Raiders to open pre-season in Big River, welcome Moose Jaw in home opener

Herald File Photo. Cooper Anderson tends the goal for the Prince Albert Raiders during preseason action at the Jim Neilson Sportsplex in September 2022.

The calendar has yet to turn to July, but the Prince Albert Raiders officially revealed when their 2023-2024 season will begin.

The Raiders will open the pre-season in Big River First Nation for the second time in as many seasons on Sept. 6 when they will take on the Saskatoon Blades at Jim Neilson Sportsplex.

“We were just so incredibly welcomed there last year by the entire community.” Raider business manager Michael Scissons said about the pre-season opener in Big River last season. “We spent a couple of days up there doing some cultural training as well (to get) some understanding of the communities in the area in which we all we all live and play. We thought that was incredibly important for our entire organization (and) our players to go through that.”

With Prince Albert being the northernmost WHL franchise in the WHL, the Raiders often see fans from northern communities make the trip to the Art Hauser Centre to take in a WHL game.

Scissons says the pre-season game in Big River gives the Raiders an opportunity to give back to those communities, something the organization takes pride in.

“I think it’s incredibly important not only in the preseason, but throughout the rest of the year, we do try our best to get out and get to as many communities as possible. A couple of years back we went and did a practice at a different reserve, an hour north where Dallyn (Peekeekoot) was from and that was an incredible experience for all of us.”

“We’ve been invited out to communities in the north to speak and to just come out and practice. We’re the closest WHL team in their market, and because of that we’re the first choice they’re going to have when it comes to purchasing the ticket. We’re going to do everything we can to give back wherever possible to those communities.”

There will be some changes in the WHL’s East Division as the big offseason headline in the WHL has been the relocation of the Winnipeg ICE to Wenatchee, Washington where they are now known as the Wenatchee Wild.

Wenatchee will realign to the Western Conference and join the U.S. Division

“First and foremost, we’re excited to have Wenatchee join the Western Hockey League.” Scissons said. “We’re disappointed that the loss of the Winnipeg franchise had to be the cause for that. It does offer some very unique and probably a little bit more logistically fair play when you look at both conferences now have 11 teams. It did remove a team out of our division, which did have six teams before down to five.”

Some last-minute scheduling changes had to be made as a result of Wenatchee’s relocation and the Swift Current Broncos remaining in the Central division for the upcoming season, the Raiders will be facing the Moose Jaw Warriors in their home opener on Sept. 22. The last time Moose Jaw was the home opener opponent for the Raiders was the 2017-2018 season.

Scissons says there will be plenty for Raider fans to look forward during the home opener.

“Brandon was to play a home-and-home with Winnipeg and without Winnipeg there, they were left idle on the opening weekend. We got together a couple weeks back in Regina and we worked through it. And because of that, we were going to see a bit of a unique situation where we open up against Moose Jaw, which is exciting in itself. They’re going to have an incredibly exciting team to watch this year, that’ll be the first game of then first round draft pick Brayden Yager’s 2023-24 season, and then we’ll head to Saskatoon and play a game on Sunday (Sept. 24).”

Scissons adds the Raiders are doing a lot of work behind the scenes throughout the offseason to improve the fan experience this coming season.

“We are working on some exciting things, some things that our fans enjoyed last year as well as introducing a few more things this year. We’ll try for a couple more giveaways. We’re going to attempt to have some sort of theme for each game that we have this upcoming year. We’ll do our best to make it an incredibly friendly fan experience for everybody to come win, lose or draw. It’s going to be a great night out at a Raider game.”

Raider training camp opens on Sept. 1. See Wednesday’s edition of the Daily Herald for the full Raider 2023-24 season schedule.

Complete Raider Pre-Season Schedule

Wednesday, Sept. 6 vs Saskatoon @ Jim Neilson Sportsplex, Big River First Nation

Saturday, Sept. 9 vs Saskatoon

Friday, Spet. 15 vs Regina

Saturday, Sept. 16 @ Saskatoon @ Legends Centre, Warman