South Peace News
The High Prairie Red Wings are gearing up for the first season in the new National Junior Hockey League.
The team has announced training camp opens Sept. 25.
The Red Wings open their regular season Oct. 6 in Edson against the Eagles before their home opener Oct. 7 against the Fox Creek Ice Kings at 7:30 p.m.
Team general manager and owner Kevin Hopfner is confident about another winning season after the Red Wings won the West Division championship in the Greater Metro Hockey League the last three seasons.
“The team is shaping up very well,” Hopfner says.
“We expect to be a very competitive team again this year.”
Half of the players are returning and a lot of new players from Western Canada have recently signed on, he notes.
“We are also working on a couple of U.S. players and possibly a couple of players from overseas,” Hopfner says.
He is also optimistic that games will be more entertaining as the Alberta teams transition into a new league.
Other teams include the Gibbons Pioneers and the Northern Alberta Crush in Thorsby after the team was based in Enoch and known as the Tomahawks.
“Other teams will definitely be more competitive as the new coaches have had a full season to prepare for this year,” Hopfner says.
“Teams that are more competitive will definitely increase the fan base.”
During its inaugural season, the NJHL will play with Alberta teams only and not teams in British Columbia.
Local fans could also see the top players showcase their skills at a special game.
“We have been selected to host the all-star game if we wish to host it,” Hopfner says.
“However, that depends on what type of support we get from the community – it is a big event.”
Each team will play 42 games in the regular season.
The schedule was released Aug. 31.
Hopfner and the Red Wings look forward to playing a new season in a new league in a modernized Sports Palace. The Town of High Prairie has installed a new refrigerated concrete pad and dasher boards at the aging arena.