While the warm temperatures seemingly have no end in sight, there’s one sign that cooler temperatures may be just around the corner: hockey.
The 100 Mile House Wranglers are gearing up for another season and coach Dale Hladun is preparing for the fall tryout camp on Sept. 1.
“It’s still a ways away and yet it’s right around the corner,” says Hladun.
“Over the next few weeks, I’ll be on the road going to different BC Hockey League tryout camps. A lot of the kids, even our own team that could come back are going to Junior A or the Western Hockey League seeing if they can make it,” he says.
“It’s hard to get a commitment out of people until they put in their time at the Junior A tryouts.”
He says he spent the past week reaching out to potential players who are invited to the camp.
“It’s funny, but all this chaos we had this summer with the wildfires and the road closures affected how many kids are coming to camp because some people don’t realize we’re still open for business here.”
While Hladun says any camp “worth its peanuts” would have about 30 to 40 players, he figures due to the wildfires he’s likely to see maybe 30 at this year’s fall camp.
“That’s fine. I don’t need a ton of traffic to figure out where the drivers are.”
He says he’ll be structuring the camp so that right off the bat he can evaluate skill, and then throw the players into game situations.
“There’s not a ton of teaching at camp, more so running and seeing what they know, what’s their compete level. Then, as it evolves, what I’ll do with the first couple of ice times is do a little bit of skill work and then go into games. Then, as the camp goes on, I’ll start running some structured practices because I want us to look organized. I don’t want to watch shinny hockey, I want to watch organized hockey. We’ll see the coachability.”
The team is scheduled to play two exhibition games against Kamloops at the end of the weekend.
Based off the camp, Hladun figures he will be able to pick the skeleton of the team, particularly players that are still school-aged. Otherwise, the older player are often still trying out for A level teams or are still working. Some players are even fighting fires.
Hladun says he’s not worried.
“I know the talent level that will show up,” he says.
“I have a sense of the direction we’ll go but I really don’t know how we’ll be until late October. That being said I’m confident because the kids I’ve been talking to and the returning vets, on paper we’ve got a pretty good core so I’m confident we’ll be pretty competitive and if I land a few fish as the season goes on, we’ll be in contention for the top two spot in our division.”
Otherwise, he says he’s been working with the executive to plan out the season with regards to games, practices and the home opening weekend, where he hopes hockey fans will be able to meet the Wranglers, new and old, face to face.
Their first regular season game at home will be Sept. 15 against Sicamous.
Until then, Hladun says the organization is still on the lookout for billet families for players.
He says previous families were attached to their player and are taking breaks while others have moved away.
“We’ve got to find at least two or three more homes,” he says.
“I think people would enjoy the experience of having the guys,” he says.
“There’s been a couple of young families that have come in for minor hockey so right away you have a Wrangler in the house talking the game and helping them on the ice. I think they’d be excited and enjoy that.”
While he says he understands the unknown of having a teenage boy in the house, the Wranglers are good in the community and well received in their homes.
“Once the boys are there, the families become so attached, with not just the players but their own families because the mom and dad will come and visit so it’s kind of a unique cool thing to have happen,” he says.
“You’ve got to remember they’re pretty serious about being athletes so there are curfews and there are rules… there’s more things to be accountable for so I think any home that ends up with the boys should have the peace of mind that they are going to enjoy the experience,” he says.
“What I usually tell the boys is ‘Hey boys, it’s easier for me to find a new player than a new billet so you behave.’”
Those interested in hosting a Wrangler are encouraged to call, even with just a question, Kim McCoy at 150-395-8085 or email her at email@example.com.
Outside of hockey, Hladun is hoping to see the Wranglers become an even bigger part of the community.
“Especially after what has happened this summer we’re going to be even more connected with our community and helping, however, we can. Some people may need some fencing done, some people may need yard work done. We’ve got a whole bunch of able bodied boys who can help out so we want to really connect with our community.”