The boys are fired up.
Those were the words of Airdrie Thunder head coach Chad Moore, when asked how his players are feeling as they get ready for the 2021-22 Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) season.
“Not only the players, but the staff, the organization and the fans,” Moore said. “We have a lot of participation and engagement from our fan base, and we’re growing at that level as well.”
After eight weeks of summer skates at the Ron Ebbesen Arena, Airdrie’s junior B squad is set to officially begin pre-season camp on Sept. 7. Following a few first-look practices, the new-look Thunder will test their mettle in a pair of exhibition games against the Mountainview Colts on Sept. 10 and 11.
Moore added a summer of preparation means the Thunder’s players are looking sharp as they get ready to kick off the 2021 season on Sept. 17, when they take on the Red Deer Vipers at the Ron Ebbesen Arena.
According to Moore – who is entering his second year behind the Thunder’s bench – this year’s roster will have a mixture of returning players and new blood, as the team welcomes a number of players from across western Canada.
“There are some young talents out there,” he said. “We have some midget AAA guys attending our camp, and there are some new faces. We have some guys coming in from B.C. and Saskatchewan who have played junior hockey, both junior B and junior A, so we have a good conglomerate of skill and leadership that we’ve seen so far.”
Last year, the Thunder played just a handful of games in the HJHL before the league’s season was postponed due to a spike in COVID-19 cases across Alberta. The HJHL season, which typically runs from September until March, was officially called off in January.
Technically, Airdrie is still the HJHL’s defending champion, having won the junior B league title in the 2018-19 season. While the Thunder was knocked out in the North Division semi-finals of the 2020 post-season, the playoffs were cancelled due to COVID-19 before a new league champion could be determined.
While there may not be many Thunder players left over from the title-winning team a few years ago, Moore said the players are gearing up for another competitive campaign.
“There are some good changes taking place within this organization, so we’re all fired up and on the same page,” he said. “We have a really good infrastructure in place to take things to the next level.”
To see the Thunder’s 2021-22 schedule, visit heritagejunior.com