CHL Notebook: Coaches missing time due to health a growing concern

Dale Hawerchuk. (Trevor Hagan/CP)

With the Ontario Hockey League regular season set to open on Sept. 19, the Barrie Colts will do so without a key piece.

The team announced early last week that coach Dale Hawerchuk will be taking a leave of absence from the team due to health reasons.

Coaches missing time due to health reasons has been something in the forefront over recent seasons as Hawerchuk is one of a number of bench bosses in the league missing time.

In recent seasons, David Matsos, Bob Jones and Stan Butler among others, have taken time away from their respective teams.

Matsos, at the time the head coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs, collapsed behind the bench late in a game against Barrie in September 2018.

The Bulldogs then announced in August that Vince Laise, who was an assistant coach with the team for three seasons, would take over the head coaching duties with Matsos remaining as an associate coach.

Jones missed the entire 2017-18 season with the Oshawa Generals while he recovered from a life-threatening illness.

He returned to coaching and was named an assistant coach with the American Hockey League’s Texas Stars in July 2018 and this summer was named an assistant coach with the NHL’s Ottawa Senators.

Butler missed time early last season with the North Bay Battalion due to health concerns before returning mid-season.

He’s been a mainstay behind the bench of the Battalion and the only coach the franchise has known when the Battalion joined the OHL in 1998 in Brampton.

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With the exhibition schedules winding down in all three CHL leagues, the trade front has been relatively quiet in all three leagues as teams set their rosters.

A pair of deals involving goaltenders were completed in the OHL recently, including the Guelph Storm dealing overage netminder Anthony Popovich to the Flint Firebirds for a pair of draft picks. Popovich was the Storm starter as the team won the OHL title last season.

In the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the trade front has remained quiet during the pre-season.

A slew of deals in late-August included goaltender Hugo Chaisson being dealt twice in the same day. The Chicoutimi Sagueneens dealt Chaisson to the Drummondville Voltigeurs for veteran defenceman Hugo Savinsky. The Voltigeurs proceeded to send Chaisson to the Charlottetown Islanders for defenceman Nathan Martel.

In the Western Hockey League, many of the pre-season deals have seen teams move prospects who have played limited games at the WHL level.

The most recent trade had the Portland Winterhawks send goaltender Evan Fradette to the Medicine Hat Tigers in exchange for an eighth round draft pick in 2021.

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