Kaden Ruest likes playing for a team in a small town environment. - Jennifer Hoegg photo
In between trips to the rink and classroom, members of the Junior A Wildcats have been getting to know the Annapolis Valley this fall.
Kaden Ruest, who played for the team in Halifax last year, said he is enjoying the move to Kings County.
“It’s great. I’m from a small town back home (in Sudbury), so being in a small town here is perfect,” the 19-year-old defenceman said. “I love it a lot.”
Head coach Nick Greenough said Ruest is not alone in his enjoyment of the change.
“A lot of the guys love it down here,” he said. “When they first come to a new place with new billets, it take a little bit of adjustments, but now, when we have weekends or days off, they don’t go home to the city, they stay here.“
He said the players have been well accepted in the area.
“It’s a big change for these guys, moving away from home,” Greenough said. “Some of them are 16, so it makes the parents comfortable know they’re in a good environment and people are looking out for them.”
Hometown player Brady Atwater is enjoying showing his teammates around, too, and is pleased with the local support for the junior squad.
“We’re getting more people, not just from around here, but from different areas, come to watch us, which is a good thing,” the Northeast Kings grad said.
“It’s great to have all the fans, compared to what the team had last year (in Halifax). The Wildcats are a great organization and to be able to have a junior team is defiantly a good thing.”
Since training camp in August, the Wildcats players have been busy with community projects, as well as hockey games.
“We’re trying to get out in the community as much as possible,” Greenough said. “We’ve had the minor hockey days here on in-service days and development days with Acadia Minor Hockey.”
Ruest said helping the minor hockey players was great.
“I enjoy it all,” he said. “It was lots of fun, teaching them things that they don’t know and try to improve on their games.”
The Wildcats have also been in local schools, too.
“We went out to Berwick school and did the Terry Fox walk with them,” Atwater said. The players are also going to be helping the school’s Christmas skate and Atwater said they hope to visit Kings County Academy soon.
“And we’ve been to the local market multiple times to try to fundraise some stuff and speak out to the community and get our names out there,” he added.
“We definitely have been out and about around the Valley.”
Greenough is pleased with their efforts.
“It’s good for the players and for the community,” Greenough said. “And if anyone wants us to come out to an event, we’re more than happy.”
This week, the Wildcats are hosting two events to help out their new community. On Dec. 13, the first 50 people who come to the 7:30 p.m. game against Amherst with a food bank donation will get in free. Greenough said he hopes every fan will make a donation.
Then, on Dec. 14, the 7:30 p.m. game against Pictou County is the teddy bear toss event.
“If everyone can bring a toy,” the coach said, “When we score our first goal, they’ll throw the teddy bears on the ice.”
The toys will then be donated to local children’s charities.
Ruest said he’s excited for the weekend charity games.
“The teddy bear toss is new to me. I’ve never seen that,” he said. “I hope the fans buy into it and bring a lot of teddy bears and stuff.”
The next community event is Dec. 21, when Acadia Minor Hockey players can get into the game against Bridgewater for free.
Participate in a live blog from tonight's game in New Glasgow at KingsCountyNews.ca. New Glasgow News sports reporter Chris Cameron will be posting photos from the game and discussing the action. Join in and share your thoughts on how the team is doing.