After nearly a year-and-a-half off the ice, the 100 Mile House Wranglers are getting ready to make a comeback.
Head coach Dale Hladun said he is back in town and prepared to rebuild his team for the upcoming season. The Wranglers suspended all games and practices last fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve been pretty proud of the organization’s decision to go dark. Looking back now I think there’s a lot of clubs that wished they would have followed our lead,” said Hladun, who spent that time off with his family in Manitoba. “From what I understand, the Wrangler’s executive did a lot of work in that dark season. They did raffles, fundraising and were quite involved.”
However, getting the old team back is not going to happen. Thanks to a mix of new opportunities and aging out, there are only two players from the old club returning for this season. Although this might seem like a daunting task, Hladun is confident, noting that when the Wranglers first got started years ago with Doug Rogers, they started with no players and yet built a team that led to future champions.
“I’m sure we can do the same thing now. Our team will be a lot younger but I’m going to go to a lot of camps and guerilla warfare it a bit,” Hladun said.
The Wranglers usually have 22 of the 25 players, which the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League allows them to field. Hladun hopes to find at least 20 players to fill out his roster before the season’s home opener on Oct. 2. The rest of the season is still being scheduled and will be released after the summer.
As junior hockey leagues across Canada are starting their seasons at different times depending on provincial health guidelines, Hladun said he’ll be at camps scouting players every weekend until September. He’ll also be running three camps of his own to cast a wider net.
His camps will run at the Smithers Aena Aug. 13-14, at the Quesnel Twin Arenas Aug. 21-22 and at Shulus Community Arena in Merritt Sept. 3-5 for those born between 2006 to 2001. Hladun also plans to attend camps in Langley, Edmonton, Chilliwack and Calgary.
“It’s a lot of work but we’ve got to find them.”
At the camps, Hladun will be looking for not only talent but personalities compatible with living in the Cariboo. Not every player is suited to living in a small town so he likes finding people who want to get involved in the community and will serve as a good role model in the spotlight.
Hladun believes 100 Mile House is the place to come to for young hockey players this year. Not only do the Wranglers provide them with lots of opportunities but its open roster means there’s plenty of space for players looking to make a name for themselves.
He also anticipates a real hunger for hockey in the community this year.
“The way I look at the arena of every community it’s kind of the church of the whole town. All denominations go there, business is done there, friends meet and kids play. Everything happens at the rink on game night. I think getting back there is going to be exciting for the whole community.”
Any players interested in trying out for the Wranglers are encouraged to reach out to Hladun at email@example.com. As he and many of the other coaches haven’t been able to watch hockey for months now, he advises young players to take the initiative if they want to play.