Following up a championship season, the Wetaskiwin Icemen Capital Junior Hockey League (CJHL) team is ready to once again lace up the skates and hit the rink for another year.
Icemen head coach and general manager Rob Hartnell says the team is going into the 2017-18 season with strengths and advantages already in place.
“The nice thing for us is we have a big core of players returning,” said Hartnell.
“It gives us a definite advantage over other teams in the league,” he added.
Hartnell says because of the large number of returning players, recruitment over the summer was not tough. “I think with the strength of our program now players call to see if they cam come here.”
The Icemen will attack the upcoming season with the same goals and game plan as last year, and are ready to defend their championship win and once again try and take the league title.
“I think we’ll start better. We know what it takes,” said Hartnell.
Along with squaring off against other team’s in the league, Hartnell says the Icemen are looking forward to seeing all the fans come out for the games again.
“We have the best fans, bar none, in the CJHL,” said Hartnell.
“It’s a privilege to play here. It’s a definite advantage to be an Icemen,” he added.
The Wetaskiwin Icemen also have a strong relationship with the business community and community of Wetaskiwin.
“We have by far the best group of sponsors and community backing said Hartnell.
Throughout late August and into September the Icemen also give back to Wetaskiwin’s Minor Hockey Association teams through skills camps.
Hartnell says local team players and those not from the community work hard and are willing to make themselves available for a variety of community initiatives.
Sept. 15 is the Icemen Alumni Golf Tournament. “It’s a fun tournament,” said Hartnell.
Oct. 14 is the Wetaskiwin Icemen Hockey Draft.
This year Hartnell says the Icemen, staff and affiliates are putting an increased focus on promoting the scholarship fund created several year ago, which is available to Icemen players who meet criteria.
“We’ve made it available to all players in secondary education who meet grades and keep their obligation to the Icemen,” said Hartnell.
He added just off this year’ roster there is a minimum of 10 players with a post-secondary future and each have the opportunity to apply for up to $1,000 scholarships.
Hartnell says the scholarship is in place to encourage players to go to school and balance hockey.
“In the three years I’ve been there we’ve paid out over $24,000,” said Hartnell.
League play starts Sept. 22 with a game in Leduc and the Icemen’s first home game is Sept. 24 at 6 p.m. There will also be two at home exhibition games on Sept 16 and 17 versus Killum and Ponoka, respectively. Both games have 6 p.m. start times.