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October 24, 2002 Figsby and the Stingers making strides on skates



by John Austen

Kevin Figsby doesn’t think he’s changed much as a coach since taking over the men’s hockey program at Concordia three years ago. He does feel, however, that he and his staff have had a major impact on the program, both on and off the ice.

“No, I haven’t changed, but the program surely has,” he told the Thursday Report. “We have the alumni back on board in a big way and we’re initiating a long-overdue wall of fame where the hockey greats of Sir George, Loyola and Concordia will all be honoured.

“I’m a big believer in pride and tradition,” he continued. “An example of that is in our dressing room. When a kid sits at his stall, he sees the names of all the past players that occupied that spot for the past 27 years.”

Figsby also points to the fact that the team retired sweater No. 9 in honour of Maurice Rocket Richard two years ago, and honoured the Montreal Shamrocks hockey program by wearing patches on their jerseys last year.

“I think people notice that we’re trying to do something positive here at Concordia and we’re respected for it,” he said. “That’s why the Montreal Canadiens sent some of their injured players to practice with us last year. They knew it would be a positive and professional environment for them.”

Players such as Saku Koivu, Donald Audette, Jeff Hackett and Sheldon Souray all took advantage of Concordia’s offer. Figsby also says he’s trying to get some visiting NHL clubs to practice at the Ed Meagher Arena when they’re in town.

Figsby and his staff are currently prepping for two important league games this weekend. The Stingers host the Ottawa Gee-Gees Friday (Ed Meagher Arena, 7:30 p.m.) and travel to McGill on Sunday (McConnell Arena, 2 p.m.). Last Friday, the Stingers opened their 2002-03 season with a 4-2 loss in Trois Rivières.

“That’s the team to beat,” Figsby said. “They’ve been to the national championship four years in a row.”

Figsby says his team’s outlook is good this season despite an early rash of injuries. The veteran-laden line-up is ticketed to challenge for the top spot this year.

Concordia has strong goaltending with Philippe Ozga and Chris Wilcox, as well as a solid group of forwards. “Our defence is good, too, but they’re young,” he said. “We’re building for the future at that position.”

The coaching staff is also expecting big things from highly touted Jonathan Gauthier, who was the No. 1 overall draft pick in Quebec Major Junior Hockey five years ago as a 16-year-old.

Figsby’s coaching staff includes ex-NHLer Gord Donnelly, Tom Angelitti and Peter Bender. Dr. Wayne Halliwell will also be on board to help with the team’s mental preparation.

“The psychological aspect of the game is extremely important these days,” said Figsby. “Last year when we had Wayne with us we won eight of nine games. He was a big part of the team’s success.”