Heritage all-star game reborn in Okotoks
Hockey: Bisons hosting HJHL showcase on Jan. 7
Wednesday, Dec 27, 2017 06:00 am
Okotoks is the venue for a rebirth two decades in the making.
The Heritage Junior Hockey League All-Star Game is back on the docket for the first time since the start of the century with the Okotoks Junior B Bisons playing host to the league’s top talents on Jan. 7 at the Murray Arena.
“At one of the league meetings I just asked why don’t we do this? If you want to promote your league, let’s do this,” said Bisons general manager Brent Trevors. “We said we would host it and put it on and it’s back for now.”
The All-Star game pits Team South versus Team North while the festivities will also include a fastest skater competition. Team dinners will also be put on for the players and coaching staffs.
The rosters were selected based on team submissions.
“You’re never going to get everybody,” Trevors said. “Because it had to be done by Nov. 15, it was a little earlier and guys who got hot lately may have missed out. It’s pretty good though, a lot of the top 21 year-olds from the league are going to be there.”
A few of them from the hometown squad.
Bisons overagers in team captain Josh McCulloch, defenceman Brennan Fuoco and Okotokian Robbie McLean made the all-star grade.
“It’s quite nice. Having a pretty good season I had my fingers crossed and was hoping that this would come around,” McLean said. “Fortunately enough we’re hosting and have quite a few guys going and I was able to make the cut.”
Okotoks teammates in forward Kyle Harrison and netminder Devin Reagan will also be flying the Bisons flag at the showcase.
“It’s great for the league,” Harrison said. “It’s really important for them to have something like that, especially for prospective players that want to come into the league, it cleans the rep up a little bit.
“I’m excited to be part of the first one and just looking forward to it.”
Harrison leads the Bisons with 17 goals and is second in points with 31, both career highs for the sophomore centre.
“The guys I’m playing with are meshing pretty well, I would attest a lot of it to them,” Harrison said. “Devin has been playing very well, our D has been great onwards to our forwards and that crates space for us to do our thing.”
Joining the Bison contingent is a pair of Okotoks skaters plying their trade 22 clicks south.
High River Flyers forward Evan Pakkala and defenceman Joel Nalder, both Okotokians, were named all-stars along with netminder Chantz Vinck and league leading sniper Davis Sheldon out of Nanton.
“I found it hard to trust my teammates at the beginning of the season because every year we don’t really know anybody,” Pakkala said. “Once everybody starts to know each other and everyone trusts each other to do their thing it all kind of falls into place.”
Pakkala, a 2000 born skater in his second year with the Flyers, will be the youngest skater in the all-star game against players up to four years older than him.
“The decision to play in this league came down to politics, I’ve gone through so much politics in hockey,” Pakkala said. “To come somewhere where the coach (Tyson Avery) is great, he wants me to play, I couldn’t resist it.”
The South coaching staff will consist of Bisons bench boss Chris Beston along with his assistant coaches Ryan Carson, Josh Esler and trainer Dr. Cale Granson. Avery will be the guest coach for the South. Team North will be represented on the bench by the coaching staff of the division leading Red Deer Vipers.
Puck-drop for the HJHL All-Star Game is 1:15 p.m. at the Murray Arena. Tickets are available at the door starting at $3 for students aged 13-17, $5 for seniors and $7 for adults. Kids aged 12 and under getting in for free.
For more information go to okotoksbisons.com