It might be June, but this will be a fairly busy month for WHL teams.
Clubs will meet in Regina in a few weeks to make up the Western Hockey League schedule for the 2011-2012 season and thenon June 29th, the CHL Import draft will take place, a few days after the NHl draft. Recently, I sat down with Hurricanes Head Coach and G.M. Rich Preston to talk about both of those things.
Pat: Scheduling meetings take place in a couple of weeks. I know this year the U.S. teams have to come to Lethbridge and the Hurricanes will have to go out to B.C. a couple of times. What are you hoping for going into making up the schedule?
Preston: "Well, first off it'll be exciting to go to Victoria and play there for the first time. I know the league has wanted to get back on the island for a while now. The U.S. teams will be coming to Lethbridge this coming season and we have to go out to B.C. twice. We will play in Prince George twice this year. All the scheduling with the U.S. teams and the B.C. Division has been done. Now when we get together for our scheduling meeting we will fill in the rest of the schedule with the Eastern Conference and our trips to Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The last part of scheduling will be our division."
Pat: The last couple of years the Hurricanes have had to start on the road for the first couple of weeks because of on-going renovations at the ENMAX Centre. Do you hope to hold the home-opener earlier this coming season?
Preston: "Yes Pat! That's the good news. With the way the building has been coming along, we will open the season with the first two games on the road, likely in our division. Then the following weekend, which in the September 30th weekend we will open at home. So, it's come down from 8 straight on the road to start the season in 2009, to 5 on the road last season, to just two away this coming year! It's pretty much 100% for sure this is what will happen this fall."
Pat: What do you have planned for a pre-season schedule this year?
Preston: "The last couple of years we went to play in a tournament in Tri-City. It was good, but we're not going this season and will stay close to home this fall for pre-season. We have four scheduled exhibition games already in the area and we're hoping to get at least one more, maybe two."
Pat: Are you looking forward to playing in the newly renovated ENMAX Centre in a few months?
Preston: "Well, this coming season with the new scoreclock, which is up now, the suites, and the closest thing to our hearts is our new dressing room! That's scheduled to be ready in October, so we won't get in there right away, but you never know. If the weather cooperates, they might be able speed things up, but that's the good news. The players are looking forward to it and this will be a first-class facility as far as our dressing room is concerned, with a real good fitness and conditioning facility. We're really looking forward to it."
Pat: The Euro draft takes place at the end of this month. Jacob Berglund is a 20 year old and would take up two spots on the roster, so I assume he's not coming back. Alex Kuvaev didn't get a lot of playing time in the last half of the season. Do you bring him back? I know you'll get a rather high pick, in the top 15 in the CHL Import draft. What are your plans for that?
Preston: "Well, we're still exploring the possibility of bringing Alex back. Berglund won't be back, so we will have one import spot for sure. I've been talking to a lot of agents who represent many of the European players and have talked to scouts who've seen these players in action. You have to make sure these players want to come over here and play. A lot of players, especially Swedes and Finns don't want to come over as readily as they have in the past. Some would rather stay over there and play in the Swedish Elite League for instance. As for Alex, we're still talking to him and will make a decision on him, probably around draft time."
This blog post is brought to you by http://www.clearlylethbridge.com/.