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Ice confident offseason of changes will result in better season on the pond

Bruce Fuhr
By Bruce Fuhr
September 25th, 2014

There is more than a few changes coming to the Kootenay Ice Major Midget team.

Not only is the team now based out of the Heritage City but the hockey club is getting the finishing touches put on their own dressing room — the old Nelson Leafs digs — in the Civic Centre Arena.

“It is definitely going to be different this year,” said Ice head coach Rob Wright on the eve of the BC Major Midget Hockey League season.

“Our whole program is based out of Nelson, we have a new dressing room here and all of our games will be played here in Nelson.”

“So instead of what I call in the past a “Gypsy Team” we’re based out of one community.”

The BC Hockey Major Midget League was established in 2004 to give the elite 15, 16 and 17 year old players in the province an opportunity to play within their own age group at a high level and be developed for the next level of hockey.

Unfortunately, the plan doesn’t work so well here in the Kootenays where there’s the opportunity for many of those same elite players to play in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League having fives franchises based in the area.

“We’re trying to build a professional program and I believe that is a main reason why we’ve been able to get our 16-year-olds back,” explained Wright, who has won the KIJHL title with the Nelson Leafs.

“Players are beginning to understand Major Midget is very highly recruited and very highly scouted.”

“(And in the BCMMHL) they’re playing against players their own age and not against young men,” he added.

After experiencing the pitfall in year one behind the bench, Wright, joined by a host of interest hockey personal, decided to re-work the program beginning in the off season.

“We’ve done a massive amount of (offseason) work,” Wright said, with players on the roster from Cranbrook, Castlegar, Montrose, Trail, Rossland, Nakusp, Crescent Valley and Nelson.

“We’ve recruited, we promoted . . . we have a lot of good people involved this year. We have a non-parent manager in Kari Carr, we have a great coaching staff in myself and Brian Jones and (former Nelson Leafs coach) Bill McDonnell is helping us out this year with our goaltenders so everything is looking really good.”

The Ice, finishing last season out of the playoffs with 6-28-6 record, open the regular season Saturday in Richmond with a two-game set against Greater Vancouver Canadiens.

The games are part of a Showcase Weekend where all teams play at one location, giving junior and college scouts a chance to watch all players.

The other Showcase is scheduled for January 24-25.

Both Showcases will be held at the world-class Richmond Oval facility in greater Vancouver.

Wright said this season Ice officials are trying to make the program a win-win for midget-aged players throughout the Kootenays.

“We’re trying to open the team up to the KIJHL where players will play and practice with teams and in part the KI is trying to open itself up to the BC Junior so we’re all trying to work together,” Wright said.

“I’m a big fan of the KIJHL having coached in it, but this is a fantastic league for the 15-16-year-olds and some 17-year-olds as well.”

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