The start of the 2018-19 NPHL regular season is just a couple weeks away, and the Fort St. John Sr. Flyers couldn’t be more excited and ready to defend their championship in the organization’s 60th year playing competitive senior men’s hockey. To prove it, the Flyers revealed new jerseys last night, and announced a special night to honour legendary Flyer Rob Alexander.
The Flyers have new jerseys for the first time in 10 years, as well as a sharp looking third jersey. The colour scheme and logo is the same, but the look is fresh and will add to the excitement of the upcoming season.
“We’re real happy about them. It’s a different take on tradition — not exactly replicas, but within the same style,” said Flyers GM Lee Hartman. There is also a new, special Flyers 60th anniversary logo at centre ice of the North Peace Arena.
As Flyers President Paul van Nostrand read the impressive list of the team’s accomplishments over the years, including winning many South Peace and All Peace Hockey Championships, as well as two Coy Cups, two NPHL championships, and the 2010 Allan Cup, he talked about the contribution the team’s executive and management have played.
“We’ve been fortunate with the fine individual members on our executive,” van Nostrand said, “and our game day support is second to none.”
One person that has played an integral role with the Flyers is Rob Alexander, who played with the team for 15 seasons and won nine SPHL titles. Alexander was the team’s captain for four of those seasons.
During the Coy Cup in March 2019, van Nostrand said the Flyers will have a special “Rob Alexander Night,” to celebrate Alexander and retire his number 10 jersey. Alexander will join his brother Gary Alexander, Jimmy Anderson, and the late Rod Fonteyne as players to have their numbers retired by the Flyers.
“You’re just about to make me have tears in my eyes. It’s a very nice honour actually and I never thought this would happen,” Alexander said after the announcement was made.
Alexander said he has lifelong friends from his playing days with the Flyers, and he still watches and follows the team and feels a part of the Flyers’ family. It’s this family atmosphere, along with the many sponsors and community supporters, that has allowed the organization to thrive this long.
“Hockey is Canada. Every Canadian town should have a team like the Flyers. The High Prairie Regals, Dawson Creek Canucks, and Grande Prairie Athletics, are all very similar to us,” said Hartman. “We have a strong league and look forward to many more years.”
As far as the actual hockey side of things, the Flyers are in the midst of training camp, with the final ice time going Oct. 17. The team will play two exhibition games against the Dawson Creek Sr. Canucks, in Chetwynd on Oct. 13 and in Fort St. John on Oct. 20. The NPHL regular season schedule has not been released, but the season will start just before the end of October.
Andrew Leriger, the Flyers head coach, likes what he’s seen from those who’ve attended camp before.
“There are quite a few new guys, which I didn’t expect. It’s usually the same crew. We have more new people than veterans, so far,” he said.
The Flyers will need some of those new players to play a big role with the team, as some of the team’s key players from the past couple seasons, including Jake Ebner and Brandon Millin, have moved on and won’t be with the team this season.
Leriger said the fact that the Flyers will host the Coy Cup this season is really exciting for the team and his players. Leriger captained the Flyers as a player the last time the tournament was in Fort St. John, in 1994, and although he’s now won it twice as a coach, he never did get to raise the Coy Cup as a player and that still drives him to try and win another one.
“We were always the bridesmaids. I think I watched that cup be hoisted in front of my face seven times,” Leriger said.
Despite the excitement, Leriger said the priority is still to win the NPHL title, and hope the pressure and excitement doesn’t get to his players.
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at email@example.com.