The Fernie Ghostriders are ramping up for the upcoming season. Exhibition games for the team started on Sept. 2, with the regular season beginning on Sept. 11. The home opener is set for Saturday, Sept. 26, against the 100 Mile House Wranglers.
Head coach Craig Mohr has optimistic feelings about the season, especially considering how well the Ghostriders did last year.
“We came second overall in the league, we won our league division and then in the playoffs we lost out to Kimberley, our main rival, but they were the third best team in the league so it was good – we had an excellent year last year,” said Mohr.
Mohr credited the team’s rivalry with the Kimberley Dynamiters for pushing the Ghostriders to play at their best and not rest on their laurels.
“We hate Kimberely and they hate us. It’s a rivalry,” said Mohr. “When your main rival is good and when you’re good, it makes the rivalry better. If we sucked and they were just thumping us, it wouldn’t be as engaged and nasty.”
Many of last year’s players retired from the Junior B league, leaving room for younger players. This year, Mohr says there is a bump in local boys vying for a spot on the team.
The team has signed three players from Sparwood, they brought in Ryan Treslock from Castlegar, who has family in Fernie, along with a couple of players from Calgary who also have family in the area. Mohr said that having a Junior B team in Fernie allows for many players to stay in the Elk Valley, and they don’t have to re-locate to play hockey.
Taking over the captain title this year is Cole Keebler, a 20-year-old Ghostrider veteran originally from Calgary.
Mohr believes that Keebler will excel as captain because he was already taking on somewhat of a leadership role in previous seasons.
“I like Cole’s demeanour. Kind of like Dylan Robertson last year, he’s very mature, he’s got a good demeanour in the room, he doesn’t freak out, he’s an extremely hard worker,” said Mohr. “Again, we are going to have a great leadership group. The returnees we have coming back are good people. At the end of the day, that’s what you want – good people.”
The team held their main camp on Aug. 28 to Aug. 30, with the team splitting to battle each other over four games. This allowed Mohr to decide who to take into the season, but the final roster will change many times in the coming months.
“I’m allowed to card 23 players. I get 40 cards for the year to use. I can roster no more than 23 at one time. I may start with 23 on September 11 but I guarantee you that will change as the year goes along,” he said, citing that more changes are anticipated as the Junior A teams start cutting players and making their final rosters.
Mohr is visibly excited to start the season and re-ignite his relationship with the Fernie Memorial Arena.
After coaching for two decades, he said he feels at home in Fernie. “Fernie Memorial Arena is the liveliest, most fun arena I have ever been in, after 21 years of coaching,” he said.
If Mohr’s optimism is any hint at all, this year will be just as entertaining as the last.