The Wellington Dukes organization has had a roller-coaster ride ride of a season in 2017-18 season.
The move of former long-time GM/Head Coach Marty Abrams to the arch-rival Trenton Golden Hawks in June started it off. That was followed by the changing of majority ownership hands from Michael Mulvihill to Ken Clement later in the summer.
Things then completely changed during the season when the entire coaching staff consisting of Scott McCrory, Ryan Woodward, Kyle Hawkins-Schulz and Ryan Kitchen were all replaced by John Druce, Derek Smith and Mike Farrugia after the Christmas break. Along with the addition of several new young players and the moving and shifting of other off-ice matters, it’s safe to say it’s been a whirlwind year for Prince Edward County’s beloved junior hockey team.
Many fan questions about the current season and what’s in store for the future were answered and discussed at a town hall-style meeting at the Essroc Arena before Game 1 of the Dukes’ Conference Semi-Final series versus the Newmarket Hurricanes.
Vice President of Hockey Operations Randy Uens organized and presided over the meeting, attended by a solid number of Dukes fans wanting to understand what the future of the OJHL franchise holds, both on and off the ice.
Uens addressed one of the biggest questions in the meeting right off the top, letting the group know the team will not be moved out of Prince Edward County, despite the change of ownership.
Uens tells Quinte News that the hectic season will hopefully be a good jumping off point for future team success.
One of the biggest examples Uens mentioned was fan engagement, which is something he says they attempted to work on over the course of the year.
Getting the players out into the community also has been and will continue to be a big piece of the puzzle moving forward. Some of the different events players attended during the year included:
Another key item mentioned by Uens in the meeting was that he and his partners have committed an LOI (Letter of Intent) to buy the Picton Pirates Junior C hockey club, with the idea to create a “feeder” system from them to the Dukes. Uens says this will create a good prospect pool to keep local players within the Quinte region and gives the Dukes a chance to easily replenish their team after graduation of veteran players.
Other key points brought up in the meeting were improvements to the off-ice experience for players, the possibility of adding new amenities to the Essroc Arena, the hiring of a nutritionist, strength and conditioning coaches and the hiring of Chris Longo as skills coach for next season.
Uens encourages people to get involved in volunteering/working with the team and helping keep game days and daily operations running smoothly.
For the full interview with Randy Uens, click below.