Which side of the border are you on?
Generally in Lloydminster that question is about where you live, but come Sept. 6, that question will deal with hockey allegiances. The Edmonton Oil Kings host the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League (WHL) in a preseason matchup dubbed Border Battle, putting Alberta against Saskatchewan in Canada’s only Border City.
And already shots are being fired over the meridian line between the two major junior franchises.
“I noticed a comment from the Oil Kings that they will trust the fans to cheer for the right team,” said Steve Hogle, president of the Blades. “But the barn is on the Saskatchewan side of the border so we all know who the right team is, the Saskatoon Blades.”
The Oil Kings, however, had a question of their own.
“How many Memorial Cup banners are hanging in the arena he plays in?” said Kevin Radomski, director of business operations for the Oil Kings. “We have three. I’m just saying.”
The gamesmanship will certainly continue over the summer months, but one thing for certain is that both teams have heavy roots in the community. Just this past Bantam Draft the Blades selected Chase Wouters in the first round, and Saskatoon is currently the home of Chasetan Braid, who played his minor hockey career in Lloydminster, as well Saskatoon was the home of Braden Holtby who played for the Blades from 2005 to 2009.
For the Oil Kings, they drafted Kobe Mohr last year in the Bantam Draft and Edmonton is the current home to former Lloydminster hockey players Andrew Koep and Brandon Baddock.
With so much talent coming from this area, it was a no brainer for each team to get involved together and bring the game to the Border City.
“This city is just hockey crazy,” said Radomski. “For us to bring WHL hockey and really pack this place ... show me another WHL market who can do that in the preseason.”
The game will be hosted by the Lloydminster Bobcats, with money earned from the event going towards the team. It was just a perfect fit for both teams, who travel the same highway and pass through Lloydminster many times during the regular season to play each other and the rest of the WHL.
“You cruise down the Yellowhead, you meet on the border and have a whole lot of fun, and leave some money behind in the community” said Hogle. “The Bobcats will make great hosts and we feel this is the perfect setting, right on the border, right between the two teams and we both have great roots into this community.”
For some of the players, it is also a chance to once again play at a rink that has meant so much to them and got them to where they are. Oil Kings forward Andrew Koep played in 58 games last season in Edmonton, scoring 14 goals and 40 points in his first year in the WHL. Prior to that he spent many seasons skating at the Centennial Civic Centre as part of Lloydminster’s AAA hockey clubs, including the Heat (bantam) and Bobcats (midget), and will get the chance to play in the rink one more time, along with many other Lloydminster natives.
“It’s really exciting growing up here and playing minor hockey, my dad use to tie my skates here,” said Koep. “Then to play in the Western Hockey League in this same rink is something pretty surreal. This rink should be full for an event like this and I’m sure Lloydminster is going to represent well.”
Both Blades and Oil Kings representatives confirmed that all Lloydminster hockey players will play in the game on Sept 6, including Koep and Mohr for the Oil Kings and Wouters for the Blades, as this game, while fun in nature, is still during the preseason and could have lineup implications come the start of the regular season.
Tickets are still available for the game which will have a 6 p.m. Puck drop. For more information on tickets, visit http://tickets.lloydminsterbobcats.ca.