Adopt-A-Raider program key part in growing the game locally

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Prince Albert Minor Hockey technical director James Mays presents Prince Albert Raiders captain Brayden Pachal with the Adopt-A-Raider trophy prior to a recent practice.

Shortly after Marc Habscheid was hired as the head coach of the Prince Albert Raiders in November 2014, he had a conversation with Prince Albert Minor Hockey technical director James Mays about making sure that the Western Hockey League club was involved with the local minor hockey organization.

“Marc’s a small town guy and he remembers how much of an impact that the Broncos had on him and his friends when they were growing up in Swift Current,” Mays said.

“He wanted to do that here as just seeing the Raiders players out at the practices makes a huge impact with kids at a young age.”

For the last four seasons, the Raiders and Prince Albert Minor Hockey have teamed up to have players from the team come out and be part of a local minor hockey squad during the course of the year.

“We try to make it as fun as possible for the guys with a trophy going to a player at the end of the year, but the biggest thing if the feedback that we get from the teams, and all of it is fantastic,” Mays said. “There’s been a lot of great stories that have come from it, but one that stands out from me was from a couple of years ago.

“The Raiders were getting ready to go out on a road trip, but one of the players didn’t want to miss out on the playoff game for the novice team he was helping with. So he’s down at the East Hill Rink in his suit and tie on the bench to support the team and he’s also keeping an eye on his watch to make sure that he doesn’t miss the bus. Stuff like that is what makes the program special and the kids remember things like that as they grow older.”

Team captain Brayden Pachal was saluted for his efforts by receiving the Adopt-A-Raider trophy, which has previously been won by the likes of Curtis Meger and Tim Vanstone.

“With the schedules that these guys have, we like to have them out at practices at least once a month, but Brayden was out there for about eight to 10 practices during the year,” Mays said. “He really became a part of the team by making it out to games and being a part of the team’s chat so he knew what their schedule was and how they were doing at tournaments.

“The younger guys like Jakob Brook, Aliaksei Protas and Kaiden Guhle also went the extra mile with their teams, and I think that shows just how much they are learning from some of the older guys on the roster like Pachal and Parker Kelly.”

The Adopt-A-Raider program was something that intrigued WHL commissioner Ron Robison when he came to Prince Albert last month to present the Raiders with the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as regular season champions.

“He thought it was a really neat idea with what we are doing here,” Mays said. “I know other teams have programs where they bring teams to a game or a practice sessions, but I’m not sure if anyone has something like what we do here.

“It’s not just this program though. The Raiders are out at hospitals and old folks homes here, and I think a lot of the credit for has to go to Marc and (general manager) Curtis (Hunt) as it’s important to have a team be a big part of the community.”

Game 1 Sold Out

Those who are hoping to be at the Art Hauser Centre for the opening game of the Eastern Conference semifinal between the Prince Albert Raiders and the Saskatoon Blades are out of luck.

The Raiders announced on Twitter Tuesday afternoon that Friday’s contest is now sold out.

Tickets are still available for the second game in the best-of-seven series, which will get underway at 6 p.m. Sunday.

The team will also be sending to two fan buses to the SaskTel Centre for Games 3 and 4, which will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday night.

Tickets for the bus, which cost $55 for adults and $30 for children for each game, are available through the Raiders office.