Icedogs’ developments: another coaching change

But McClelland providing consistency

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Change is good, they say, and if so the Slave Lake Icedogs should be in great shape. Two big news items came out of the team camp last week.

  1. Head coach Joey McEwan is no longer in that position, and the search is on for a replacement.
  2. Last season’s scoring star Ilias Okemow of Wabasca has been traded to the Tomahawks of Enoch.

Oh, and the other major news item is the confirmation of the start of regular season play. The Icedogs’ home-opener is Saturday, Oct. 17 vs. the Fox Creek Ice Kings.

On McEwan, team GM Lauren Barr says he was here on a 30-day trial and in the end was not offered the permanent position.

“The Icedogs wish him the best in his future endeavours,” she says.

In the meantime, team advisor Kevin McClelland (the former Edmonton Oiler) is running the on-ice practices, doing a great job, Barr says, and providing consistency for the team. Helping him out are local guys Tyson Price and Travis Wakefield.

“We’re finalizing a head coach,” Barr says. “The league is assisting us. We have some really good candidates.”

Moving on to Okemow, Barr says the trade to Enoch was to grant his wish to move to a different location. “It sucks,” she says, to have him as an opponent rather than a teammate, but she wishes him the best. Okemow had 86 points in 32 games for the ‘Dogs last season.

The Icedogs are scheduled to open their season in Fox Creek against the Ice Kings on Oct. 16. Barr says the schedule will look a bit odd for the first couple of months – thanks to COVID considerations. To get approval from the health authorities, the league has to provide a two-week quarantine period between ‘cohorts.’ In this case, a cohort is two teams, which will play several games against each other over two or three weekends, and then wait 14 days before engaging the next opponent in another series.

So according to the dates provided it’ll be Fox Creek in town on Oct. 17, 24 and 30, followed by a nice rest before tangling with the next team. Or something along those lines. The league website actually disagreed with that last week, saying it would be Slave Lake vs. High Prairie to start the season, but Barr says “it’s 100 per cent Fox Creek.” Should the rules on cohorts change in the meantime, the home game dates will not be affected, says Derek Prue who is in charge of the GMHL’s Western Division. It could result in a different team visiting every weekend – more like the normal scenario.

COVID also has a lot to say about who gets to attend games. Only 100 spectators per game are permitted. There are some pretty strict rules as to where those people sit and how they can move around during games as well. Fans need to understand what’s expected of them, Barr says, and that will be too hard to manage with walk-up crowds. For example, kids have to stay in their seats, and people won’t be allowed to stand next to the glass. It’s inconvenient, Barr admits, “but it is what it is.”

So only season ticket holders will be able to attend games, and only 50 such tickets are available. The other 50 were given out to families billeting players. Get them while they’re hot, at slavelakeicedogs.ca.

In other news, Prue says there is a strong possibility of new teams in the GMHL West next season.

“There are a lot of irons in the fire,” he says, mentioning strong interest in southern Alberta, “as well as B.C.”

Last week we ran a photo of these four team leaders with then head Icedogs’ coach Joey McEwan. He’s since departed and hasn’t yet been replaced. Acting coach Kevin McClelland likes what he sees so far on the ice. Left to right are Gerix Giroux, Carson Lux, Shaye Sommerfeld and Ethan Stuckless.

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