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Former OHLer Cameron Wind off to St. Mary’s University

By Gene Pereira, Special to Postmedia Network

With his Ontario Hockey League career — spent entirely with the Brampton Battalion — having come to an end, Barrie native Cameron Wind is taking his game to the East Coast. He joins a talented blue-line with the St. Mary’s Huskies. The 21-year-old says he plans to study business at the university. QMI AGENCY FILES

With his Ontario Hockey League career — spent entirely with the Brampton Battalion — having come to an end, Barrie native Cameron Wind is taking his game to the East Coast. He joins a talented blue-line with the St. Mary’s Huskies. The 21-year-old says he plans to study business at the university. QMI AGENCY FILES

With no offer from a National Hockey League club on the table, Barrie native Cameron Wind never really had a doubt what his next step would be.

With his five-year Ontario Hockey League career with the Brampton Battalion having come to an end, Wind is sure what’s best for him right now is going to school and getting a degree.

Beginning this fall, Wind will attend St. Mary’s University in Halifax, N.S., where he’ll also man the blue-line for the Huskies.

“I guess I’m at a point in my life where I’m ready to go to school and get a degree,” said the personable 21-year-old, who was considered to be among the top shutdown blue-liners in the OHL the last couple of seasons.

“I see guys like (Mississauga’s) Riley Brace signing one- or two-year deals in the (American Hockey League). I think I just want to get my degree first off (so I can) have that in my back pocket before I pursue hockey.”

Wind makes it clear he’s not giving up on playing pro hockey.

Far from it.

For now, though, he knows the importance of having a good education and signing a minor pro deal now would mean giving up all the funding the OHL provides for his education.

“Once you sign that (pro) deal, I lose all my OHL money right off the bat,” said Wind, whose family emphasizes the importance of education, pointing out that his older sister recently graduated from Brock University.

For every year a player plays pro hockey, they lose a year of their Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) eligibility.

“It’s a tough decision. It’s a tough decision for a lot of guys, but I just decided that school is going to more important for me at this point in my life than chasing a dream,” Wind said. “I’ve kind of put that hold for a little bit and I can get my degree and figure it out afterwards.”

Like all junior hockey players, Wind dreamed of playing in the NHL someday.

Passed over in the NHL Entry Draft, he was hoping to finish his overage season strong in hopes of landing a free-agent deal.

He had previously been invited and taken part in the San Jose Sharks rookie camp the season before and was invited again this season, but NHL labour strife put an end to that.

“I had an invite back to their (Sharks) rookie camp this season and, of course, the lockout happened,” said Wind, who has been taking classes at the University of Guelph for the last three years. “There was no rookie camp to go to, so I guess I kind of lost out on that opportunity.”

Wind is confident the opportunity will still be there to play pro hockey down the road, a road that may lead to him one day playing in Europe.

He points to his dad’s strong roots in Holland and has many teammates and friends who have a pro career in Europe.

“Look at (Ryan) O’Connor. I talked to him all year about going to school and he ended up signing a real good deal in Davos ,” Wind said of the former Barrie Colts captain, who recently inked a five-year deal to play with HC Davos in Switzerland’s top league. “I work out with a ton of guys during the summer that go out and play in Europe.

“I just think it’s important for me to get that degree. It’s kind of hard to go out and do things the other way around. I can go out to the East Coast (Hockey League), play hockey for a couple of years and say, ‘Oh, geez! I don’t have a degree. I don’t have anything to fall back on’, so I want to do it the other way around.”

Wind always liked the idea of playing hockey out east. While he kept his focus on helping the Battalion during last season, a few phone conversations with former Brampton teammate and current Huskies blue-liner Kyle Pereira about his experiences at St. Mary’s got him thinking.

With his junior career done, Wind looked strongly considered his options of playing here in Ontario or out east, before deciding St. Mary’s was the best fit for him.

He’s just one of many ex-OHLers who have gone out east to play CIS hockey.

Former Colt blue-liner Ryan Gottschalk just finished up his university career, leading St. Mary’s to last year’s University Cup championship final where they fell, 2-0, to New Brunswick and former Barrie Colts goaltender Dan LaCosta.

“You can’t beat what they can offer out there,” Wind said. “The hockey is better, they can offer better packages out there. With existing school package I have now, it definitely helps.

“And I’ve got a lot of good friends that play out there, so I’m just excited for the opportunity to move out east and experience Eastern Canada.”

Wind, who admits he’s not exactly sure what he wants to do for a career should hockey not pan out, will be studying business at St. Mary’s.

He had been previously leaning towards kinesiology or a science-based program, but decided with the business classes he had taken from the University of Guelph and St. Mary’s having a “good” finance program that he would fall back on studying business. 

“I still have pretty much have two years to decide exactly what I want to do,” he said. “Business is broad enough that you can basically do what you want. Once you start to specialize your last couple of years and do a master’s program it sets you up pretty well for the future.”

The six-foot-one, 216-pound defenceman still finds it hard to believe his junior career is over. He’s listened to now former Battalion teammates as they discuss the franchise’s move up to North Bay this summer and the transition that comes with it.

Despite sporting the rival green of the Battalion over the last few years, Wind says he’ll always remember playing at the Barrie Molson Centre.

“I always got a lot of nice comments and support when I was in that arena,” he said.

He’s also disappointed the Battalion, who were eliminated in the first round by Sudbury, didn’t get a chance to face the Colts in last season’s playoffs.

Though it’s likely Barrie wasn’t too disappointed Brampton was eliminated after their Central Division rivals won five of six regular-season meetings between the two clubs.

Wind reminded friends and Barrie veterans Steven Beyers, Mark Scheifele and O’Connor of that when he talked to them just before the end of the season.

“I was saying, ‘I think we’re the only team that you guys didn’t want to play in the playoffs,’” Wind said, adding a chuckle. “We just some how had Barrie’s number through the season.

“I wish we could have played Barrie. I love playing Barrie in the playoffs,” Wind added.

And while he was happy to finish his junior career in Brampton, the Barrie native admits he wouldn’t have minded one bit had his hometown club traded for him.

“I thought, ‘Man, it would have been awesome had I got traded to Barrie for my last year or even the year before,” he said. “Barrie was good both those years. That would have been fun to make a run with my hometown team.”

Wind is busy now, though, working out and getting ready to head to Halifax on Aug. 31.

He could have headed out to St. Mary’s earlier this summer for a couple of hockey camps, but he decided to remain in Barrie and make some money with his summer job, while keeping in shape with regular workouts.

He does plan, though, to get some relaxation time in there. This month, he’ll be heading up to former teammate and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Sam Carrick’s cottage. 

Wind will join a talented Huskies blue-line this season that features former OHLers Michael D’Orazio and Jamie Doornbosch.

As for his role, he hopes it’s the same one he had in Brampton.

“They really don’t have a shut-down guy, so I’m hoping I can step in there and play that shut down role like I did in Brampton,” he said. 

Wind can’t wait to start his journey at St. Mary’s.

“I’m definitely ready for it at this point in my life,” he said.

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