The Olds Grizzlys will not add any WHL players to the roster ahead of the 2020-21 AJHL regular season. (Photo courtesy of Olds Grizzlys)

The Olds Grizzlys will not add any WHL players to the roster ahead of the 2020-21 AJHL regular season. (Photo courtesy of Olds Grizzlys)

Olds Grizzlys buck trend, won’t add WHLers to start year

The Olds Grizzlys are one of a handful of teams in the Alberta Junior Hockey League taking a stand as the season starts.

With the Western Hockey League on hold until Jan. 8, players have been granted a temporary loan to Junior A, Junior B and U18AAA teams across Western Canada. That loan lasts only until WHL camps start, which will likely be sometime after Christmas.

Many teams across junior hockey have jumped at the opportunity, but the Grizzlys are one of five teams in the 15-team loop that will not have a major junior player on its roster when the puck drops on Nov. 13.

In a statement Saturday, the team said they are focused on the commitment to development and won’t alter that course in order for a short term gain.

“The Grizzlys have been working extremely hard to rebuild our once proud and historic reputation over the last couple years as a place where young players can come and not only develop as hockey players but be good citizens as well,” the team said in a statement posted on its website.

“The feeling that adding these players for the opportunity of possible short-term success and then the player leaving after Christmas to re-join their respective Canadian Hockey League teams goes against our values of recruiting and development.”

Through exhibition play in October, the Grizzlys had a 4-4-0-0 record.

Olds currently has 12 rookies listed on the roster for the upcoming season, with 11 Central Alberta products total.

“The Grizzlys have made a commitment to the players and their families that we have recruited and on our roster this season and we will continue with that philosophy and stay the course,” the statement concluded.

Last week, the Brooks Bandits, who are the defending national Junior A champions, added Ozzy Wiesblatt and Jake Neighbours, both of whom were selected in the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft.

Red Deer Rebels forward Dallon Melin will suit up for the Camrose Kodiaks and Mason Ward is expected to play for the Lloydminster Bobcats. Rebels defenceman Chase Leslie is also looking at the AJHL as an option.