By RYAN MCCRACKEN on October 10, 2020.
Medicine Hat Cubs head coach and general manager Randy Wong has trimmed his roster down to 23 players in anticipation of the team’s first Heritage Junior Hockey League pre-season game against the Coaldale Copperheads next Friday.
With public health guidelines limiting athletic cohorts to 50 people – 25 per team with coaches excluded if they wear masks – Wong says he left two spots open with the hope of attracting a bit more high-end talent.
“I’m trying to stay below that 25 number. I’ve got some interest in some other guys so I’m just kind of waiting on some decisions from some guys who may come into town,” said Wong. “I wanted to keep room for them in case they do. I’ve trimmed it down to two goalies, seven defencemen and 14 forwards right now.”
Wong says training camp featured a good deal of competition for roster spots, and that competition likely isn’t over – with the potential for a handful of returners or other free agents to join the squad following releases from other camps.
“That was the big thing, there were a lot of 18-year-olds vying for some spots and they’ll get the chance to continue the process by playing in some preseason games coming up next weekend,” said Wong. “That’s kind of where we stand now in talking to the guys last night. They have to understand the process is still ongoing, and in junior hockey we know that really doesn’t change much – there are always guys looking for opportunity. So, even though you’re here today, you’ve always got to be aware that someone new could come into town tomorrow.”
Wong says the HJHL is currently looking to open the season on the weekend of Nov. 1, with a series-based schedule that would pit Medicine Hat against Coaldale for four straight games to open the campaign. The HJHL would be split up by division under this format, with Medicine Hat entering four-game sets against each of the South Division’s five other squads to form a 20-game season. Two-week non-competition periods will be scheduled to take place between series.
“It is what it is,” said Wong. “I think that’s the best we can do with the approval from Alberta Health and Hockey Alberta.”
The Cubs had four pre-season games planned against Coaldale, but given they’ll see each other four times to open the season, the clubs opted to cancel their second set of exhibition games, planned for the weekend of Oct. 23.
The Cubs will still host the Copperheads next Friday at the Kinplex with a 7:15 p.m. puck drop. Saturday’s rematch in Coaldale is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.
The Cubs are currently working with a maximum spectator limit of 100 people at the Kinplex – and that number includes coaches and off-ice officials. As a result, Wong says the club is asking for patience from fans while it continues to navigate the situation.
“It won’t be quite 100 in there because of what it takes to execute the game when you include all those off-ice people,” said Wong. “There will be more information in the coming days to decide how we go about getting the 100 fans in the building. We’re still working out the fine details and making sure we do get the parents, who are a big part of our program, that we get them in. Then we’ll see what tickets we have available.”