First-year Xtreme coach impressed by depth at tryouts
For first year Airdrie Xtreme Head Coach Josh Zimmer, the process of deciding who will be on this year’s Bantam AAA hockey team has been a tough one.
With 75 players coming out to the team’s training camp at the Ron Ebbesen Arena in Airdrie, Zimmer and his staff have spent a lot of time debating to decide who will make up this year’s roster.
“We’ve released 42 kids so far and are down to 28 players, which we need to cut down to 19 players (11 forwards, six defencemen, and two goalies) for the regular season,” Zimmer said. “With everyone playing as well as they are, it’s making things very difficult.”
One of the things that impressed Zimmer the most from the training camp, which was held from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2, was the amount of depth that was on display out on the ice.
“We don’t have a real weak link, which is very rare to see among players at this age,” he said. “We have a number of players that will be able to contribute and make an impact, which is something that I am really excited about.”
Four players who are expected to lead the way for the Xtreme this season are forwards Brent Trentham of Three Hills and Gary Haden of Airdrie, along with defencemen Landon Melzer of Canmore and Taylor Fawns from Didsbury.
All four players will be returning for their second seasons with the Xtreme, after they were a part of last year’s squad that was ousted in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League (AMBHL) South Division finals by the Lethbridge Golden Hawks.
“They all set a good example out there and they have made sure to welcome the new players to the team,” Zimmer said. “They are like grown men trapped inside a 14 year old’s body.”
Zimmer, who grew up in Cochrane but has lived in Airdrie for the last couple of years, joins the Xtreme after coaching the Airdrie Lightning Bantam AA team last season.
He is familiar with the program, as he was a member of the 2000 Xtreme squad that captured the Western Canadian Bantam AAA Championship.
“After that, I followed the normal progression for a hockey player, as I played for the UFA Bisons in Midget AAA and then I played three years in the AJHL (Alberta Junior Hockey League) for Canmore,” Zimmer said. “I was traded to Kindersley in the SJHL (Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League) for my final junior season, and then I spent five years playing at Mount Royal University from 2005 to 2010.”
“Once I finished playing, I coached a Peewee AA and a Bantam AA team in Cochrane before my family and I moved to Airdrie last year,” he added.
Zimmer will get his first taste of coaching in the AMBHL this weekend in Calgary, as the Xtreme will be taking part in a pre-season tournament at the East Calgary Twin Arenas.
The Xtreme will open up their schedule on Sept. 6 at 6 p.m., when they will go up against the Calgary Northwest Flames.
On Sept. 7, the Xtreme will take to the ice at 8 a.m. for a date with the Calgary Southeast Bisons before concluding their round-robin slate at 6 p.m. in a game with the Rocky Mountain Raiders from Okotoks.
The tournament semi-finals will be held in the morning on Sept. 8, with the finals taking place at 6 p.m.
“Right now, we are looking for 19 best guys that can accept their role into making this team the best that they can possibly be,” Zimmer said. “We will be picking our final team based upon how things go this weekend in Calgary, and then we will get ready to start off the regular season.
The AMJHL campaign will officially begin for the Xtreme at the Ron Ebbesen Arena in Airdrie on Sept. 14, when they will welcome the Northwest Flames.