Well, it had to happen sooner or later. Turns out it's going to be sooner.
On Wednesday, the WHL announced it will be holding an outdoor game, with the Calgary Hitmen and the Regina Pats being the featured teams on Feb. 21st, 2011. Is the announcement surprising? Not really, seeing how popular the NHL's annual outdoor game has become.
The only questions are: Will this become an annual occurance, and, if so, where else will the game be played? Or will the Hitmen always wind up in the contest?
Frankly, seeing how the Calgary Flames, owners of the Hitmen, parachuted their AHL team into Abbotsford, just minutes down the road from a WHL franchise, that being the Chilliwack Bruins, I'm surprised the WHL gave the Hitmen a seal of approval to hold the game. And, yes, there are still bitter feelings over the Flames' decision to do so.
Below is the WHL press release:
CALGARY HITMEN TO PLAY OUTDOOR GAME AGAINST REGINA PATS
August 4, 2010
Calgary, Alta. — The Western Hockey League and Calgary Hitmen Hockey Club announced today they will host a WHL outdoor game against the Regina Pats on February 21, 2011, at McMahon Stadium.
The game coincides with Family Day Monday and will be played the day after the National Hockey League’s Heritage Classic set for February 20th between the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens.
“The glorious opportunity presented by the National Hockey League Heritage Classic outdoor game provides a unique and unforgettable experience for not only our loyal Hitmen fans, but fans across the WHL,” said Hitmen President, CEO and Governor Ken King.
“We are extremely excited, honored and feel very privileged that the National Hockey League, the Calgary Flames, the Calgary Hitmen and the WHL have chosen the Regina Pats to be a part of this historic event," said Pats President Brent Parker. “With the Regina Pats tradition and our historic ties to the Montreal Canadiens organization we felt that it was a natural fit for our organization to take part when we were presented this opportunity. We are truly looking forward to February and what will be a special day for our players and all of our organization”.
"The WHL is very excited to be part of the 2011 NHL Heritage Classic festivities this February in Calgary,” commented WHL Commissioner Ron Robison. "WHL fans will have the opportunity to witness this historic outdoor event which will be capped off with a regular season game featuring the defending WHL Champion Calgary Hitmen and the storied Regina Pats.”
Complete details on the Hitmen-Pats outdoor game, including ticket information, will be announced at a later date.
Last Friday, Hockey Canada announced its roster for the national junior team development camp in St. John's, Nfld., which started Wednesday and runs until Saturday. In all, there will be 48 players, though four will attend camp, but will not participate in games or in the 2011 national junior tournament. The four are D Jared Cowen, D Calvin de Haan, D Ryan Ellis and C Taylor Hall.
The annual camp, held in various locations across Canada, is the first step in ultimately naming Canada's roster. Click here for Hockey Canada's press release.
In all, there are 18 WHL players attending the camp. They are are:
Goalie: Calvin Pickard (Seattle Thunderbirds).
Defencemen: Tyson Barrie (Kelowna Rockets), Stefan Elliott (Saskatoon Blades), Brett Ponich (Portland Winterhawks), Mark Pysyk (Edmonton Oil Kings), Neil Manning (Vancouver Giants) and Brayden McNabb (Kootenay Ice).
Forwards: Carter Ashton (Regina Pats), LW Curtis Hamilton (Saskatoon Blades), Ryan Johansen (Portland Winterhawks), Brad Ross (Portland Winterhawks), Linden Vey (Medicine Hat Tigers), Cody Eakin (Swift Current Broncos), Brendan Gallagher (Vancouver Giants), Scott Glennie (Brandon Wheat Kings), Quinton Howden (Moose Jaw Warriors), Ryan Howse (Chilliwack Bruins) and Brayden Schenn (Brandon Wheat Kings).
Click here for the Team Red and White rosters.
Canada's head coach is Dave Cameron of the OHL's Mississauga St. Michael's Majors, while his assistants are Andre Tourigny of the QMJHL's Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and Ryan Huska of the WHL's Kelowna Rockets.