By Bill Burfoot
Photo by Laurie Anderson
The Manitoba Junior Hockey League will be dropping the puck in less than a month as it embarks on the 2019-20 season.
There have been some big changes since the Portage Terriers hoisted the Turnbull Cup this past April. As is the case with most teams in the MJHL, there was a lot of turnover, but possibly the club with the most significant change was the Winnipeg Blues.
When 50 Below Sports + Entertainment announced they would be relocating the Kootenay ICE to Winnipeg for the upcoming Western Hockey League season, the group had also shown interest in purchasing the Winnipeg Blues. This past April that dream became a reality, as the MJHL Board of Governors voted unanimously to approve the transfer of the Winnipeg Blues’ ownership to 50 Below Sports + Entertainment Inc.
With new ownership in place, the organization immediately began making changes to the front office and behind the bench. In early May, the club announced that Taras McEwen would be the Blues’ new General Manager, while behind the bench, former Kootenay ICE assistant coach Gord Burnett was announced as the team’s new Head Coach, taking over for Billy Keane who had held the position since the 2016-17 season. Nick Fuher was hired not long after as Burnett’s assistant coach.
Andy Zulyniak and Jarrett Oster will join the Blues staff as skills coaches, while Brett Martyniuk and Tyler Oswald were also added as the team’s new goaltender consultants.
A New Look, a New Home
After spending the previous nine seasons playing out of Bell MTS Iceplex, Winnipeg will have a new home for the upcoming season. The Blues will play its home games out of the newly built RINK Training Centre at 57 South Landing Drive, just off of McGillivray Boulevard. The new rink comfortably holds 700.
The Blues have also changed their look, altering their logo and colours to match that of the Winnipeg ICE brand. According to the Blues’ website, the away sweaters will be all black and will feature the new logo along with grey, yellow and blue stripes on the arms and yellow and blue stripes at the bottom of the jersey. A dark Winnipeg ICE logo will be located on both shoulders.
The home sweaters will be all white and will feature the new logo with black, yellow and blue stripes along the waist and arms. The white Winnipeg ICE logo will be located on both shoulders.
The Blues begin the preseason portion of their schedule at home September 5th, when they welcome the Selkirk Steelers. Winnipeg’s regular season gets underway with a home-and-home series against the defending MJHL champion Portage Terriers September 20th in Portage, before returning home to face the Terriers on the 22nd.