By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Current and prospective Morinville Jets hit the ice this Friday for the first of five training camps, an annual ritual to prepare and position the Jets heading into the 2011-2012 Capital Junior Hockey League Season. Jets’ President Brent Melville said he is anticipating big things for the Morinville Jets this season, building upon the strong foundation laid by Dan and Roland Blackburn over the last half decade.
“We’re quite optimistic because of the returning players we have and the kids that we’re kind of targeting to come,” Melville said, noting his optimism is shared by returning head coach Scott Rodda. “Scott thinks we can win it all. That’s the goal. Obviously Danny and Roland have planted the foundation. We have a very good name in the league now. People want to play for us because of our program they started. We’re pretty excited.” Melville said it his and the organization’s hope to bring a CJHL championship or provincial banner to Morinville. “We figure in the next two years we should be able to hopefully do that,” he said.
That road to victory begins with the annual training camp that begins Aug. 26 at the Troy Murray Arena in Edmonton. The camp shifts to Performance Arena Aug. 27 and 28 before heading home to Morinville Sept. 2 and 3 at the Ray McDonald Sports Centre.
“We have some kids that we’ve targeted that we’ve talked to,” Melville said, adding fans can expect to see some familiar faces. “We have a good nucleus coming back. We have about 16 kids that can come back from last year. We don’t really have a huge amount of openings, so we’ve targeted the areas Scott was looking for.”
Some of the players invited to next week’s camp are hockey players who have played Midget AAA and may include some players who are currently trying out for Junior A. The Jets are confident they have secured Brad Miller to position himself between the pipes for the Jets, a Morinville backstop who started his minor hockey in Morinville before moving on to play Bantam AAA in Spruce Grove and Midget AAA in St. Albert. “He’s a very good goalie, so we are excited about that,” Melville said.
Regardless of who ultimately makes the final cuts after training camp, Melville said Jets fans can expect a game with plenty of speed, something he feels the Jets had last season, but something he believes Rodda and his fellow coaches will build on this year. “I think with some of the kids coming we are going to be a really good skating team,” Melville said. “We’re trying to get a little tougher up front. There are a few kids we are targeting, bigger kids up front because you need some of that toughness, too. It should be a good brand of hockey, maybe a little step up from last year. That’s kind of the goal – to get to the next level. Last year they had a pretty good season. We’re just going to build on it.”
Additions to the roster are not the only changes confronting the Jets and their fans this year. Jets games will move a few hours later in the day on Sundays to 6:45 p.m. Melville said the decision to switch to Sunday evening games was twofold: a hope the later time slot would bring more Jets fans out to watch and to open up another time slot for minor hockey. “Scott believed playing at night would be a bit better than early afternoon,” Melville said. “He was quite happy with it and it also helps minor hockey a bit so they can have an afternoon slot. The 6:45 slot at night is tough for a lot of minor hockey.”
Also changed this year is the removal of the tailgate opener to mark the club’s season home opener. The Jets will instead hold a Hockey Day in Morinville event Oct. 1 in honour of the region’s military families. The event will run from noon until 11 p.m. and involve a total five hockey games. In addition to a regular CJHL game against the St. Albert Merchants, the Jets will host two alumni games: one for players over the age of 35 and one for alumni under the age of 35 as well as two minor hockey games. In recognition of the troops, Melville said the Jets will be playing their regular game in camouflage jerseys. The jerseys will be auctioned off with the proceeds going to a military charity.
Jets 2011-2012 Home Games
Jets Vs. Leduc Sept. 18 6:45 p.m.
Jets Vs. Spruce Grove Sept. 25 6:45 p.m.
Jets Vs. St. Albert Oct. 1 8:30 p.m.
Jets Vs. Fort Sask. Oct. 9 6:45 p.m.
Jets Vs. Mustangs Oct. 16 6:45 p.m.
Jets Vs. Stony Plain Oct. 23 6:45 p.m.
Jets Vs. Warriors Nov. 1 8:30 p.m.
Jets Vs. Red Wings Nov. 6 6:45 p.m.
Jets Vs. Beaumont Nov. 13 6:45 p.m.
Jets Vs. Stony Plain Nov. 20 6:45 p.m.
Jets Vs. Spruce Grove Nov. 27 6:45 p.m.
Jets Vs. St. Albert Dec. 4 6:45 p.m.
Jets Vs. Mustangs Dec. 11 6:45 p.m.
Jets Vs. Strathcona Dec. 16 8:30 p.m.
All-Star Game in Morinville Jan. 7
Jets Vs. Royals Jan. 10 8:30 p.m.
Jets Vs. Sherwood Park Jan. 15 6:45 p.m.
Jets Vs. Wetaskiwin Jan. 22 6:45 p.m.
Jets Vs. Red Wings Feb 5 6:45 p.m.
Jets Vs. Warriors Feb 12 6:45 p.m.