It has been an encouraging week for the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals.
The Maritime Junior Hockey League (MHL) team is back on the ice with training camp, it has received confirmation that fans will be able to attend regular-season games and it has announced the signing of forward Owen Gilhula on Tuesday night.
The 20-year-old Gilhula played the last four seasons in major junior with the Sudbury Wolves. He had 70 points, including 27 goals, in 171 games with the Wolves in the Ontario Hockey League.
“We are thrilled to add Owen to the lineup this year,” said Caps general manager Pat McIver. “We expect him to be a contributor at both ends of the rink.”
Gilhula is scheduled to arrive on P.E.I. this week and begin his 14-day quarantine before joining the Caps right before the regular season opens in Miramichi, N.B., on Oct. 30. The Caps' home opener is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 7, against Miramichi.
McIver said it was exciting to receive news that the Caps can welcome fans back to Eastlink Arena, which features 26 sections of seating and over 3,000 seats.
“We are excited about how things went,” said McIver. “There was a lot of hard work by the city on the plan, and we are looking forward to getting some fans in the stands.”
McIver could not give a firm number when asked how many fans the Caps will be allowed, explaining there will be bubbles, quadrants and cohorts. In addition, fans who purchase season tickets together will be able to sit together. Social distancing rules will also apply between groups of season-ticket holders, so there could be small and large groups sitting together.
“We are going to come up with a ticketing strategy that hopefully allows us to get as many people in as we possibly can,” said McIver, who expects more information on season tickets to be announced shortly.
“I don’t think you will see individual season tickets be available. … Season tickets are where you are really going to be guaranteed to go to Caps’ games. We are going to strongly encourage people to buy season tickets. Whatever tickets are left over after that will be available.”
Individual game tickets will have to be purchased online or in advance. The box office will not be open on game days.
On the ice, Caps head coach Billy McGuigan said he has been “really happy” with the first few days of camp.
“The pace of practice was excellent. I thought guys showed up in good shape, considering all the things that have been going on in the world,” said McGuigan. “I like the make-up of our hockey club. We are a hard-working group, and there are some really tough decisions going to have to be made here.”
The Caps opened the pre-season schedule with a 7-4 road loss to the Pictou County Crushers on Sunday and travel back across the Confederation Bridge to take on the Amherst Ramblers this evening. The Caps will host the Crushers on Saturday at 7 p.m., but it’s important to note this game will be played without fans.
McGuigan said, with the Caps playing six exhibition games, it will allow the organization to evaluate players. He did say that although there is no firm timeline, he does expect to make some roster moves in the next week or so.
“We’d like to see some of these younger guys play in some of those (exhibition games), so that’s going to make our decision a lot clearer as we go on,” said McGuigan.