Jonathon Brodie – Recorder & Times
Simon Mack was itching to get back on the ice and playing.
Last Tuesday the Brockville Braves defenceman was given clearance for contact by his doctor after a should injury last February left him on the sidelines. On Wednesday – after missing the opening two days of camp – Mack was on the ice with his team practicing for the first time in months.
After just one workout the Brockville-native asked coach Jesse Winchester to put him in the lineup for the Braves first exhibition game last Thursday. Mack was the only veteran that played in the game for Brockville, so he definitely didn’t have to do it if he didn’t want to.
In some ways, Mack might be trying to make up for lost time.
“I was excited to get back into it.
Personally, I wanted to play as much as possible,” said Mack. “When you’re off that much it’s hard not to be playing. It was exciting to play and once I got the first few hits out of the way on the shoulder it felt fine and I just wanted to keep doing things as I left off back in February.”
Mack is smart. If you think he rushed into things then guess again. He said he never really worried about when his first game back would be. He let the doctor decide that for him and in the meantime he worked his butt off.
He said he was in the gym working out everyday and he looks bigger.
For the last two months he’s been on the ice skating.
The big question is can Mack start where he left off? By the midway point of his rookie season he seemed like he picked up the speed of the CCHL – coming from a prep school – and he started to find his offensive touch. In the last 16 games before his injuries he picked up four goals and 15 assists. In the 32 games prior to that he had just three assists.
“Looking back on last year and how he finished he was at the top of the league as a 16-year-old,” said Winchester. “There are a couple special players at that age – (CCHL Top Prospect winner Jack) Quinn in Kanata and I would put Mack right up there with him with the way he matured throughout the season.”
The season hasn’t started, but Mack looks ready to get going.
At practice Wednesday he did more than a few puck-handling moves that left his teammates yelling some ohhhhs and awwwws.
He got better every exhibition game, said Winchester. The first game he shook off the rust a bit. In the second and third pre-season matchups he picked up a goal and an assist.
The homegrown defenceman is a great skater, his puck-handling is as good as any forward, he’s got a high hockey IQ, and he’s a natural leader with his work ethic and the way he just goes out and does what he’s told to do without question.
Last year Jonathan Hill played a major part in the Braves success with his offensive prowess – he led the team in points (53) and finished third in goals (19). There were a few times when Brockville struggled and Hill acted as a life-preserver keeping his team up on both sides of the puck.
That’s the sort of role Mack is looking to fill this season.
“Johnny was a huge part of our team last year and I would like to take that responsibility into my own hands – being a second-year player and lead the guys,” said Mack. “I like to think of myself as an offensive defenceman, so I would love to be a point-producer and contribute on the offence, as well as the defensive side.”
If he can do all that then great, but for now people should just be happy he’s back playing.
“If he had to be brought along slowly that’s what we were going to do. The later part of the season is when it matters most anyways, so as long as he’s healthy for that then we’re ecstatic,” said Winchester.
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