The Moose Jaw Warriors are in the middle of a six-game homestand, but they hit the road on Wednesday afternoon.
Moose Jaw’s Western Hockey League team set up shop at La Palestre in Gravelbourg for the afternoon as they hosted a practice and then a skate with the team for kids in the Southern Saskatchewan community.
“All these rural communities are the heartbeat of Saskatchewan hockey and to have our guys spend the day — have them watch practice and then come on the ice with our players — was just great,” said Warriors head coach Tim Hunter after the game.
The players arrived early in the afternoon to the tradition small town arena with a concession in the corner and brisk air inside the rink. They hit the ice for an hour practice before the players from the Gravelbourg Stars hit the ice with the players for some fun.
There was a lot of smiles on the players faces, young and old.
“It was really fun,” said Captain Brett Howden. “It’s different for us, getting to travel a bit to come practice in a little town, it’s fun for the kids and it’s fun for the fan that are out here to be able to see us practice.”
While the Warriors’ players are still kids, Howden added that hitting the ice with the younger kids really helps keep the game in perspective for them.
“This game is a kid’s game, every guy in the NHL says that, so it’s always fun out here and we’re just trying to have a good time with the kids, they’re smiling, laughing and having a good time, so it was a good afternoon for sure,” said the 19-year-old first round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Warriors encourage their players to get involved in the community throughout the season through a number of different programs.
Hunter said having the players interact with young fans is an important part of building a team.
“We try to give a lot back to the community in Moose Jaw and Southern Saskatchewan because a lot of these people are fans and we’re trying to cultivate new fans and new hockey players,” he said. “When I was a little guy, an interaction with the older players really meant a lot when they would spend a couple minutes to sign an autograph.
“It’s important that our guys interact with young people because it makes you a better person as well.”
Despite the success that the Warriors have had this season on the ice, the mood around the team after Tuesday’s win against Saskatoon wasn’t very positive after the team blew a four-goal lead in the third period before winning in overtime.
Howden said this afternoon was a good way to move past that game and refocus for the team.
“It’s always good to see what we did wrong, but on the other hand, it’s good to move forward and move on from that,” he said. “We know what we did wrong, we know what we need to be better at and today was a good day to move on, refresh, get a new mindset and just come have some fun.”
The Warriors are on a three-game winning streak. They’re back on home ice on Saturday night when they host the Prince Albert Raiders.