Dale Hladun knows he needs to snap up as many Quesnel recruits as he can before a potential KIJHL comes to the city.
The coach of the KIJHL’s 100 Mile House Wranglers (and former Quesnel Millionaire coach) was in Quesnel on Aug. 21/22 running an identification camp inside Arena 2.
An expansion bid for Quesnel to join the KIJHL for the 2022/2023 season is being worked on, led by entrepreneur Rob McMillan.
“Who wouldn’t want to play in this palace?” Hladun asked. “What’s weird is it would be exciting to have (Quesnel) as one of the flagship franchises, but they’d be an arch-rival and I’m gonna have to work a lot harder to recruit players, but that’s the name of the game.”
Hladun wasn’t sure what effect adding two new teams to the KIJHL -Williams Lake is also planning an expansion bid – would make on recruiting.
“I don’t have all that math, I’m just worried about having a defenceman,” he quipped.
The Wranglers didn’t play at all during the 2020/2021 season, due to COVID-19 concerns. It proved to be a sign of things to come, as teams in the KIJHL only played three games before the competitive season was shut down.
“I was pretty proud of our organization to go dark,” Hladun said. “In the end, the joke I make is we didn’t play at all and we only finished five points out of first.”
The camp consisted of two teams playing four games against each other over the weekend. While other camps were cancelled due to Interior Health COVID-19 restrictions, Quesnel’s location in Northern Health meant the Wranglers were one of few teams able to run a proper camp.
Hladun said the purpose of these camps is to plant the seed of KIJHL in younger players, but hinted some Quesnel players could see action for the Wranglers this season, which is set to kick off on Oct. 2.
The Wranglers already announced a signing from the Quesnel camp, 18-year-old 100 Mile House product Ethan Sanders.
“I think our community is looking forward to it,” he said. “I bet you our exhibition games are gonna rock. There is a lot of energy right now to get the Wranglers home.”
Hladun said he was looking forward to all hockey starting for a relatively normal season this fall.
“The rink is the cathedral of the community, and all denominations go there,” he said. “To have a game night out for junior hockey — that’s an event. Business gets done, families get a night out. There’s a ton of value in that.”
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