Next steps for Junior A hockey in Slave Lake

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

With the lease agreement secured with the Town of Slave Lake, what’s next?

Anticipating that question, Lauren Barr of the ownership group provided The Leader with the following, even before council’s Feb. 19 vote.

“The next step is to start working on the team itself,” she said.

Barr said to expect an announcement within a few days of a promotion on what to name the team.

“I will be putting up a website this week for the community to enter their name (suggestions),” she said. “The best three names will be up for public voting with the creator of the winning name getting free season tickets and doing the first puck drop!”

The next thing on the agenda, Barr said, is “a big push selling the season tickets for the inaugural season online to gauge community support.”

Barr said previously she would be hiring a coach and general manager as soon as possible after the lease agreement was secured. That person’s job would be to tackle the challenge of actually putting a team on the ice for next fall’s hockey season.

Barr says, “the WPHA has about 50 resumés on file that we will start reviewing immediately.” Not just anybody will do.

“Due to the caliber of players and competition as well as the high expectations for player development, most coaches and general managers in the league have professional playing and/or training experience.”

Barr adds that typically, management staff contracts begin in May or June.

As previously reported, the model is quite different than what has been customary. Up to 14 ‘import’ players are allowed per team. According to league commissioner Ron White, there are lots of international hockey players keen to play Junior A hockey in North America and are willing to pay to do it. And paying to play is what they will be expected to do in the WPHA. The team in Edson, for example, has several players from Sweden on its roster. There is no limit on the number of Americans or Mexicans who can be on a team.

Meanwhile, the WPHA announced last week Vegreville has been conditionally approved for a franchise.

Lauren Barr

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