POSTED ON MAY 23, 2012:
The Tulsa Oilers bring junior hockey back to the ice.
The Tulsa Oilers have announced that they are bringing junior hocky back to town, and it couldn't come at a better time, or to a better city.
Taylor Hill, general manager of the Tulsa Oilers, said that Tulsa has been without a junior hockey team for a while now.
"We wanted to fill that void," Hill said. "Having a junior hockey team allows the kids in the current youth programs to have a place to graduate to and it will ensure that more of our homegrown talent stays in Tulsa."
Hill said that the Oilers want to provide a place "where kids can take the next step in their hockey careers. ... It is a great addition to the hockey foundation we've already built in this city," he said.
None of this could have happened without the assistance of Mike and Robin Messer, who are long-time supporters of Tulsa hockey. "The Messers have been involved in youth hockey for years," Hill said. "They have two sons who grew up playing hockey and they've always been big supporters of the sport. They share the same goals that we have, they want to see hockey move forward in Tulsa."
The Junior Oilers will join the Western States Hockey League for their inaugural 2012-2013 season. The Western States Hockey League started in 1994 as a Junior B league. In 2006, it jumped to Junior A. Along with the Junior Oilers, teams from Seattle, Oregon and Ontario, California. Before the season begins, there will be 20 teams in the league.
"The WSHL is perfect fit for what we're trying to accomplish with junior hockey," Hall said. "We hope to have great fan support but in the short term, the league isn't necessarily based on bringing in money so it makes economic sense for us to be a part of a league that allows us to build up a team over time."
Besides joining an up-and-coming conference, the Oilers decided to bring in Zac Desjardins as their head coach. Hockey pumps through Desjardins' veins, and hiring him was a no-brainer. "Zac is very experienced and very well connected in the junior hockey world," Hall said, "which makes him the perfect choice for a new organization like ours."
Desjardins, who is familiar with the hockey landscape, has a wealthy knowledge of coaching and will bring a lot to the Junior Oilers. "He coached the San Antonio team in the WSHL, so he's very familiar with the league and he knows what it takes to create a winning program," Hall said.
When it came to deciding on his future, Desjardins had no problem deciding to coach the Junior Oilers. "I want to come to Tulsa to build on the tradition that already exists," Desjardins said. "I like being in smaller markets to help expand the game of hockey and I want the kids and our fans to be able to experience good hockey."
Before being named head coach of the Junior Oilers, Desjardins played junior hockey in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and the American West Hockey League. After hanging up his skates as a player, he coached at Kent State University. In 2009, he was the head coach of the San Antonio Diablos, who also play in the WSHL. Other teams he assisted with were the Cambellton Tigers of the Maritimes Junior Hockey League in Eastern Canada and the Kenai River (AK) Brown Bears of the North American Hockey League. With several years and experience as a coach under his belt, Desjardins also had the opportunity to help recruit and develop junior hockey talent through the Under Armour Hockey Showcase and the USJDP Junior Prep Camp.
Since hiring Desjardins, deciding on who plays for the Oilers is the next important decision to be made. "I want to bring in the best players possible," Desjardins said, "So I'm going to look at their skills and their work ethic but their off-ice personality is a huge factor as well. I don't want any trouble off the ice."
Desjardins wants players that want to be part of the Tulsa community and help give back. "I want kids who buy into the team concept and who want to give back to the community," he said. "Talent is very important, but personality is just as big because we want to build a team that Tulsa is proud to call its own." With that type of attitude, Desjardins will have no problem finding players who fit his criteria and would like what the Tulsa sports community will bring to help support the Junior Oilers succeed.
The wait to watch the Junior Oilers is almost over. The Junior Oilers will slip their skates on and open their inaugural season in September. While most of the regular season home games will be played at the newly renovated Oilers Ice Center (64th and Mingo), a few games will be played at the BOK Center prior to Tulsa Oilers games. These dates will be determined once the schedule is released. The price of individual game tickets are $10, which includes the chance to skate with the players after each home game. Season ticket prices have not been determined, but Tulsa Oilers season ticket holders will receive a discount on Junior Oilers season tickets. The season will run through the end of February.
For more information on the Junior Oilers, you can contact the Tulsa Oilers office at 918-632-7825 or check out their website at tulsajuniorhockey.com.
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