The 100 Mile House Wranglers season is officially set to start the first week of October.
Although that’s a month later than the season’s normal start time, team management said the delay will hopefully increase the chances of fans being allowed to watch the action at the South Cariboo Rec Centre.
The news comes after the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League hosted its annual general meeting June 12. Wranglers president Greg Aiken said the excitement for the coming season is starting to mount.
“The board is super excited about us playing again this year, and the fan reaction that we’ve had so far is amazing,” Aiken said. “Everyone is pumped about us playing again.”
The Wranglers will play a 42-game regular season that will see them taking part in less travel throughout the province than usual.
They will play against the four teams in their division eight times each – four home and four away – and face off against the other conference teams only twice during the season.
Aiken said this year’s format will save the team some money on travel costs, and the stress of driving long distances in potentially bad weather.
The next step over the summer will be recruiting players to the Wranglers, Aiken said, noting that coach Dale Hladun is back in town and has already started the scouting process.
“We’re working on setting up some camps where we can evaluate some young players,” Aiken said, noting that they also have some vets from two years ago that they’re hoping to bring back.
“Hopefully we don’t have to start as an all-rookie team. If we can have some vets on the roster who will show some leadership in the dressing room and on the ice, that would be ideal.”
The team will be visiting training camps in Smithers and Quesnel over the next few months before booking their main camp at the end of summer, once the ice is in at the arena in late August.
“We’ll want to have our players evaluated and a roster tentatively figured out before that,” Aiken said.
In the meantime, Wrangler board members and volunteers can be found at the South Cariboo Farmers’ Market over the summer, where they’ll be selling barbecued burgers and hot dogs one Friday per month to raise funds.
Aiken said the support has been “huge” so far and he looks forward to hockey fans being able to return to the arena in time for the puck to drop this fall, if restrictions allow.
“Hopefully we are allowed to have enough fans so that everyone who wants to come can come and cheer the team on.”