Sports

Flames hope to attract locked out hockey fans

Ridge Meadows Flames owner Andrew Ilaender (left) and marketing associate Rick Garrison are hoping to offer hockey fans put out by the NHL lockout a local option to get their fix. - Colleen Flanagan
Ridge Meadows Flames owner Andrew Ilaender (left) and marketing associate Rick Garrison are hoping to offer hockey fans put out by the NHL lockout a local option to get their fix.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan

With the NHL preseason already cancelled due to the ongoing labour dispute between owners and players, the local junior B hockey club is hoping to attract hockey fans who want to get their fix close to home.

Ridge Meadows Flames owner Andrew Ilaender said the franchise is improving the game day atmosphere at Cam Neely Arena with more prizes, more entertainment between periods, and a better product on the ice.

“We are bigger, tougher, and faster than last season,” said Ilaender. “This is high level hockey, and these kids work their butts off.”

While junior B hockey was once thought of as little more than pugilism on ice, today it has become an important rung on the hockey development ladder. A quick look at the Ridge Meadows Flames alumni is proof of that.

Brandon Yip of the Nashville Predators once wore a Flames jersey, as did Kellan Tochkin and Prab Rai, both of whom signed contracts with the Vancouver Canucks.

Recently, the local club has seen a number of former players move up to junior A and major junior, with Mike Piluso, Mackenzie Skapski, and Eric Williams each going on to play in the WHL, while Jordan Soquila, Carter Shinkaruk, and Todd Fletcher went on to play in the BCHL.

Former Flames Brad Hunt, Landry Dorsett, and Cody Campbell have each gone on to play NCAA hockey for U.S. universities.

This season, the Flames are poised to rebound from last year’s forgettable 11-33 campaign with a host of new young talent, each hoping to take the next step closer to pro hockey.

The team had close to 500 in the stands for their home opener last Friday.

“It’s a great atmosphere in here when we get the crowds,” said Ilaender, who played junior B hockey, himself. “These kids love to play in front of the crowd.”

Ticket prices for the Flames are $8 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, and $3 for kids 10 and under. The Flames also offer a family pack for $36, which includes four adult tickets and three kids tickets.

Members of the Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey Association and the Meadow Ridge Female Minor Hockey Association are allowed in for free, when accompanied by a paying adult.

• The Ridge Meadows Flames play every Friday night at Planet Ice in Maple Ridge at 7:30 p.m.

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