Junior hockey disappeared a couple of years ago in Slave Lake, but if a local group of hockey enthusiasts gets its way, it’ll be back for the 2018/19 season. The wheels are already in motion.
“We’re doing a junior prospects game on December 28,” says Aaron Froment, the spokesman for what he says is a 13-member working committee. “A lot of kids who are out of town will be back at home then. It’d be nice to see if they’d be interested in finishing their junior careers in town.”
There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle of setting up a junior ‘B’ hockey club, and recruiting players is only one of them. Another is finding a league that will accept you.
“We’ve talked to the Northwest Junior League commissioner,” says Froment. “The league is looking at expanding.”
That was the league the Wolves played in for almost 20 years, before biting the dust after the 2014/15 season. The last few years for the Wolves were not that successful, and the final nail in the coffin happened when some local players chose to play for the Peace River Navigators instead of the Wolves.
There are two or three local players on other NWJHL teams this year, and one playing in a B.C. league, Froment says.
The Dec. 28 game is intended to “help get it started,” he says, serving to raise awareness, generate interest in players and fans for a return of junior hockey to Slave Lake, and raise a few dollars. The major fundraising push probably won’t start until a month or two into the new year.
“We’re going to be hitting the ground running,” Froment says.
One decision that’s been made already is that the new team “will not be coming back as the Wolves,” Froment says. “It’ll be a new name, new jerseys.”
What that name will be has yet to be determined. If a major sponsor steps up, it could have something to say about the name; otherwise, suggestions will be solicited from the community. Froment says it’s likely the new name and new colours will remain a secret until the home opener next fall.
There’s a lot of work to be done between now and then. Electing an executive, recruiting players and coaches, fundraising and so on. On the recruiting side, Froment says he already has a plan to “spend a lot of time in Whitecourt,” next year, to see who he might be able to pick up out of the Jr. ‘A’ camp.
“We don’t want to just put a team on the ice,” he says “We want to be competitive.”
The game on Dec. 28 goes at 5:00 p.m.