘A’ opportunity with the Rock, there are a number of other similarities between Cordoni and Rendle.
“During my rookie season, I played with Jordan,” Cordoni said.
“We didn’t play a lot on the same line, but we got out there together some times on the power play. We are similar kinds of players. We both like to pass a lot and make plays.”
Cordoni (42, 16-20-36, 50) and Rendle (40, 15-22-37, 133, in 2014-15) grew up in communities 25 kilometres apart, both shoot right and they put up comparable statistics during their final seasons with the Flames.
There are, however a few differences between the two.
“He is definitely a bit taller than me (5-11 compared to 5-9), but I think I am a little bit heavier (200 pounds compared to 174 pounds),” Cordoni said.
“The way we play along the boards is a little different, as well. He is more agile and quick on his feet. I am more of a power forward.
“Jordan was a great player when he was with the Flames and I know the last two years he had a lot of success with the Rock. That’s one of the reasons I am so excited to come to Timmins.”
Growing up, Cordoni’s favourite NHL player was Martin St. Louis — a player of similar stature.
“He was always thought of as a bit of an underdog,” he said.
“He was kind of my idol when I started watching hockey on television a lot and following stats.”
St. Louis (1134, 391-642-1033, 310) certainly put up some big numbers during an NHL career that saw him make stops in Calgary, Tampa and New York.
Growing up in the interior of British Columbia, you would expect Cordoni to be a big Vancouver Canucks fan.
“That’s changed over the last five years,” he said.
“I definitely used to be a huge Canucks fan. I still like watching them, but I think my favourite team right now is Chicago.”
The success the four former Flames had with the Rock in the NOJHL has Cordoni feeling confident as he prepares to make the transition to the NOJHL from the PIJHL.
“I know I am going to a faster league where they play a more structured game, but I think once I get used to it, I should be able to produce at a similar level,” he said.
After making the decision to commit to the Rock, Cordoni sought out the advice of both Rendle and Campbell.
“They told me to work on my cardio and to hit the gym over the summer,” he said.
“I have been working pretty hard at the gym this summer. I want to arrive at training camp in top shape.”
With the Rock averaging 791 fans a game in 2016-17 to lead the NOJHL in that category, Cordoni is looking forward to the opportunity to play in front of some big crowds this season.
“I have never had a chance to play in front of crowds that big before,” he said.
“Drawing crowds that big is pretty awesome and I am pretty excited to experience that. There might be a little bit more pressure, but it should help to elevate my game.”
Another thing Cordoni will have to get used to is the climate in Timmins.
“I actually don’t mind the cold, even when it is cold out here,” he said.
“I don’t think it is going to be that bad. I will definitely have to get a heavy duty jacket.”
For the record, the average January low in Pitt Meadows, B.C., is usually about -1.2 C, while the average low in Timmins for the month is -23.0 C.
“My grandma said something about the winters being pretty bad, but I don’t know the temperatures for the actual hardcore winter days,” Cordoni said.
After being informed temperatures dipping below -30 C are not that uncommon, Cordoni responded: “Really? That’s crazy.”
NOJHL NOTES — The Hearst Lumberjacks have inked 1999-birth-year defenceman Sawyer Cutler. The 5-11, 196-pound Vernon Hills, Ill., native spent the 2016-17 campaign with the Chicago Young Americans, of the HPHL. The Lumberjacks have also announced the return of a number of veterans who skated for the Iroquois Falls Eskis last season, including goalie Artem Bortovskiy, blue-liner Vasily Gogolev and forward Wade Auger … The Kirkland Lake Gold Miners have add 1997-birth-year blue-liner Troy Murray. The 6-3, 180-pound Toronto native spent time with the Blind River Beavers, the Newmarket Hurricanes, of the OJHL, and the North York Renegades, of the GMHL. He split the 2015-16 campaign between the Elliot Lake Wildcats and the Beavers.