Bassin's word law on playoffs

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

The Sheriff is back.

The Erie Otters will contest their first OHL playoff series in four years starting tomorrow against the London Knights. Their take-charge GM and managing partner Sherry Bassin said missing again wasn't an option.

"I told these guys we won't be taking the ice out (at Tullio Arena) on the 15th of March this year," Bassin said this week. "It's not going to happen. We're going to get back in the playoffs. We had to get back in.

"It was important for the organization."

But a return to postseason play didn't get the underdog Otters favourable weekend home dates in the best-of-seven series. The Knights plucked those and will head to Pennsylvania for Games 3 and 4 on Wednesday and Thursday.

"Believe me, I tried but our rink wasn't available," Bassin said. "If I wanted to play at home on a weekend in this series, it would've had to be on Lake Erie."

Bassin hasn't lost his great sense of humour. But personal circumstances forced the longtime OHL executive to pull back from his duties while the Otters went through their downturn.

"I had other things on my plate, other responsibilities," he said. "My daughter fell ill. It was up and down. It was important to be with my family and (since he still lives in Oshawa), there were times I couldn't drive into the office.

"So I became a part-time advisor and I didn't really like it."

Anyone who understands Bassin knows there's no part-time about it. He's back putting 80,000 kilometres on his vehicle on the scouting trail and trying to return the Otters to their former glory.

"My friends in the NHL told me, 'Sherry, you have to get back in there in Erie," he said, "so I went to my doctor and got pretty much a clean bill of health. He said, 'Sherry, you've got to take it easy.' But that's not me. I told him I can't just be an advisor and stay away from the team and he said, 'You're just like an old drunk.'

"So I told him, well, I know a lot more old drunks than I do old doctors."

The Otters finished seventh to draw the Knights but Bassin knows they had a shot at home ice in the first round.

"You look back and there was only seven points between third and seventh place and you think if this guy wasn't hurt or we didn't lose that particular game, we could've been right up there," he said. "But every team goes through that and looks at their ifs and buts and none of it matters.

"We know we have the Knights and we know the challenge. Since the Hunters took over, that team has been more than competitive every year."

It's nothing Bassin hasn't seen before. Nineteen years before Mark Hunter acquired John Tavares from Oshawa, Bassin -- then GM of the Soo Greyhounds -- traded the rights to his first overall pick Eric Lindros away to the Generals.

It was a comparable blockbuster move. The Greyhounds went on to three straight Memorial Cup appearances.

"Mark did a great job with that deal," Bassin said. "That's not an easy one to make. He had the assets in place. That's where we are right now in Erie. We have a lot of draft picks this year built up but we have to make the best of them or they're not worth anything. I think we will because we have a great scouting staff."

The Otters are upset forward Andrew Yogan (concussion) wasn't able to finish the regular season. He hasn't played since London's Zac Rinaldo belted him from behind on Feb. 13.

RYAN.PYETTE@SUNMEDIA.CA


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