Big changes coming for the Kitchener Rangers season
KITCHENER – Hockey is coming back after more than a year of hiatus.
So the Kitchener Rangers aren’t complaining when they look at the recently released Ontario Hockey League schedule for the 2021-22 season.
But the changes for the next campaign are significant as the club prepares to return to the ice after closing its doors last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Rangers will continue to play 68 games, split evenly between Aud and Road arenas, but fans will see a lot of familiar faces.
The Blueshirts play just under half of their schedule – 10 games apiece – against the Guelph Storm, London Knights and Owen Sound Attack.
The OHL has also implemented interconference play for most teams in an attempt to reduce travel, hotel stays and costs, which for the Rangers means no games against conference clubs. from the east.
Fans won’t be able to see Kingston Frontenacs dynamo Shane Wright, who is expected to be the first overall pick in next year’s NHL Draft.
Ditto for Sudbury Wolves winger Quentin Musty and North Bay defenseman Ty Nelson, who were the top picks overall in the last two OHL Drafts.
âIt’s exciting to play against the Eastern teams,â said Rangers general manager and head coach Mike McKenzie. âIt’s not just a change of pace for us, but also for the fans. But I understand that they (the OHL) are trying to do things differently with the way everything is right now.
The road swing through Kingston and Ottawa is always popular as it is a chance for Eastern Ontario players to play in front of family and friends.
Reducing travel and costs makes sense in these uncertain times, but for the Rangers, the schedule changes will mean no savings.
âIt’s funny how it works,â McKenzie said. “I was looking at the calendar and spending hotel nights and traveling and I think we could have more trips this year.”
Kitchener is losing long trips to Ottawa, North Bay and Sudbury, but also forgoing close trips to Barrie, St. Catharines, Hamilton and Mississauga, which are home to two of its three nearest highway barns.
Meanwhile, the Rangers earn an additional trip to Sault Ste. Marie, Flint and Windsor and two more in Sarnia and Owen Sound.
âI hope it’s only a year and we can get back to normal,â McKenzie said.
Anyway, here are seven games to circle on the calendar for the 2021-22 season:
October 8: It was the home opener against the Guelph Storm which, ironically, was the last team to face the Rangers before the league closed (the Rangers won 7-4).
October 9: Already missing the storm? No problem. Head east on Highway 7 to the Sleeman Center for Guelph’s home opener against the Blueshirts.
October 27: This is your chance to get your Northern Ontario fix. This is one of three games at Sault Ste. Marie this season but, being in late fall, the only one you’ll want to drive.
November 12: The game against the Owen Sound attack is secondary. The reason you want to attend this home tilt is for the pre-game Remembrance Day ceremony. Having seen many of these ceremonies around the OHL, believe me when I say Kitchener is the best.
December 31st : Celebrate the New Year with the Rangers at Aud. The puck falls at 4 p.m. for this clash with the Attack, so you can still participate. Kitchener also plays in Owen Sound on New Years Day at 2 p.m. and the next day in Guelph. It’s just a bad schedule.
the 21st of February : Only 14 games (2.1%) are scheduled on a Monday across the league this season and this Family Day dandy with the London Knights at Bud Gardens is one of them.
First of April: Check a regular season game in April on your bucket list. As an added bonus, the visiting Windsor Spitfires are expected to be a contender in the West this season. No fool.