Muskie squads add familiar faces to roster

The Muskie hockey program recently welcomed two familiar faces back into the fold just in time for this season’s playoff run.
Kevin Bobczynski and Nina Bird, both former Muskies, recently re-joined the black-and-gold after spending much of this season playing in Thunder Bay.
But while Bobczynski and Bird share the distinction of being recent additions to the Muskie hockey program, the circumstances surrounding their respective returns to town are extremely different.
Bobczynski began the season playing with the Thunder Bay ‘AAA’ Major Midget Kings.
Although he was at home on the ice (netting 13 goals and 13 assists for 26 points in 35 games), Bobczynski never felt settled off it and ultimately decided it was best to return to the familiar surroundings of Fort Frances.
“I got kind of homesick down there,” he admitted. “It was tough being away from home, I guess.
“It was a good experience but it was time to come home.”
Bird, meanwhile, had begun the season suiting up for the Thunder Bay Queens.
However, the 5’11” defender’s season was derailed by a knee injury she sustained in the club’s third tournament of the season back in October in Winnipeg.
Bird’s injury woes—and the fact she was forced to rehabilitate on her own away from her core support group—prompted her parents to bring her home.
“My parents just thought it was too hard for me to be injured down there and for them to be here,” she said. “They figured me coming back here to finish the second semester off would be better.”
Once word spread that the two players were back in town, Muskie boys’ coach Shane Bliss and Muskie girls’ coach Lynn Kellar wasted little time in extending offers to both Bobczynski and Bird to re-join their former teams.
The early results concerning the decision to bring both players back have been mixed.
Bobczynski has made his presence felt since his return to the Muskie boys’ line-up against the Dryden Eagles on Jan. 30. The 6’1”, 170-pound forward has five goals and four assists for nine points in just seven games with the black-and-gold.
“It’s nice to have Kevin back,” Bliss remarked after practice Monday night.
“He’s a guy that has played for us for a couple of years,” Bliss added. “He’s really familiar with us, and he’s also familiar with what it takes to get down to OFSAA and to be successful.
“To have an opportunity to get a guy like that back on your team, it’s pretty hard to say, ‘no,’” Bliss continued.
“Right now I’ve got him playing with [Joe] Basaraba and [Kyle] Turgeon and that line was pretty phenomenal playing in Emo [against Red Lake] on Friday night.”
However, while Bobczynski is off to a strong start, Bird has yet to make a substantial impact. In two games with the Muskie girls’ squad, she hasn’t registered a point and is playing primarily as the seventh or eighth defender.
Kellar said part of the reason for the veteran’s slow start centres around the fact she’s not entirely recovered from her earlier knee injury.
“She’s coming off a knee injury and it looks like she’s got a little ways to go in her recovery,” he said.
“From what we’ve seen so far, she’s not 100 percent healthy yet.”
But while Bird may not be physically ready to contribute at the level she normally would be capable of, Kellar believes the gamble of adding her to the active roster could pay big dividends down the road.
“If she’s healthy, she can be an asset,” he explained. “She could add some stability back there [on the blueline].
“We have a lot of young kids back there who’ve played extremely well this year but if Nina’s healthy, she could add some experience.”
For their part, both Bobczynski and Bird are simply happy to be home and playing hockey for the Muskies again.
“It’s fun being back with the boys,” Bobczynski enthused. “It’s fun playing with Joe Basaraba and Kyle Turgeon.”
“I’m glad to be back with the girls,” echoed Bird. “There’s a lot of new girls. I like them. They are fun to be around.”