Pre-Game Ceremonies Planned
Brandon, MB. - Plans continue for what promises to be an exciting night at Westoba Place Friday night when the Brandon Wheat Kings kick off their 2019-20 Western Hockey League season against the visiting Winnipeg ICE.
Not only will Brandon be hosting a provincial rival in thirty-five years, the Keystone Centre will be unveiling their new center ice video scoreboard before the game.
The former scoreclock was installed in time for the 2010 Mastercard Memorial Cup and its replacement was identified as a capital item in need of replacement. The new scoreclock features a larger screen in High Definition as well as an additional, free floating LED video ring.
Participating in the ceremonial opening face-off Friday will be three newly elected members of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame, including two former Wheat Kings.
Longtime WHL official Rob Haithwaite, a Brandon native, will be joined by former Brandon goalkeeper Trevor Kidd and forward Bob Fitchner, who in addition to playing in Brandon he later coached the Brandon University hockey Bobcats.
Fitchner spent two seasons in Brandon, skating for the Wheat Kings from 1968-1970, scoring 41 goals and 109 points in 120 regular season games. Chosen by the Pittsburgh Penguins, he decided instead to pursue his career in the World Hockey Association, with stops in Indianapolis, Edmonton and Quebec. With les Nordiques, he made his National Hockey League debut in 1979 when Quebec was one of four teams absorbed into the senior circuit. Following a career that saw him play 817 professional games, he returned to Brandon while pursuing an Education degree, he served three years as a coach with the BU Bobcats. Among his players was Peter Gerlinger, who now provides analysis during Q Country radio's Wheat King broadcasts.
A former member of the Eastman AAA Selects, Trevor joined the Wheat Kings as a 16-year old rookie netminder in 1988. Not only did he establish himself as one of the league's best rookies, he went on to help Canada win back to back gold medals at the World Junior Hockey Championship. He also captured a Memorial Cup following a blockbuster trade between Brandon and Spokane. Chosen in the first round (11th overall) by the Calgary Flames, "Kidder" went on to play eleven seasons in the NHL with stops in Calgary, Carolina, Florida and Toronto.
Born in Neepawa, Rob grew up in Brandon, spending his winters playing minor hockey across southwestern Manitoba. At age 12, looking for a way to earn some extra money, he became an official under the guidance of Hall of Fame member Andy Gurba. At 16, he was a linesmen in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League before becoming a WHL official from 1979-84. Rob has been selected numerous times to officiate Provincial, National and International competitions. Today, he serves as a Video Goal Judge for the NHL in Winnipeg.
Kidd and Fitchner are two of five former Wheat Kings that will be inducted into the Hall on October 5th. Joining them will be Lyleton's Marty Murray, Mather's Terry Yake and Wheat Kings' current owner and governor Kelly McCrimmon.
Murray, Yake and McCrimmon, who is the current general manager of the National Hockey League's Vegas Golden Knights, are not expected to be in attendance this weekend.
Performing the national anthem will be Dr. Aaron Wilson of the Brandon University's School of Music.
Originally from Olympia, Washington, Wilson has served as the Assistant Professor of Low Brass at BU since 2014. He has performed all over the world, most recently in Switzerland, Berlin and at the International Trombone Festival in Iowa. Additionally, he has played with several professional ensembles, including Winnipeg and Regina's Symphony Orchestra, International Tuba Quartet and the Brandon Chamber Players.
Fans are encouraged to come out to the Keystone Centre early Friday night as the Brandon Sun will host a pre-game Tailgate Party in the MNP Hall, starting at 5pm. Additional details on Friday's Tailgate Party will be announced on Thursday.
Meanwhile doors to Westoba Place will open at 6:30pm and fans should be in their seats early for the scoreboard introduction, kick off video and player introductions.
The first 2,000 fans in attendance will receive a special Wheat Kings hand clapper, courtesy of the Brandon Sun, TELUS and Westoba Credit Union.
Tickets to the Home Opener are on sale at the Keystone Centre box office, by calling (204) 726-3555 or online at keystonecentre.com
As of Wednesday morning, over 3,000 tickets had been purchased for the game.
Meanwhile for those fans interested in 2019-20 Season Tickets, be sure to stop by the Wheat Kings' office or call (204) 726-3535.
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