The Cold Lake Hornets are a brand new team about to embark on their first season of competition in the WSHL’s Canadian division.
The Junior A team hired Steve Thomson as the coach and general manager who has been busy moving, recruiting, and acquainting himself with the area.
With experience coaching university women’s hockey at Wilfred Laurier, stops in the Junior B and Junior C divisions in Ontario and his own hockey school south of the border, Thomson knew of the job because of his relationship with WSHL commissioner Ron White.
“They asked me if I would come in and take the team and help build up the squad, build the community effort, and just bring my expertise and professionalism to the area,” said Thomson.
“He [White] said that it is a great hockey place. It’s a great hockey city.
“The facility is the best in North America, that is for a non-professional facility in terms of an NHL style. It has the best amenities for users and players,” said Thomson about the Energy Centre.
The Hornets will play at the second arena beside Imperial Oil Place.
In the span of a couple of months, they’ll have to recruit a full team and round up more volunteers and billets.
The Hornets will have an identification camp skate in Cold Lake on Aug. 30-Sept. 1 where they are hoping to see local talent come out and lace up the skates.
Training camp begins for the Hornets on Sept. 15 before the regular season gets underway in the second week of October.
The Hornets announced via their Twitter account that they had signed forward Riley Smith, who had played 18 games last season with the Cold Lake Wings.
“We’re looking for the student-athletes…we’re looking for good character people, but we’re looking for student-athletes, players that have the opportunity to advance through the college ranks,” he said.
“We’ve got a good mix of Europeans coming in, some Americans and other players from other parts of Canada.”
NCAA division-III scholarships are usually the carrot for players who go through the WSHL ranks in the pay-to-play league.
The Hornets will compete in the hockey marketplace against the Junior B Ice (NEAJBHL) and Wings of the (WPHA/GMHL).
Thomson doesn’t believe that will be an issue.
“Our particular program is different from the junior B program. The Junior B program is a great local program and it’s needed. This Tier-II Junior A program is about pushing a strong college development program. It’s a different level and a different operation,” he said.
“We’re not going to be fighting over fans. Fans are going to enjoy quality hockey, and they’re going to support the local guys, and they’re going to support their local squad. I think that there’s plenty to go around.
“We’ve got a great group of volunteers, and community members that are with the team….we’ve got a good core group of people that are going to be involved with the team, within the community and we’re looking for volunteers to help in any way, shape or form.”