Citing a need for more options for its players, the Muskie boys’ high school hockey team is awaiting word on whether it will get Midget ‘AAA’ hockey affiliation for next season.
Muskie head coach Glen Edwards approached Fort Frances Minor Hockey Association president Lynn Kellar with the idea in April. Kellar since has sought approval from Hockey Northwest-ern Ontario.
“We’re hoping to hear something at [the HNO meetings on June 7-9],” said Edwards. “It’ll be nice to know so we can set our schedules accordingly.”
If the approval goes through, the Muskies will be allowed to play exhibition games against other ‘AAA’ teams in the area—the Thunder Bay Kings and Kenora Stars—as well as have a chance to compete in Air Canada Cup qualifiers.
Next year’s age change in the Canadian Hockey Association’s minor hockey rules corresponds with grades 10-12 of high school. Add the “double cohort” (the elimination of OAC after the 2002-03 school year) and Edwards said it has the potential to be a perfect fit.
“Students don’t have to juggle things [under this format],” he noted. “It gives us more of a competitive option. It’ll give them a taste of [‘AAA’ hockey].
“Hopefully, a player thinking about playing somewhere else may rethink their decision,” he added.
Chances are looking good the request will go through, said Kellar.
“If that’s what we’re asking for, I can’t see them declining our request,” he said, adding the only concern the board may have is whether local players will be restricted from playing with other ‘AAA’ teams.
Asked whether the move was made to thwart players from choosing to play ‘AA’ Bantam, in the proposed new ‘AA’ Midget league, or with the Borderland Thunder, Edwards said it “wasn’t the only reason.”
Kellar also said he didn’t think this move would hinder the push for an ‘AA’ Midget team here, which still is in the process of being made official with the FFMHA.
“We’re still going to go ahead with that,” he said. “There’s still going to be a lot of kids that age looking to plya hockey.”
Edwards held a player information meeting last week for students interested in trying out for the Muskies this coming season to introduce the possibilities.
On-ice tryouts are set for the last two weeks of August—the earliest date yet for the Muskies, who usually make their final cuts in mid-October.
This past season was a difficult one for the three-time provincial champs. The black-and-gold, sporting all but three new faces, finished 4-10-2 in NorWOSSA play, barely nabbing the fourth-and-final playoff spot before being swept in the first round by the Dryden Eagles.
In related news, Edwards said he and Ken Christiansen are putting out feelers for a new assistant coach, preferably someone on staff at Fort High.
“Nothing’s official yet,” said Edwards. “We’ve approached a few people.”
The pair last were assisted by Sean Taggart in 2000-01 before he joined the Borderland Thunder’s staff prior to the start of this past season.