Now in week three of tryouts, the Williams Lake Stampeders roster is beginning to take shape, said new head coach Al Navrot.
The Central Interior Hockey League Senior Men’s ‘AA’ team’s tryouts have been running since the beginning of September each Tuesday and Thursday evening at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex, and Navrot said he’s been impressed with the group, and the talent, that’s been attending.
Between the pipes, Navrot said the goaltending position will be strong for this year’s team.
“We’ve had eight or nine goaltenders, which is crazy, and quite a few skaters,” said Navrot, who is returning to the team in the head coaching position after, most recently, coaching and managing the now defunct Lac La Hache Tomahawks.
“Lots of new faces. Some old Tomahawks guys out, guys I’ve coached in the past, and a good core from last year including some real good, new forwards.”
That said, Navrot said several long-time players are stepping away from the game this season.
“It’ll all come together,” he said. “We’ve got some good depth at forward, and our defence we’ll develop. I’ve got a good manager in Mike Yonkman — he turns over all the rocks — and makes sure everything’s organized and that makes my job easier to focus what’s going on on the ice.”
Recently, the Quesnel Kangaroos were announced by the CIHL as the 2020 Coy Cup hosts. The tournament will run at the West Fraser Centre from March 24-28, 2020.
The Kangaroos — last year’s CIHL playoff champions — will be hungry to bring home a Coy Cup on home ice after the trophy has eluded the team since 1997/98.
Navrot said it’s going to be fun having the Coy Cup hosted in Quesnel and close to home.
“It’s an extra incentive for us to make it to that point and see what happens by March,” Navrot said.
“If we’re in that spot you never know what can happen.”
Navrot was asked to coach the Stampeders during last year’s Coy Cup trip to Fort St. John, and said he got the coaching bug again after the experience.
“I thought I was finished after that, and before that, too,” he said. “It was a really tough go with the Tomahawks trying to manage, coach, do fundrasing. All that was hard, but I still love the game, and I like being with the guys.”
He said he treats coaching as a challenge, and wants to put the best team on the ice he can for the 2019/20 CIHL season.
“Those guys keep me young a bit,” the 67-year-old joked. “It’s a lot of fun. The game, the people you meet, and it’s good to be back with the Stampeders and have another shot at the Coy Cup.”
Navrot, a former player in the CIHL, competed in the Coy Cup tournament for the first time at the age of 19 with the Port Alberni Islanders.
“Hockey’s been good to me,” he said. “I’m grateful for the game and it’s given me a lot over the years. Once I get on the ice, it’s the next best thing to playing, and when you have a passion for something it never really leaves you.”
The Williams Lake Stampeders are set to open their season on the road Sept. 28 against the Quesnel Kangaroos.
Williams Lake will play its home opener at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex on Oct. 19 when they host the Quesnel Kangaroos. Puck drop will be 7:30 p.m.