By Shaun Thomas - The Northern View
Published: August 11, 2009 11:00 PM
The ice is in at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre arena and organizers of the Rupert Rampage are getting set for another season of exciting hockey in the Central Interior Hockey League (CIHL).
The first step for the team will be to decide upon a roster, and try-outs for the team are underway. Tryouts take place from 9:15 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on August 13, 18, and 20, and from 7:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on August 25 and 27.
“We’ve invited some of our core players back for tryouts and there are some new people in town so we’ll see what happens. We’re going to do our six days of tryouts and go from there,” said team president Mike Slubowski, noting that at least one player from last year has moved on while at least one person who has played “high level hockey” has come into town since the end of the 2008/2009 campaign.
“Frank Pyde is back behind the bench as head coach and will be helped by Gerry Kurka and Rick Spracklin. Nothing has really changed from last year except that some players have moved on and some new faces are in town.”
Player wise, Slubowski said he expects the team will be in better shape when the season kicks off than they were for the inaugural season.
“We’ve got the ice in already so I think we’ll be in better shape. I think that was one of the biggest challenges last year, the guys weren’t in the best shape when the season started because of the ice time, but this year I know some of the guys have been doing some land training and playing roller hockey to keep in hockey shape,” he said.
“With the early jump this year it should be better and we’re looking forward to another great year.”
While the league is still finalizing the schedule for the year, as teams around the CIHL work out ice times with their communities, a final schedule is expected shortly. And this year will be one that sees some significant changes in the league format.
Joining Prince Rupert in the western division will be Kitimat, Terrace and Hazelton, as well as the powerhouse Smithers Steelheads, who played in the eastern division last year and made it to the conference final.
The move for Smithers was necessitated by the return of the Burns Lake Braves to the league.
But with five teams in the west and four in the east - Houston, Burns Lake, Vanderhoof and Williams Lake - the Rampage won’t be guaranteed a berth in the playoffs as they were last year. This year all four teams from the east will make the playoffs, but only the top four teams from the west will see post-season action.