Troops provide ‘great legacy’

Troops provide ‘great legacy’
Article/photo credit- North Bay Battalion

For general manager Adam Dennis, the end of the North Bay Battalion’s season means the end of special relationships and, to some extent, an era in the history of the Ontario Hockey League club.

“It’s sad,” Dennis allowed this week in the aftermath of the Battalion’s 6-1 loss Monday night to the host Oshawa Generals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Championship Series.

“It’s sad because we had a lot of great things going this year, and we had a lot of great people here that won’t be here next year. It’s bitter-sweet because, you know, that’s not what the season was. It was a good year.

“There were a lot of memories made, and even till that last buzzer our players, I thought, they showed what they were. They’re competitive. They battled for us, unbelievable character people, and they’ll be remembered here for a long time.”

The core of the 2023-24 roster can be traced back to the 2019 OHL Priority Selection when Dennis, then assistant general manager to Stan Butler, director of hockey operations, had a hand in acquiring Liam Arnsby, Paul Christopoulos and Justin Ertel, now graduating overagers.

“We talked about legacy all season. This group is going to have a great legacy in North Bay, and any success that this team has for the next two, three years, there’ll be the remnants of Liam Arnsby, Paul Christopoulos, Ty Nelson.

“All those guys have left a mark on the culture and, as sad as it is to see them go, it’s sad because it was so great to have them here, because they were such good people and because they showed us what it was supposed to be, to be a Battalion, and they showed those young guys what it was all about. I know that they all took it seriously.”

Dennis, like coach Ryan Oulahen, took pride in the close-knit nature of the players’ relationships on and off the ice.

“It’s a pretty special group when you talk about everything that’s going on in hockey and we’ve got our 20-year-olds that are sitting with 16-year-olds at the lunch table just so they feel comfortable. That’s a great culture.

“We say it as coaches all the time, that we would have loved to play for this team and play with these guys and compete with them in that room. We’re proud that they wore our jersey and battled with us, and I know that they made the community very proud.”

Dennis pointed to Ertel, who joined the Troops in 2022-23 after playing with the Cornell Big Red in the U.S. college ranks. A third-round pick of the Dallas Stars in the 2021 National Hockey League Draft, he scored 39 goals and earned 66 assists for 105 points in 110 games over two seasons and then produced eight goals and 11 assists for 19 points in 16 games in the 2024 playoffs.

“In a new league, new environment, there’s ups and downs and things that you’ve got to figure out, but he’s such a wonderful teammate,” Dennis said of Ertel, who signed a three-year entry-level contract with Dallas.

“He’s always been there for his guys. He’s worked at his craft, and he’s a hockey player. I think it showed in that contract. He earned it. He really put in the work. He had a great summer. He committed to this team.”

While some players will move on, Ethan Procyszyn, the Battalion’s first-rounder in 2022, is among those returning to become part of the new core after filling in admirably for Arnsby, who was suspended for six playoff games.

“As such a young guy, he’s got a pretty vast playoff resume already, which is pretty cool,” noted Dennis. “You saw the steps that he took from Year 1 to Year 2. The way that he approaches things, I have no doubt that you’ll see a similar jump Years 2 and 3 and Years 3 and 4, and 4 and 5.

“He’s a pro. He’s been able to soak in some of the great things that these older guys have left for him, and he’s been a pleasure to work with. He’s done everything that we could have asked for him. Someone’s going to get real lucky in the NHL Draft with him.”

Dennis said the 2019 selections and those who followed, including Nelson, the first overall pick in 2020, have created a new reputation for the Battalion and the city of North Bay in the minds of prospective players.

“The other side of the things you don’t see is the work that our scouting staff and myself do to talk to these guys and try to sell the program. I can’t thank (enough) guys like Justin, Ty, Liam, all those guys that took a chance on us. We don’t have those issues anymore, and I owe it to them, and we owe it to them.

“They made this place a destination and they showed what it could be, and it’s up to us to continue that legacy for those guys.”

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