After a one-year hiatus, the Transcona Railer Express are ready to hit the ice as the newest member of the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League.
The Transcona Railers ceased operations after 34 years just prior to the start of the 2011-12 season. That prompted several former Railers to come together to establish the new team.
Head coach Mike Gordichuk, who played with the club in the late 1980s, said it’s nice to have Transcona playing in the MMJHL again, especially after the team experienced some rough times on the ice before folding.
"Having coached in this league for a number of years with St. Vital and St. James, sometimes it was painful to see what was going on here in Transcona," he said.
"Certainly in the last three, four years it was very disheartening to see the team had deteriorated to the point it deteriorated to, and the ultimate was when it folded."
Despite this being the team’s first year back in the league, Gordichuk is expecting his squad to be competitive.
"Once we were accepted back in the league I began that long process of recruiting, and it’s pretty tough when you’re starting from scratch," Gordichuk said.
"We were able to get about 42 kids out to camp. There’s some talent there, but we just want to compete. We know this is going to be a two- or three-year process."
Transcona resident Greg Myall, who had to play with the St. Boniface Riels last year after Transcona folded, said he was devastated when he learned the community had lost its team.
"It’s pretty special. My uncle played for the Railers when he was younger and I always heard about it from him and his buddies," said Myall, who played six games with the Railers two years ago after his high school season ended.
"Growing up it was a goal of mine to get there, but when they folded I was left with where do I go now? When I heard about them coming back it was pure excitement."
Jerry Sodomlak, president of the new club, said it’s great for the community to once again have a team of its own.
"We’ve created a buzz that kids want to play now, and we’re getting a lot in the business community who are getting involved to promote and support us," Sodomlak said.
"I think we’re overcoming a lot of hurdles already."
Myall said it’s still early, but he feels the team will be a cohesive unit for years to come.
"We’re not down to the final roster yet, but we have a tight knit group in the dressing room already," the 19-year-old forward said.
"The members of the team will be important parts of this team for years to come."
The Railer Express season opener is scheduled for Sept. 23 versus the St. James Canucks at the East End Arena located at 517 Pandora Ave. E. The puck drops at 2 p.m.