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Grande Prairie Storm home opener Friday

The Grande Prairie Storm’s head coach is looking optimistically forward as the 2023-2024 Alberta Junior Hockey League season kicks off.

Eric Thurston says there were some shifts on the team’s roster over the off-season, especially with last year’s leadership group, including Ty Teows, Robert Pizzey, and Hudson Foley aging out and moving on to the next stage in their career. Thurston explains like any result-based business, the Storm looked at what worked and didn’t work last season and built off that.

“We have done quite an adjustment with our roster, and I think the biggest thing where I see us is we have gotten a lot bigger, we have a stronger team, our defence is going to be really strong. I like the new additions.”

Along with adding to the team’s defensive core, Thurston adds he is looking forward to seeing the work the additions to the offensive line will bring, including Matt Corbet, who the team acquired from the Calgary Canucks in July. Along with looking at players’ production on the ice, Thurston says the character they bring to the team’s dressing room was also important when putting together this season’s roster as the organization looks to continue to build its presence in the Grande Prairie community.

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“We are working on a new initiative we are just trying to get organized, where we would let minor hockey coaches come in to watch and be on the ice during our practices, and then give them a chance to take what they have learned from us back to their teams,” Thurston says. “We have also added quite a few more Sunday games, and then after our Sunday games, we will have a Skate with the Storm, where the kids can come out on the ice after our games with the Storm players, and we are going to try to do that after most of our Sunday afternoons.”

These skates would take place after 2 p.m. games on Sunday. The Grande Prairie team opened their season by losing a pair of games on the road but will look to make those losses up during Friday, September 22, home opener against the Drayton Valley Thunder when they host them in a pair of back-to-back games.

A fan festival will be a part of the home opener Friday, including face painting, games, food trucks, and music at Bonnetts Energy Centre. from 5 to 6:15 p.m. Puck drop is 7 p.m.

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