The Wheatland Kings capped off their 2023-24 season, hosting their annual awards banquet April 20, at the Strathmore Family Centre. 

For the first time in franchise history, the Kings were unsuccessful in making it to the HJHL playoffs.

The banquet was hosted to celebrate the achievements by the players throughout the course of the season, with nine awards being handed out.

The awards were given to; Chase Tweit (MVP), Joel Romano (Most Dedicated), Kyle Provencher (Top Defenseman), Kobe Grosling (Top Forward), Charlie Goll (Rookie of the Year), Cole Walker (Most Improved), Cole Tweit (Top Defensive Player), Kage Yellowfly (Strathmore Times Player of the Year) and Ethan Van Egmond (King of the Year).

“Although the team did not make playoffs, the coaching staff saw a lot of tremendous growth from our players. Some of our bottom end guys started to come up to be top tier guys for us and we really just saw a lot of growth throughout the season,” said Cody Holdaway, the newly minted general manager of the Kings. “I think it is probably very meaningful for a player to win an award like this. (For) a lot of these guys, this is the last place they will play hockey and I think it means a lot to them.”

For Yellowfly, Walker, and Van Egmond, they will be aging out and retiring from the Kings.

Romano added having an event such as the banquet is a big deal for the players to be able to see all the support behind them in a different environment than throughout the regular season. 

“Everyone who comes and supports us comes to these things and shows their face, so it is kind of a big deal for us to see them and say hi and have a drink with them and talk to them,” he said. “I think this year we faced a lot of ups and downs, and I feel like it was a hard year in some ways but also a good year. (We have) lots to build on, and I feel like we built a big team and I feel like going into next year we can be a big threat and possibly win this thing.”

Also taking place during the banquet, it was unveiled that the team had singed a five-year naming rights sponsorship agreement with Agra Risk Solutions. This deal marks the largest sponsorship agreement in franchise history.

“This is going to give us the funds to allow us to really change what we do as an organization. We will be able to provide our players with so much more,” said Holdaway. “Things like stick deals, player apparel, even the fan experience at our games will get a lot better. We are trying to bring back the mascot and thanks to this new sponsor, we have the funds to do so.”

Going forward, formerly the “Wheatland Kings” will now officially be known as the “Agra Risk Wheatland Kings.”

Wheatland Kings announce new general manager

The Wheatland Kings have announced Cody Holdaway as their new general manager, who is taking over the position from Lee Smith. 

An update was released publicly stating the Kings and Smith mutually agreed to part ways and he has been relieved of all his duties. The statement thanked Smith for his years of service to the team. 

“It has been very interesting. I am obviously excited to take on this new role, it is a big role for someone my age, but I am really excited to help develop this new era of Wheatland Kings hockey,” said Holdaway. “Working alongside with my team, we are developing a better player experience for our players, and also a better fan experience for our fans that support us at every home game.”

Holdaway, 20, is assuming his new role after coming in to help the Kings initially to run their social media two seasons ago. Then in the offseason, he explained he started to take on a larger role in helping manage their equipment.

At the beginning of last season, Holdaway was promoted to associate general manager to assist Smith with the primary objectives of the team.

Outside of the official statement, the Kings and Holdaway declined to comment further on Smith’s departure from the team. 

Holdaway is stepping into his role as the Kings prepare to launch their spring training camp, looking to round out their roster for the upcoming season.

“We always want to better ourselves and bring in better talents within the organization, so we are running our spring camp June 1-2 out in Chestermere,” said Holdaway. “We are really excited for that, and really for the short term here, we are actually running an auction right now, auctioning off our 15th anniversary jerseys … hopefully that will help raise some funds to help us get down the road next season.”

Regarding the betterment of the fan experience, Holdaway is looking to dust off the old mascot costume to bring back to games, as well as to potentially work with sponsors to host activities during intermissions. 

He added his role will effectively be a middle ground, working on business development for the Kings, as well as being on the ground with head coach Doug Raycroft.

“We are really going to try to make playoffs next year. We are a playoff team and we were one point shy of playoffs this year,” said Holdaway. “We are going to go back and we are going to hit them hard next year.”

Holdaway is the youngest person to hold a position of general manager in Heritage Junior Hockey League history. Previously, that accomplishment was held by Jacqueline Hurlbert when she was 22, working in Cochrane. 

By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 24, 2024 at 15:07

This item reprinted with permission from   Strathmore Times   Strathmore, Alberta

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