The National Junior Hockey League (the one the Slave Lake Icedogs would likely be playing in if they hadn’t folded) added another team to the fledgling league, about a month before the season is due to begin.
And it’s a team that appears to be without a home.
The Northern Alberta Lightning, who very likely will not be based in Viking this season, are looking for a community to call home. However, they join the High Prairie Red Wings, Edson Eagles, Fox Creek Ice Kings, Gibbons Pioneers and Northern Alberta Crush for play in the NJHL this season. The league is rapidly drawing up a new schedule. No official date for the Lightning’s entry was published on the league’s website.
Red Wings’ owner Kevin Hopfner says the Lightning chose to leave its former league (the Canadian-American Junior Hockey League, or CAJHL) due to ‘internal issues,” and that the Red Wings are “extremely pleased” to have them join the NJHL.
However, the CAJHL website tells a different story about the break with the Lightning. It cites “the teams failure to meet their financial commitments and adherence to league governance.”
That has not deterred the NJHL from welcoming the Lightning with open arms.
Lightning owner Michael Renner admits he did not pay his league dues, simply because he was leaving.
“Basically, I told them I would pay my fees if they delivered on what they promised,” Renner told the High Prairie South Peace News.
Renner says he officially joined the NJHL at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 11.
“As soon as the announcement came out, I started signing players,” he says.
However, the town of Viking cancelled his ice agreement, leaving no place for the Lightning to play.
“I’m negotiating with a couple of places,” he told the News.
The High Prairie Red Wings spent four seasons in the GMHL West Division, winning three league titles. All the teams in the GMHL West joined the new NJHL this past spring, except the Slave Lake Icedogs.
by Chris Clegg