Gander Flyers focus on local hockey
Home opener set for Saturday night
After a lot of uncertainty about whether there would be another Central West Senior A hockey season, the Kelly Ford Gander Flyers will kick things off with a home opener puck drop against the Clarenville Carbious on Saturday night.
The Flyers have put significant focus on bringing about a local feel this year – aiming for hometown pride – by building a roster of local talent and returning Flyers.
This year’s lineup includes six local players. Four of them, including Josh Fitzgerald, Thomas Hedges, Colton Collins and Graham Oldford, are returning home to wear the purple and gold.
Locals Doug Hardiman and Ryan Matheson are also set to return.
Janice Fitzgerald, club president, is hopeful the injection of homegrown talent will put fans in the stands.
“We feel it’s a step in the right direction, it’s more of a draw for the fans, that they will be more inclined to come out and support their own players, who they have got to watch over the years,” Fitzgerald said.
Having spent three years in the Maritimes playing hockey, Josh Fitzpatrick – Janice’s son – is making the trip home to lace up the skates for what is literally his hometown team. And he couldn’t be happier. “Born and raised here, growing up playing Gander minor hockey, it was an opportunity to give something back and play in front of family and friends,” Josh said. “It’s going to be exciting to put on the Flyers jersey again.”
Given that he’ll be playing along side a lot of old friends and familiar faces, backed by head coach Rick Sheppard – who Josh attributes as someone who done a lot for his development in hockey growing up – the young hockey player is expecting to see a hard-working team this year.
And he’s hoping the locals can lead the way in doing that.
“The six of us we are all pretty close buddies, we want to see Gander do well, and we want to work hard every night, because we’re playing for the pride of Gander.”