Camp starts this week and there will be a new import among the hopefuls - 19 year old Robert Farmer who hails from Nottingham England and who spent last year playing with the Sheffield Steelers of the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) in the United Kingdom. This self-described big skillful winger played 36 games last year with former 67's Joe Talbot and Jon Zion, scoring 6 goals, 11 assists and spending66 minutes feeling-guilty-before-going-free.
I met up with "Farms" (one of the nicknames Jon has for Robert) and Jon Zion a few weeks back to find out more about our newest import.
The EIHL is the highest level of professional hockey in the UK and Robert was an 18 year old playing against men. He wasn't being used a lot and Jon thought that he would be a good fit for the 67's and told them so. The club brought him over in June to see him skate and were impressed enough to draft him in the import draft.
He's been here for much of the summer skating and training in preparation for the upcoming season. In addition to skating with a couple of 67's, he's been working with a skating coach in Arnprior and playing summer hockey. With his season having ended in April and the limited opportunities to skate in the summer in England, he felt it was best to get here and get skating well before the season started. And it didn't hurt that Jon was here to take him under his wing.
This isn't his first trip to Canada, he has relatives out west and has been to tournaments in Ontario and Quebec. And he's been living away from home for a few years now playing hockey much like many of his new team mates. But it will be his first full-on Canadian winter and with Jon's "you're gonna die man" ringing in his ears, he's bracing for the shock. He doesn't plan to own a vehicle while here.
As for other expectations, he really doesn't have too many. The game in the UK is more styled to a North American game, physical and fast. And fighting is allowed. With up to 11 imports allowed on each team, and many of those imports coming from North America, it's like playing in the professional minors here.
He's also used to playing a schedule that has 3 games in 2 1/2 days as they had some of those last year too.
Depending on who they are playing, audiences can range from between 7000-8000 for a good rivalry to as few as 300 - 400. Like the OHL. (Ya Brampton - I'm looking at you). It can be tough competing for fans when both local football teams are playing on the same weekend.
One difference is that he will likely spend more off-ice time with his team mates. In Sheffield, the players all scatter to their own lives with their wives and kids. Here in Ottawa he will be like most of the other players, living away from home without other obligations (other than school for some).
He's eager to play hockey and seems very open to the experience (cold and all). With Jon Zion showing him around now and helping him get ready for the season, he should be in a much better position than most imports. Keeping in touch with the family across the pond will be easy with Skype and other social media and his family has already booked their flights to see him here in late October.
As for Jon Zion, at 29 he hopes to keep playing for a while but he notes that it's not as lucrative as it once was. When it's all said and done, he plans to return to Ottawa and seek a career in either the police force or as a firefighter. Ottawa is where his family and home are - cold winters and all.
The 67's Camp Schedule:
Not sure if I will be able to make it to any of the camp sessions but will post if I do.
In the meantime, welcome back gentlemen, we have been waiting all summer for the season to begin!!