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Family connections led to Justin Ertel signing with Summerside Western Capitals

Chris McQuaid breaks in on the goal during a recent Summerside Western Capitals’ practice at Eastlink Arena. The Caps open the regular season at home against the Valley Wildcats on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Chris McQuaid breaks in on the goal during a recent Summerside Western Capitals’ practice at Eastlink Arena. The Caps open the regular season at home against the Valley Wildcats on Saturday at 7 p.m. - Contributed
SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. —

Often in sports, it’s the story behind a journey that is captivating.

A case in point is Justin Ertel’s signing with the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals of the Maritime Junior Hockey League (MHL).

At first glance, this is a 17-year-old looking to capitalize on an opportunity to further his hockey career.

Justin Ertel recently signed with the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals. He played last season at St. Andrew’s College in Aurora, Ont. - Paul Mosey, St. Andrew's College • Special to The Guardian
Justin Ertel recently signed with the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals. He played last season at St. Andrew’s College in Aurora, Ont. - Paul Mosey, St. Andrew's College • Special to The Guardian

But with COVID-19 restrictions in place, it remains unknown when Ertel will debut with the Caps, who have not played a game since Nov. 21 and are 3-1-1 (won-lost-overtime losses).

This much is known, though – Ertel’s journey to Summerside was paved through connections between his family and Caps head coach Billy McGuigan dating back to the 1990s.

“That’s how the hockey world works,” said McGuigan, a former major junior and minor pro player. “When you play four, five or six years in different places, there are 20 players on every team, and you make 20 contacts and more with each team. It’s great to have contacts all over the place.”

Association with family

McGuigan began his association with the Ertel family when he joined the Ontario Hockey League’s Kitchener Rangers as a player during the 1994-95 season. Justin’s grandfather, Bob Ertel, was the Rangers general manager at the time.

Also, in the mid-1990s, Justin’s father, Tyler Ertel, played three seasons with the Charlottetown-based UPEI Panthers and became friends with McGuigan, a Charlottetown native.

“I was away playing pro (when Tyler Ertel was playing at UPEI), and when I would come home, I would skate and hang out with the guys at UPEI in the spring and fall,” said McGuigan.

“Tyler and I became friends, and that was 25 years ago. We shared a lot of laughs and a lot of fun over a few years and have stayed friends.

“We have kept in contact ever since leading up to about three months ago when we really started talking about Justin. It was a call or text every week.”

Justin said he is fortunate “for my dad and my grandpa to have those connections”.

The younger Ertel will complete his 14-day self-isolation in Summerside this week and is looking forward to starting to skate with the Capitals.

In addition, the history between the Ertel and McGuigan families will continue beyond the rink as Justin will move in with McGuigan and his family in Summerside once his 14-day self-isolation concludes this week.


Roster Deadline


Due to a later-than-normal start and pauses in the 2020-21 regular-season schedule, the Maritime Junior Hockey League (MHL) has announced an extension of the trade deadline.
The trade deadline, which is traditionally Jan. 10, has been moved to Feb. 25.
The 12-team league is currently on pause due to COVID-19.


Power forward

At six-foot-two and 190 pounds, Ertel describes himself as a power forward who tries to capitalize on his size.

“I want to use my offensive ability whenever our team has the puck,” said Ertel, a native of Mississauga, Ont. “I want to make plays and try and make my teammates better.

“I want to try and put the puck in the net and try and contribute to the team.”

Ertel comes to the Caps from St. Andrew’s College in Aurora, Ont. Last season, Ertel put up impressive numbers with St. Andrew’s in two different leagues. He had 93 points, including 40 goals, in 56 regular-season games in the CAHS, and registered 11 goals and 27 points in 12 regular-season contests in the CISAA.

Ertel has committed to attend Cornell University and play NCAA Division 1 college hockey.

Caps general manager Pat McIver said it’s exciting to add a young prospect like Ertel.

“He’s an offensive player,” said McIver. “He’s very, very skilled. He has good size. We think he’s going to be a well-rounded player.

“He’s coming from a great hockey program, and they turn out good players there all the time. We feel we are getting an all-around good player and are looking forward to seeing his skill.”

Ertel is confident he can have a smooth transition to the junior A level. He noted he has always trained with older players.

“It’s going to be a big step for hockey,” he said. “I’m trying to not change too much but still have that confidence in my game.”

Ertel is eligible and has been attracting some interest for the 2021 National Hockey League Entry Draft.

McGuigan said he has spoken to some NHL scouts, who have told him Ertel is definitely on the radar of teams.

“We are getting a real good character kid who is poised,” said McGuigan. “He’s going to be an excellent addition to our hockey club.”

More moves

The Capitals also recently announced the acquisition of 18-year-old forwards Mark Hillier and Cole Galata from the British Columbia Hockey League’s Surrey Eagles.

In return, the Eagles receive future considerations, which is often cash.
Hillier and Galata played last year with the recently-acquired Justin Ertel and formed arguably one of the top lines with Aurora, Ont.-based St. Andrew’s College in North American college hockey.
“We are excited to add Mark and Cole (along with Justin) to our lineup,” said Caps general manager Pat McIver. “They played together last year and (as a line) had over 300 points.
“We look forward to seeing that chemistry carry over to our team here in Summerside.”
The six-foot-one Hillier is from Labrador City, N.L. He had 112 points, including 52 goals, in 56 games with St. Andrew’s College last season.
Galata, who stands five-foot-11, registered 32 goals and 101 points in 54 games during the 2019-20 campaign.
Hillier and Galata arrived on P.E.I. Tuesday. They will join the Caps once they complete their 14-day quarantine.

Jason Simmonds is The Guardian's sports reporter. He can be reached by email at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @JpsportsJason .

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