Rocky Junior Rams excited to bring big-time hockey back to community

Will join the Heritage Junior B Hockey League for their inaugural season this year

Early last fall in the bleachers at the Rocky Arena Complex, a group of men had an idea they just couldn’t shake.

Watching players on the ice during a Midget A hockey game, Ryan Stambaugh and a few others had a vision that they felt was finally time to put into action.

It was an idea almost two years in the making when the Rocky Junior Rams were finally reincarnated and accepted into the Heritage Junior B Hockey League in June.

Of course, there hasn’t been junior hockey in the area for almost three decades, but in the last 20 or so, it has been the Rocky Senior Rams in the Chinook Hockey League.

Until, they folded three years ago and left a void.

Stambaugh and the group that helped create the new organization saw a significant need for young players, giving them a place to pursue hockey right at home.

“Rocky is a great community supporting town– the businesses, the people. Rocky has been a hockey town for 50 or 60 years,” said Stambach, the president of hockey operations for the newly formed group.

“Small town, what do you do on a winter night? You go watch your kid play hockey. If your kid isn’t playing hockey, you’re watching the neighbour’s kid. This community is great at supporting that stuff and now we have a place for our midget players to continue playing hockey– our local kids.”

The group started to put a plan in place last September, with feedback from the Heritage Junior B Hockey League about what they would need to do. From then on, they worked tirelessly to put a proposal together.

Fast forward to June 3, when they presented that plan to the league at their AGM and with unanimous approval, the Rams were back.

They are lucky enough to have jerseys a gift by the final version of the Rams from the senior league and most of their equipment as well.

The coaching staff and management came together quickly. Clint Robinson, a long-time community coach will guide the team behind the bench as head coach, with Wendall Mason and Morgan King serving as assistants. Robinson was most recently head coach of the Hockey Central Panthers U15 AA boys in Sylvan Lake.

“He’s been sought after by Junior B and Junior A teams. He’s a magnificent coach. He’s a gem. To have him a part of the team, that’s one of the key factors in it,” Stambaugh explained.

“Wendall Mason has been a big part of the community from minor hockey right through. He’s another driving force behind us having this team.”

Sam Maupin, the new GM, is another long-time Rocky resident. Out of high school started volunteered for the senior team. In the last few seasons before they folded, she was GM of the senior team.

“It was all smiles from her. She was basically 100 per cent dedicated to this,” Stambaugh added.

The next battle for the Rams is finding players. An uphill fight considering they can’t do any active recruiting based on league rules. Still, they’ve collected interest from a number of players and will host a player camp in mid-August, from the 16-18. That will be followed by four tryout sessions between Aug. 27 and Sept. 3.

They are looking for 66 players to attend that camp and have about 40 so far, a lot locally from anywhere between Drayton Valley, Sundre and Red Deer.

“For us, we can’t scout or solicit players from anywhere else. They have to approach us to play on the team. Since we put out our summer camp, we’ve had a huge response from players. Players from all over the province. Players from Ontario and B.C.,” he said.

“The calibre (of the league) since we’ve been watching and paying attention, it keeps getting better and faster.”

Although the league schedule won’t be worked out until later this month, Stambaugh figures they’ll open the season on the road Sept. 21, then play the home opener the last weekend in September.

Excitement is already palpable in the community according to the President of Hockey Operations and they expect it to grow it even more with a community gathering later this month on July 26.

For more information on the team, their origins and tryout sign up, go to www.rockyrams.com.



Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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