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Hodgson, Duchene set to enter Hall

BRAMPTON, Ont. – The international hockey successes of the Brampton Battalion’s Cody Hodgson and Matt Duchene are to be recognized Wednesday night.

Hodgson and Duchene, centres for the Ontario Hockey League club, are among eight persons being inducted into the Brampton Sports Hall of Fame in a ceremony at the Pearson Convention Centre. The group includes left winger Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets of the National Hockey League.

Hodgson, Canada’s leading scorer, helped the host team to gold at the World Junior Championship at Ottawa in January after he and Duchene were members of the title-winning Canadian entry in the World Under-18 Championship in Russia in April, 2008.

“We have a constitution that we operate under,” Dean McLeod, chairman of the Hall of Fame committee, said Tuesday. “Many years ago, a clause was put in that any athlete who lives in Brampton or plays for a Brampton-based team and wins a world championship in a major sport or goes to the Olympics, Pan American or Commonwealth Games and wins a medal is elected to the Hall of Fame.”

Duchene and Hodgson, 18 and 19 respectively, aren’t the youngest inductees. That distinction goes to swimmer Allison Higson, who was 13 when enshrined in 1986.

“It was a surprise when I found out, but it’s a huge honour,” Duchene said via telephone from his home in Haliburton, Ont. “I’m proud to be part of this, and I’m really looking forward to it. We’ve had some good opportunities to represent the Battalion and our country.”

While Duchene and Hodgson are slated to be the first Battalion players inducted, team owner Scott Abbott was enshrined in 2005. Duchene will attend the ceremony, but Hodgson is with the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose, who have advanced to meet the Hershey Bears in the Calder Cup final.

“It’s great to know that we’re the first two players to go in,” said Duchene. “It’s great going in with a guy like Nash, who has played a lot of great hockey not only in the NHL but in the Olympics and world championships.”

Wednesday also marks the first of three days Duchene is expected to spend at the NHL combine at Toronto, where more than 100 of the best draft-eligible players will undergo fitness testing and interviews.

Duchene is ranked third among North American-based players in the final Central Scouting rankings for the NHL Entry Draft, to be conducted June 26-27 at Montreal.

“This gives the scouts and the team management one more opportunity to see what kind of competitor you are in the fitness testing and what kind of person you are in the interviews. It’s not something you can take lightly. It’ll be pretty hectic.”

With the Battalion’s season having ended May 8 in a Game 5 loss to the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL Championship Series, Duchene had little time to prepare for the fitness testing.

“I didn’t take any time off. Even though I had a short time to get ready for the combine, I wanted to go in and be ready to compete and do as well as I could.”

With the New York Islanders holding the No. 1 pick, Duchene spent three days on Long Island last week meeting with club representatives.

“They have a big decision to make with that pick, and there’s a lot of pressure there. They just want to do as much research as they can so they know what direction they want to go in. They wanted to go more in-depth than they would at the combine.”

Duchene, who has played two seasons with the Battalion, said he expects to take part in an on-ice session at the Troops’ two-day orientation camp, which opens Saturday.

“It’ll be fun. When I came to my first camp, it was good to have some of the older guys there to know what you had to do to play in the OHL. It’s definitely beneficial for the new guys to see what the veterans do on a regular basis.”

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