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This article was published 21/7/2016 (1152 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Winnipeg Jets, Manitoba Moose and Brandon Wheat Kings are the undisputed top dogs in these parts — but local hockey fans might want to clear some space for a new team to get behind.
Ladies and gentlemen, here come your Aalborg Pirates.
Yes, they may be playing more than 6,000 kilometres away in a Danish hockey league called Metal Ligaen. But don't let a little distance stop you from rooting for a squad that has so many provincial connections they may as well be housed at the MTS Centre or Westman Place.
It starts with the head coach, Brandon Reid. The 35-year-old spent four years as a fan favourite with the Moose, scoring 70 goals and adding 111 assists in 259 regular-season games. He headed to Europe following the end of the 2006-07 season and played another seven years before calling it a career in 2014.
Reid and his wife, Winnipeg writer Jessica Scott-Reid, will have plenty of company this season should they ever find themselves wanting to reminisce about their former home.
Bryce Reddick, 26, should be one of the team's fixtures on the blue-line. The Winnipeg native is the son of Eldon (Pokey) Reddick, who spent three seasons manning the crease for the Jets in the late 1980s.
"It's pretty neat his dad is who he was. I didn't even know until I looked it up," Reid told the Free Press Wednesday in a telephone interview from Denmark.
Reddick has spent the past two years playing in France and Norway following a stint in the East Coast Hockey League
"We needed a guy with good speed who could really control the power play. A right-handed shot. We looked at all the options we got from the agents. One main thing is you got to be a good person if we're going to take you. He was the perfect fit for us," said Reid.
Peter Quenneville is also expected to make an impact this coming season after deciding to leave North America to play overseas. Quenneville, 22, spent last season playing in Cincinnati of the East Coast Hockey League following two years as captain of the Wheat Kings in the Western Hockey League.
"He was the type of player that I wanted to bring over," said Reid. "I told him 'My goal for you is to get out of Denmark as quickly as possible.' I want to try and develop him."
One of the team's top players is flashy forward Sebastian Ehlers, 23 — who just happens to be the older brother of current Winnipeg Jets star Nikolaj Ehlers.
"He's got great speed. He sees the game well, is a very educated player in the game, one of those guys who knows where to go at all times," said Reid. "He's a little bit different than his brother. His brother is obviously a major, top-end offensive threat. I think Sebastian is more of a full, dynamic package. You can trust him defensively, he's great on faceoffs, a great PK guy. He's one of those guys the young players look up to."
Reid spent nearly 20 years playing pro hockey and said he cherished his time in Winnipeg.
"I have nothing but good things to say. The Chipman family, Zinger... they were a big part of my development. I'm nothing but happy for those guys, and the town," he said. As a result, Reid expects many conversations with his players this season about their connections to the Keystone province.
"We will definitely talk about Winnipeg and what a great town it is and what type of fans and people live there. I mean, Friendly Manitoba, that says it all right?" said Reid. "There's nothing better than playing in a hockey town. I wish I would have played for the Jets. My wife's from there, and all you hear, all you see is Jets, Jets, Jets. It's just like the Moose, but on a different level. The hockey fans there are die-hards."
Reid is excited about the coaching opportunity following a recent stint as the assistant coach of Canada's national sledge hockey team. He said the owner of the Aalborg Pirates is trying to build the team up to where it once was, back to a time when they would regularly sell out their 6,000-seat arena and battle for league titles.
"We're trying to do what the Winnipeg Jets are trying to do. We're trying to bring back that fever," he said. "Aalborg is a great hockey town. It can be something great if you get that winning culture into it. There's big opportunity over here. It can be a really great lifestyle. I played 10 years in Europe. I'm known over here, my wife and I feel comfortable."
Reid hopes that fever might spread back to Manitoba when they drop the puck on a new season Sept. 23. And he won't rule out an eventual return to North America to pursue his new career.
"We'll take all the fans that want to jump on over. We definitely hope we get some fans from over there," he said. "If it's here, if it's North America, I'm doing something I love, which is coaching. Where it's going to take me, let it be Europe or back home, this is what I want to do."
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.
Updated on Thursday, July 21, 2016 at 1:11 PM CDT: Updates subhead