By GLENN HIBDON
GTR Sports Writer
Mike and Robyn Messer approached Tulsa Oilers owner Jeff Lund and general manager Taylor Hall about replacing the Junior A Tulsa Rampage of the Western States Hockey League after the team’s departure two seasons ago. The new franchise will be called the Junior Oilers and also play in the .
“The Messers are part owners of the team with Jeff and Taylor and they thought it was the right time to bring junior hockey back,’’ says Oilers communications director Rob Loeber. “Taylor had a meeting with the and went down to watch El Paso play and get the lay of the land. The officials visited our Tulsa rink and gave their approval.’’
The Junior Oilers will play at the Oilers Ice Center, 64th Street and Mingo Road, starting in mid-September. Players are 16 to 20 years old and will be billeted with local families. They will attend high school or on-line colleges during the day and practice after school. Games will be played on weekends.
Many of the former Rampage players received college hockey scholarships or moved up in the junior ranks. The same goals await members of the Junior Oilers.
Zac Desjardins, 32, has been named coach of the team. He comes from Denver where he was a hockey camp coordinator and instructor. Desjardins has been part of recruiting and development through the Under Armour Hockey Showcase and the USJDP Junior Prep Camp.
Desjardins began his coaching career at Kent State University and in 2007 earned his first junior coaching job as an assistant for the Cambellton (N.B.) Tigers of the Maritimes Junior Hockey League in Eastern Canada. He took an assistant coaching position in 2008 with the Kenai River (Alaska) Brown Bears of the North American Hockey League and was named the head coach of the San Antonio Diablos of the in 2009.
“Taylor will be the general manager of the Juniors Oilers and will responsible for putting everything into place,’’ Loeber says. “He will recruit some of the players and his role will be similar to that of our team (the Central Hockey League Oilers).
“Taylor will handle players who contact us, but most of them will be recruited through the head coach. It’s up to him to find the talent level he wants in Tulsa.’’
Loeber says bringing back a youth team will be a win-win situation for the Oilers. The junior team will play several doubleheaders with the pro team at the Center and it’s hoped the added visibility will produce more interest at the grass roots level.
“We would like to have in place a system for our local kids who have an interest in playing hockey,’’ Loeber says. “Most of our players come from outside of Tulsa, but we will have a few local kids as well. Our hope is that they can play in high school or recreationally. Then they can play for the Junior Oilers and move up to play for the Tulsa Oilers.
“We want the Junior Oilers involved in the community and to be a part of it like our Oilers players are. We will do cross promotions with the team and when people think of hockey in Tulsa, we want them to think of our names. The junior team will reaffirm our brand in Tulsa and it will be a great benefit to us.’’
Tickets are going to be $10 per game and the cost includes a post-game skate. There will be a skate for the fans after every Junior Oilers home game.