The High Prairie Red Wings continue to prepare for the first season in the new National Junior Hockey League.
After four years in the Greater Metro Hockey League, the Red Wings and other teams look to a brighter future in the NJHL.
“The league is all set up and ready to go for the 2023-24 season,” says Kevin Hopfner, Red Wings’ owner and general manager and the team representative on the league board of directors.
“We meet weekly via zoom and we are in the process of narrowing down our search for a league commissioner.”
Each team in the league will also have a board of directors with citizens from the community.
Anyone interested is requested to contact Hopfner or head coach Trent Meyaard.
For the inaugural season, the league will play with Alberta teams only and not teams in British Columbia.
Besides the Red Wings, the Alberta teams include the Fox Creek Ice Kings, the Edson Eagles, the Enoch Northern Alberta Tomahawks and the Gibbons Pioneers, who previously played in the Greater Metro Hockey League.
“Since was want to grow the league strategically, we have decided to take a one-season hiatus with the B.C. division,” Hopfner says.
“B.C. will start up again for the 2024-25 season with several more teams in place.”
Teams from B.C. include the Mackenzie Mountaineers, the Burns Lake Timbermen and the Kitimat Saax.
While the Red Wings dominated the GMHL West Division the past four seasons, he says fans can expect stronger opposition.
“The league will definitely be more competitive as teams are signing skilled players from across Canada, the U.S. and Europe,” Hopfner says.
“With the league as a whole being more competitive, we expect a stronger fan base.”
Training camp will start either Sept. 18 or 25 depending on when the ice goes in at the Sports Palace, he says.
Each team will play 42 games in the regular season.
“Game nights have yet to be determined, however they will most likely be Friday and Saturday,” Hopfner says.
“We may throw in Thursday and Sunday games to see how that works.”
The new league is being heavily promoted on social media.
He says the Red Wings are busy recruiting players.
“We have an open tryout camp in Cochrane on Aug. 9,” Hopfner says.
“Then on Aug. 10, in conjunction with the Federal Prospects Hockey League of of New York, we will be having tryouts for any current or former players wishing to play professionally.”
The Red Wings have already signed several players as the team requires more billets for the upcoming season.
Anyone interested in taking in a billet is requested to contact Hopfner, Meyaard, or others involved in the team.
by Richard Froese