The World Hockey Association Super Junior League is moving forward in several areas according to operations VP Gary Scott.
This week the league announced the hiring of its first coach and general manager, who will lead the startup Squamish Cougars. The man in the hot seat, filling both coach and GM roles, will be Sean Beissel, the former assistant coach for the Grande Prairie Storm junior team. Announcements for the other five teams will be made next week, as well as some player announcements. Full rosters wont be finalized until after Junior A training camps are completed, but some athletes including Sea to Sky players have already committed to the new league and the Squamish Cougars.
The Super Junior League follows a different model than most leagues. For one, all of the teams are owned by the main organization, which trades on the Nasdaq stock exchange. The benefit, says Scott, is that you dont wind up with a situation where there are good owners and bad owners, and that results in more parity in the league. Scouts for all the Super Junior League teams attend the same training camps, although the coaches and general managers have a lot of autonomy when it comes to signing players.
The league will accept players up to and including the age of 20, with no minimum age restrictions. The players will be of a Junior A calibre, says Scott, but may have been bumped from their teams by incoming players or not picked up after not having a good camp. As well, other leagues also have more stringent age requirements and dont always recognize that kids grow and develop skills at different rates. For that reason the Squamish Cougars and other SJL teams can provide a second chance to a lot of talented players.
Scott says things are developing quickly at an organizational level. The Cougars should have an office in early August, and the team will be hosting a rally in the community on Aug. 4 from 6 to 9 p.m. outside of Boston Pizza. The team will be giving away items to promote the Cougars while recruiting volunteers to help out in different capacities, from scorekeeping to the booster club. The Cougars are also looking for Squamish families willing to billet players.
As well, the Cougars will start selling individual and seasons tickets to the games in the community. The puck drops in Squamish on Sept. 22 to open the season, and there will be a few exhibition games before that.
"In the next two weeks a lot of things are going to fall into place," said Scott. "The goal is to be very visible in Squamish and Whistler. Ive talked to a lot of people (in Whistler) who are very interested in coming down and watching games, and were looking at a few kids from the Whistler area for the roster which will get the community involved as well."