The Vankleek Hill Cougars are focusing on local talent, as the team holds conditioning camps to prepare for a shortened hockey season.

The local Junior ‘C’ hockey club has a conditioning camp coming up in Hawkesbury on September 23, which was to be the last of three scheduled sessions. But due to much greater interest than usual, the team is adding three more sessions, to be held each Wednesday.

“It’s not our training camp, it’s for Midget and Junior age players in the area who want to come out and grab some ice (time),” noted Cougars General Manager Marc Bernique. “Next week we’re already full and we’re telling kids we don’t have room for anyone else, so that’s why we decided to go ahead and do three more sessions.”

The Cougars play in the National Capital Junior Hockey League, which is hoping to resume play on December 1. All 10 teams expressed their intention to continue participation in the league at a meeting held on August 17. However the season remains up in the air until the Ontario government releases its updated ‘return-to-hockey’ plan.

For now the team is focused on hockey and continuing to develop hockey players. If there is a side benefit to the delayed season, it is that team coaches and management are able to take a long look at more local players than ever.

“I’m hoping to have a season, because right now we have tons of young, local kids that we are really high on,” Bernique enthused. “We’ve always strived to be local, but we’re probably going to be even more local this year.”

With current provincial regulations restricting spectators to a total of 50 people, the lack of fans in the stands will cause a hit to the team’s bottom line. However the organization is currently in a solid position financially, due to historic strong fan support. The team has also held several successful fundraising events over the summer, culminating with a golf tournament on September 19.

“We’ve always had very strong fan support, so (limited attendance) will definitely affect our revenue stream, but based on our fundraising so far we are in good shape right now,” Bernique said.

Anyone interested in attending one of the three upcoming Vankleek Hill Cougars conditioning camps can call Marc Bernique at 613-330-2271. Cost of each session is $20.