By Sam Laskaris
RAYSIDE-BALFOUR – Despite an early setback, Ronson Odjig is hoping he can still have a memorable season in this, his final year of junior hockey eligibility.
Odjig, a 20-year-old defenceman from the Wikwemikong Territory, is a member of the Rayside-Balfour Canadians, a Junior A squad that competes in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (NOJHL).
Odjig entered the 2017-18 campaign with high hopes. Not only was he hoping to be a key contributor to the Canadians’ blueline but he was also looking to impress others with his efforts as he is hoping to continue playing hockey next year at the post-secondary level.
But just two games into the season Odjig was involved in an on-ice collision which left him with a partially torn MCL in his left knee.
Though surgery was a recommended option, Odjig preferred to rehab his injury instead. That’s because surgery would have meant he would have missed a significant portion of his final junior season.
“I chose physio over the surgery,” said Odjig, adding five years ago he missed the majority of his Minor Midget season of hockey as he had surgery to repair his torn MCL in his right knee.
After sitting out for eight weeks and by strengthening his knee with rehab at the M’Chigeeng First Nation, Odjig recently returned to the Canadians’ lineup.
Though he said his knee feels 100 per cent, he is expected to wear a knee brace for the remainder of the season.
“It is fully healed now,” he said. “The brace is just for extra support.”
Odjig, who is 6-foot-2 and weighs 245 pounds, is in his second season with the Canadians.
“He adds a physical element to our team,” said Rayside-Balfour’s general manager Adrian Gedye, who is also the Canadians’ owner and president.
Odjig, a defensive defenceman, appeared in 53 regular season games with the Rayside-Balfour squad last season. He earned eight assists in those outings. He also picked up his first junior goal in the playoffs, in one of his seven post-season appearances.
And so far this season he’s been credited with one assist in 11 games.
The Canadians’ final game of 2017 is scheduled for this Friday, on the road against the Michigan-based Soo Eagles.
A year ago Rayside-Balfour posted a 28-24-3-1 record, good for third place in the league’s six-team West Division. The club had its year come to an end when it was defeated 4-1 by the Elliot Lake Wildcats in its best-of-seven divisional semi-final series.
This year the Canadians are sporting a 19-10-2-1 mark. Though they are in third place in the West standings, they are just two points behind the second-place Blind River Beavers, who have played five more games.
Odjig said the Rayside-Balfour side has considerably improved its offence this season. And he believes the club is capable of having plenty of playoff success.
“This year the team is very competitive,” he said. “We think we’re going to (win) this league.”
As for his own future, Odjig is not quite sure yet exactly what he wants to do.
He was at Cambrian College’s Police Foundations program in Sudbury last year but dropped out after two months.
“I liked it but it just wasn’t for me,” he said.
Odjig is now exploring his options for next season. Ideally he would like to go to school and continue playing hockey at the university level.