A Brandon Wheat Kings tradition is giving way for international hockey’s biggest rivalry next season.
The Wheat Kings’ annual Rememberance Day game — typically one of the club’s best attended contests — will be replaced by Game 2 of the Subway Super Series between a team of Western Hockey League players and a Russian junior squad.
"November 11 is a day that we’ve had Wheat King home games for probably close to 20 years," Wheat Kings head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon said. "And this allows us to keep that tradition alive, and then obviously enhanced by the fact that it’s going to be a game of this stature, I think it’s a great day for our fans to see this event."
The six-game Super Series, featuring two games for each of the Canadian Hockey League’s three member leagues, is used by Canada and Russia to help pick their teams for the world junior championship.
Brandon hosted the last game of the first series back in 2003, with the WHL winning 7-1 with a team that included Wheat Kings Eric Fehr, Ryan Stone and Lance Monych as well as Josh Harding, who went on to play for Brandon. Also in the WHL lineup were future National Hockey League stars such as Ryan Getzlaf, Cam Ward, Dion Phaneuf and Brent Seabrook.
There have been some significant changes since then. While the first Russian teams were composed mainly of B-list players and struggled to compete with their CHL opponents, the series has grown considerably more competitive over the years, with the sides each winning twice in the past four years. Additionally, this is the first time that the WHL will host the opening games, with Saskatoon kicking off the festivities on Nov. 10.
"It’s going to be a great event," McCrimmon said. "It’s good for our city, it’s good for our fans. There’s a possibility we could have players involved, which would add to it. The Super Series has taken on more and more significance with respect to the makeup of the world junior team. It’s become a very valuable tool for Hockey Canada and their coaching and scouting staff."
Among a handful of Wheat Kings who could get consideration for the event are forwards Jayce Hawryluk and John Quenneville and defenceman Ryan Pilon, who are representing Canada right now at the world under-18 championship in Finland.
A time for the game has yet to be finalized, but logistics could make for another small break from tradition. With Remembrance Day ceremonies taking place that morning, McCrimmon said the changeover for the Super Series game, including putting up the event’s rink-board advertising, could take some extra time, meaning the game is likely to start later than the Wheat Kings’ normal Nov. 11 matinee.
CHANGING HANDS: Regina media outlets reported Tuesday that the Pats have been sold to a new ownership group with a Wheat City connection.
Radio station CJME reported that Todd Lumbard, a Brandon native and former Brandon city councillor who now lives in Regina, is among a group of businessmen who will buy the club from owner Russ Parker, pending WHL approval.
Lumbard played goal for the Pats in 1982-83 after two seasons with the Wheat Kings.
CJME reported that an official announcement would come today.
The transaction is the second reported WHL sale of the off-season waiting for league approval. A group of businessmen and former players has reached an agreement to buy the Prince George Cougars and keep them in the northern B.C. city.
AROUND THE WHL: Wheat Kings D Ryan Pulock earned his first professional point — an assist — in the Bridgeport Sound Tigers’ 3-2 American Hockey League win over the Adirondack Phantoms on Friday. Called up to Bridgeport after the end of Brandon’s season, Pulock had one assist and a plus/minus of -1 in three games with the Sound Tigers, who missed the playoffs … Former Wheat Kings G Corbin Boes made his first playoff appearance for Portland on Saturday, stopping all 15 shots he faced in relief of starter Brendan Burke as the Winterhawks overcame a 3-1 deficit to beat the Kelowna Rockets 5-3 and tie the WHL Western Conference final at a game apiece. Boes was rewarded with the start in Game 3, which was in progress as of press time on Tuesday … Edmonton C Curtis Lazar is the WHL player of the week after posting three goals and an assist to help the Oil Kings win the first two games of their Eastern Conference final against the Medicine Hat Tigers.