The Kootenay Ice will look a little different when they hit the ice on Saturday night, but boy are they going to look like beauties, let me tell you.
As part of the ‘WHL Suits Up with Don Cherry to Promote Organ Donation’, the team will be sporting special, limited edition jerseys — designed to look like one of the Coach’s Corner host’s famous suits — as part of a fun-filled night at Western Financial Place.
The Ice (2-5-1-0) host the Everett Silvertips (4-6-0-0) at 7 p.m. and according to head coach James Patrick, it’s going to be a great night.
“They’re honouring a great Canadian who’s part of our culture [and] Don’s place in [Canadian hockey] over the last 40 years has been incredibly significant … I love watching him and seeing what he has to say,” Patrick said. “I know with it being tied into a great charitable cause [too], it’s fantastic.
“It might take a bit of getting used to seeing the jerseys [though]. Coaching a team wearing those jerseys — I don’t know if it’ll be a funny feeling.”
The boys will be wearing these today. Listen to what it means for them to wear one of the plaid jerseys
— Kootenay ICE (@WHLKootenayICE) October 14, 2017
The black, white and blue plaid jerseys worn by the players will be auctioned off for 10 days following the game and the proceeds will go to the local chapter of the Kidney Foundation.
One player who fans will be especially pleased to see sporting the jersey is Cale Fleury, who will be returning to the lineup after completing a three-game suspension.
In the absence of their captain, the Ice have lost their past three contests and are entering the night on a four-game losing streak.
“I’m pretty ecstatic, I don’t really like being out of the game when I know I can be playing,” Fleury said. “It’s tough to watch sometimes [and] I just want to be out there and help the team.”
As the team’s top defenceman, Fleury’s presence should bring more composure to the team’s blueline and also help significantly with their special teams. In the past three games, the Ice have gone zero for 12 on the power play and seven for 12 on the penalty kill.
“I’m just going to try to bring my work ethic,” Fleury said of how he can improve the situation. “Special teams look like it’s mostly skill, but there’s a lot of hard work involved. You’ve got to outwork the penalty kill and when you’re killing you’ve got to outwork the power play to be successful.
“I was watching our power play pretty closely when I was [in the press box] and I noticed that we need to use the point more, the top guy. We’re going to try and do that as much as we can now.”
As for the uniforms, Fleury — who played on Team Cherry at last year’s CHL Top Prospects Game — is excited to look like one of the greats of the game.
“I think it’s going to be pretty sweet,” Fleury said. “I’ve never worn anything like those, so it should be exciting.”
The Everett Silvertips are coming into the game fresh off their first win in four games, as they beat the Lethbridge Hurricanes 4-3 last night. Their stop in Cranbrook is the last game of a season-long nine game road trip which started back on September 29.
“I think it’s important to pre-scout your opponent and have respect for them, but my biggest focus is on us and how we’re going to play,” Patrick said. “I’ve been around long [enough] to know that whether one team is rested or not, a lot of times you can throw it out the window.
“I don’t want us being one bit overconfident because a team played the night before. We’re not in a position to do that. We’re in a position to be as focused and ready to be as competitive as we can.”
Offensively, Everett is led by 20-year-old winger Patrick Bajkov who has 14 points in 10 games as well as overager Matt Fonteyne who has 12 points and 1999-born centre Connor Dewar who also has 12 points.
Although the team is missing their best player, and one of the best goalies in the league in Carter Hart, who is out with an illness, Dorrin Luding and Kyle Dumba have performed admirably in his absence.
“[Everett] is a team that play pretty wide open style,” Patrick said. “They will send some high forwards [and] they’ll be on the offensive side of the puck. They’re going to test our defence. They’ll try and get guys behind you.
“I expect a really tough game [and] we’ve just got to be a lot better prepared [than last game].”
Against the Red Deer Rebels on Thursday night, the Ice lost 5-4 primarily due to a poor first period in which they allowed three unanswered goals.
According to Patrick, if the team plays the way they did for the last 40 minutes against the Rebels and stick to their structure, they should have success.
“I think it’s important for us to play our system [but] outside of that, I just want guys to have some belief and confidence in their abilities because I think we have a lot of talent on this team,” he said. “I think with our talent, we can give ourselves a really good shot. That’s what the focus is on.
“[We] definitely want a better start, that’s going to be important, [but] at the same time, I know it’s been a tough spell for our guys. We [have] to play together, play for each other and go out and just compete and put our skills to the test.”
As for whether he’ll try to channel Don Cherry from the bench, Patrick said that he’ll leave the bold suit choices to his players.
“I have nothing that could come even remotely close to what Don wears regularly, so I’m not even going to try,” he said.