Recently signed Cold Lake Wings players Nigel Cardinal, left, and Illias Okemow, right, pose with the newly unveiled Wings jerseys.
Building a team from scratch is a huge task, just ask Cold Lake Wings coach Johnathan Aitken.
Since August, his focus has building a complete roster of players.
“It’s slowly coming,” said Aitken.
“A lot of kids we have to wait and see. I could go out and get 20 kids from whatever level I want right, but I want higher-end kids that have the identity that we want to see in our organization and put a good product on the ice.”
Aitken has been recruiting talent from all over the map to find the right group of players to begin the Cold Lake Wings franchise, who take the ice for the first time Friday night.
He’s found Lakeland area players like Anson Smith, some Alberta boys like Dorian Hall, and will even have a couple Europeans shipped over next week.
However, only 14 players will be available to play in tomorrow’s exhibition game against the Edson Aeros – just a little more than half of a full roster.
“There’s a lot of kids who have been reaching out to us about coming over. So obviously I look them up and get some highlights and see what caliber they are. And to be honest with you there’s been a lot of rejections on my end just because I’m putting an emphasis on the type of people and the type of quality of players that we want here.”
Skating and footwork are some of the most important areas in a player’s game at this level, and that’s one of the big criteria for making his team.
“These kids are wanting to get on the ice. And I think that we can sell 8 hours of ice time, the practice time Monday through Thursday, along with off-ice programs as well during the week, kids just want to get better. I just to help these kids get to the next level. Whatever the next level is they want to get to.”
The Edson Aeros played a pre-season series against the Hinton Wildcats and swept them in four straight games scoring 10 or more goals in three of those contests.
“Between now and the start of the season I think we’ll see a whole different look of players that are coming in. We’ll be spotting a full team by that time, I’m pretty confident in that.”
The Wings first regular season game is October 12.