The Elliot Lake Wildcats have been on the ice four times so far this season, three in exhibition games and their first regular season match.
George Thomas, chair of the Elliot Lake Wildcats board, says the team’s out-of-town players arrived in Elliot Lake on Aug. 14 and began settling in.
The players got into their dry-land training shortly after, with plenty of running uphills at Mount Dufour Ski Area, and doing hundreds of pushups, says Thomas.
This year’s Wildcats have a bench of 20 players. Three players are from Elliot Lake, 10 are from other parts of Ontario, three are from Quebec, and four are from the United States (Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Wisconsin).
Thomas says the Wildcats head coach and general manager, Gord Ouimet, doesn’t want more players.
“He’s not planning to go with anymore than 20. That way nobody is sitting on the sidelines; everybody is playing every game,” explains Thomas. Thomas says having players sitting out games “that’s not being fair to the players and it’s not being fair to the parents who are paying for them. So, this way the boys are guaranteed to be developed, and they are playing.”
“He’s (Ouimet) got three lines of forwards and three lines of defencemen. So, he’s in good shape.”
Ouimet has been a fixture in hockey in Elliot Lake for more than four decades. As a youth, he played in minor hockey in the community, and he played for the Elliot Lake Vikings (the community’s original junior team). Ouimet has also been coaching minor hockey teams, including the Midgets triple ‘A’ team the Junior Wildcats, for 42 years.
Thomas adds that the Wildcats are in a rebuilding mode. “That’s how Gord feels about it, we’re building a new team for the community. And I think it’s going to be exciting hockey. We can’t guarantee to win every game, but they are going to be playing their damnedest to win.”
Getting on the ice
In their exhibition games the Wildcats took on the Cochrane Crunch in Espanola, the Blind River Beavers at the Blind River Community Centre and the Soo, Michigan Eagles in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
Last Saturday, the Wildcats played their first game of the regular season against the Beavers in Blind River. (See separate story on page 11).
This Friday, they will play the Express at the Espanola Regional Recreation Complex. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.
The Wildcats first home game of the season will not be until Friday, Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. when they take on the Beavers. The Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (NOJHL) scheduled the Wildcats to play their first six games on the road. The NOJHL wanted to give the City of Elliot Lake extra time, if they needed it, to repair the Centennial Arena.
This Saturday, the Wildcats will be getting out in the community by giving shoppers a helping hand at Foodland. The players will be carrying out groceries for the shoppers and they will be holding a barbecue as well. “It will give them a chance to meet the public,” says Thomas.
That is only one of the activities the Wildcats players will be involved in during the season. “Gord wants the boys heavily involved in the community. He’s really pushing that.”
Thomas believes that having a Junior ‘A’ team in Elliot Lake is a definite asset to the community. “I think we’re on the verge of a boom here in Elliot Lake, and I think that Elliot Lake having a Junior ‘A’ hockey team attracts people to the community. “When we moved up here four years ago, the first thing I did was I went out and got myself a season ticket for the Wildcats.”
For those looking for season passes they cost $250 for adults, and $200 for seniors and students. For youths ages six to 11 years the cost is $90, and for children ages five and under admission is free, but they must be accompanied by an adult. For season passes call Joanne Cassivi at 705-849-4087 or Thomas at 705-227-0577.
Game tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students. For youths tickets are $5.