Sports

Excitement building for Whitewater Kings' inaugural season in Central Canada Hockey League 2

By Tina Peplinskie, OBSERVER MULTIMEDIA JOURNALIST

The Whitewater Kings are getting ready to kick off it's inaugural season in the CCHL2. Team officials held a press conference at the Astrolab Arena in Cobden this week to discuss the upcoming season. On hand for the event (front from left) Pembroke Lumber Kings and Whitewater Kings owner Dale McTavish, Whitewater Kings head coach Daryl Faught and Whitewater Kings general manager Kevin Ready. In the back (from left) are Lumber Kings operations manager Maureen Duhamel, Lumber Kings assistant coach Ben Reinhardt, Whitewater Kings assistant coaches Pat Ryan and Eric Logan, Whitewater Kings game-day operations manager Jamie McConnell, Kings communications and marketing director Geoff Patterson and Whitewater Kings secretary Lynn Foley.

The Whitewater Kings are getting ready to kick off it's inaugural season in the CCHL2. Team officials held a press conference at the Astrolab Arena in Cobden this week to discuss the upcoming season. On hand for the event (front from left) Pembroke Lumber Kings and Whitewater Kings owner Dale McTavish, Whitewater Kings head coach Daryl Faught and Whitewater Kings general manager Kevin Ready. In the back (from left) are Lumber Kings operations manager Maureen Duhamel, Lumber Kings assistant coach Ben Reinhardt, Whitewater Kings assistant coaches Pat Ryan and Eric Logan, Whitewater Kings game-day operations manager Jamie McConnell, Kings communications and marketing director Geoff Patterson and Whitewater Kings secretary Lynn Foley.

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COBDEN – Excitement is certainly building as the Whitewater Kings prepare to bring Junior B hockey to Cobden this fall.

The Whitewater Kings, previously the Prescott Flyers, were purchased by Dale McTavish, owner and head coach of the Pembroke Lumber Kings, in the spring. The team will kick off its inaugural season at Cobden's Astrolab Arena with the home opener on Sept. 16 against the Renfrew Timberwolves, a team which everyone believes will become natural rivals for the Kings because of their close proximity.

For those who haven't been to a Junior B game in a few years, Whitewater Kings's general manager Kevin Ready promises an exciting brand of hockey that is unrecognizable from even five years ago.

“There has been such a change in the quality of play and we expect to be highly competitive,” he said. “We are very excited about the prospect of bringing Junior B to Cobden, especially for a guy like me who is originally from Cobden.”

Whitewater will be part of the 16-team, two-division Central Canada Hockey League 2, down from the 22-team Easter Ontario Junior Hockey League which the CCHL2 was born out of in May 2015. The team is part of the Richardson Division, which also includes Renfrew, Arnprior, Brockville and Carleton Place. The team will play a 52-game regular season, with the majority of home games being played on Saturday nights in Cobden, with the odd Thursday night game thrown into the mix.

The team recently held a press conference at the arena to answer some questions about the season, as well as officially announce the coaching staff and those who will run things behind the scenes on game days.

Taking on the role of head coach is Daryl Faught, a Cobden native, and his assistant coaches will be Eric Logan and Pat Ryan.

Faught is known for a successful minor hockey coaching career including playoff run with the Midget AA Aces which lost game seven of the final before going on to win back-to-back championships the following two seasons.

“I want to create a competitive team for Cobden fans,” Faught said. “We are looking for honest, hardworking players. It is our intention to make the playoffs. I expect we'll have a good transition and fore check and we will be entertaining to watch.”

Because of the distance between Cobden and Prescott, none of the Flyers's players are coming with the team so the coaches and management will be building the team from the ground up. This will begin with players that have been playing in the Lumber Kings's U18 program, then local products, veteran players acquired through trades, as well as recruits from outside the area.

The thing Ready likes about this tiered system of having three teams run by the same organization is that local players will be able to play in front of family and friends for an extended period of time.

“I think this is really exciting for the kids in the Cobden region,” he said.

McTavish added having the Junior B team so closely connected to the Lumber Kings will allow for more of a collaboration and move involvement in the development of the players. In the past, when the Lumber Kings would send a player to a Junior B affiliate the coaching staff may not have seen the player for months so this will definitely allow for closer monitoring, he said.

“It starts with the development in U18 then Junior B so it keeps kids playing and developing with the coaches, with the goal of making the Lumber Kings,” McTavish added. “In the past it might be three years before you saw the player in Pembroke. With this system we will get a lot more time with the players to get them to the Junior A level.”

The work to build the team starts June 23 with a camp in Arnprior that will include players for the vying for spots on the Junior A Lumber Kings as well as the Junior B team.

McTavish said the decision to move the team to Cobden was an easy one because of the close proximity to Pembroke and a good hockey market. After discussions with Whitewater Region Coun. Chris Olmstead, it made the decision even easier as the township was so welcoming and willing to host the team.

“We're really excited to get going,” McTavish said.

He anticipates a great game-day atmosphere at the Astrolab Arena, where it is expected between 100 and 200 people will watch the game in the arena itself with the upstairs hall expected to hold overflow spectators.

“I think it is going to be a real fun place for the kids to play and they are going to provide some great entertainment,” he said. “After the games the players will be answering questions and I think it will be a fun place to go on a Saturday night.”

Olmstead said Whitewater Region council was supportive of the prospect of having a team from the very beginning.

“This council is very happy to promote development so this was a natural fit,” he said.

He acknowledged there were some concerns about being able to accommodate a Junior B franchise, but he believes everything will be worked out in time for the beginning of the season. The township was considering completing a needs assessment of it's recreation facilities within the next few years so the addition of Junior B will speed up that review, Olmstead noted.

Since this is a brand new franchise, it will mean a whole new group of volunteers is needed to help run the game-day operations, which will be led by Jamie McConnell. This includes volunteers to serve as DJ, security, work in the penalty boxes and run the video camera among other tasks. He said this would be a great opportunity for high school students to accumulate community volunteer hours. Anyone interested in getting involved with the Whitewater Kings as a volunteer is asked to email wwkingsops@hotmail.com.

tpeplinskie@postmedia.com

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