Smithers Steelheads Prepare for Return to CIHL
The northwest hockey season is still a couple of months away, but the Smithers Steelheads are busy preparing for their return to the Central Interior Hockey League, after a two-year absence.
The Steelheads will hold a launch party tomorrow night at the Smithers Brewing Company, featuring a fund-raising raffle for two tickets to the Vancouver Canucks game in November against Dan Hamhuis and the Nashville Predators.
The Steelheads were forced to fold two years ago, due to a lack of players, but team president Eric Tevely, who played for the Kitimat Ice Demons last season, says that shouldn't be a problem this year.
"We had six guys travelling to Kitimat to play hockey, there was another guy that was travelling over to Prince Rupert to play hockey, and there's a whole bunch of other guys that want to get into the league and play, so so long as we're putting on a good show, and that we build a good culture for the team, I think we're going to draw out higher-end talent and we're going to end up being a very competitive team," he said.
Tevely says there's a lot of excitement around town over the return of Senior A hockey to Smithers, and he says Council has helped out by granting the club the lease on the arena concession, approving a beer garden and paying for the centre ice logo.
"It's been a lot of work so far to this point, but it's definitely exciting -- there's a lot of buzz around the town, we've got a lot of guys interested in playing and it's good for the community," he said.
The Hazelton Wolverines are also returning to the CIHL this season, following a seven-year absence -- and they'll play their home games in the brand-new Upper Skeena Recreation Centre, which officially opens next month.
Last year's five CIHL teams -- the Prince Rupert Rampage, the Terrace River Kings, Kitimat Ice Demons, Williams Lake Stampeders and Quesnel Kangaroos -- are also scheduled to play this season.