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Railer Express rumbles into MMJHL
After a one-year absence, Transcona will once again have a team in the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League next season.
The Transcona Railer Express will fill the void left when the Railers ceased operations after 34 years just before the current season started.
Jerry Sodomlak, the president of the new club, was one of 10 former Railers who got together to establish the new team.
"We set a mandate that we want to give young players an opportunity to play in a competitive environment, and we want to create community spirit," said Sodomlak, who played for the Transcona Titans in 1975-76 and for the original Railers in 1977-78 and 1978-79.
Sodomlak still calls Transcona home, as do most of the 10 board members. He envisions a club that the whole community rallies behind, and that young kids grow up aspiring to play for.
"It left an empty feeling in us," Sodomlak said of the team’s absence this past season. "When I played, it was a huge thing in the community. A lot of people came out because it was an event, not just a game."
The 10 partners aren’t the only ones who have put their money behind their convictions to get junior hockey back in the neighbourhood. Sodomlak said the response from the local business community has exceeded his expectations, with several sponsors already signing on including Goodfellow & Goodfellow Real Estate, Dal’s Restaurant and Casera Credit Union.
The next big challenge will be building a competitive on-ice operation. Head coach and general manager Mike Gordichuk, who played three seasons with the club in the late 1980s, has been scouting talent "since the minute the league accepted us" in January.
"I’ve seen all the high school teams in Transcona," said Gordichuk, who has been the head coach of the St. Boniface Riels, St. James Canucks and St. Vital Victorias. "I just want to see who’s out there. It’s been pretty hectic times since January."
Gordichuk believes the area has no shortage of quality players, many of whom had been choosing in recent years not to play for the Railers.
"If you have a solid, quality program, the kids will want to come to it," Gordichuk said.
The Railer Express will in some ways be hoping to emulate the Raiders Junior Hockey Club, formerly the Seven Oaks Raiders. Rather than starting an expansion franchise, a group of former players bought the team, changed the name, and went from a perennial doormat to a championship contender in just three years.
"I think it would be fair to say Seven Oaks laid the framework for how it needs to be done," Gordichuk said. "The scenarios are similar."
Sodomlak said every situation has its own circumstances and challenges, but acknowledged he’d be thrilled to achieve the same quick success as the Raiders.
"We’re pretty confident that in a few years we can be quite competitive too," he said. "We have to develop the culture… and then we can start challenging."
The Railer Express will be holding a kickoff event for alumni and boosters at The Oak on May 11. For more information, visit www.transconarailerexpress.ca or the team’s Facebook page.
(1 of 5 articles for this week)06/12/2013 1:00 AM 0
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