Ramblers, Amherst host MJAHL draft

Dave Mathieson
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AMHERST?- The Amherst Ramblers are about to make a little bit of team history, hosting the Maritime Junior A Hockey League draft.
If you don't see it now, it could be a while before you see it again. The doors to Amherst Stadium will open on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. with the draft starting at 1 p.m.
"Amherst is known for their great fans," Ramblers coach and general manager Corey Crocker said. "I hope the community comes out and checks it out."
And the price can't be beat.
"To attend the draft itself is free," Crocker said. "It's a great opportunity for fans to come out and educate themselves on how the organization works."
The format will be much the same as it is in the NHL.
"It's very professional. Each team has a table on the floor, a podium is set up, press from all over the region will be attending and it will be carried live on the Internet," Crocker said. "The Ramblers want recognition in the league and this is definitely an event we can build upon."
Crocker, who has spearheaded the organization of the event, can't say enough about the support he has received.
"The community involvement has been fantastic," Crocker said. "I can't say enough about the Town of Amherst and especially rink manager Ray Gouchie and his staff. They have worked long hours to make sure everything goes right."
With all the preparation almost complete, all that's left now is the draft itself and for the Ramblers, it's going to be steady as she goes.
"When I came here we put a four-year plan in place to build the team," Crocker said. "That's what it still is. It's a four-year plan, not a two-year plan."
Crocker takes a quote from NHL general manager Brian Burke to reflect his own philosophy as a general manager.
"We want to be good for a very long time, we don't want to be good one year and bad the next. We want to have a very stable organization that supports the community and a community that supports us," Crocker added.
A good sign for the future of the Ramblers is the number of players returning from last year.
"Right now we have 21 players returning who have team experience. Building a team through returning players and through the draft is our goal. We want stability."
The Ramblers did much better than expected last year. Does he think expectations might be too high for this upcoming season?
"I want fans to have high expectations," Crocker said. "I do the same thing when I watch sports. I have high expectations for the Toronto Maple Leafs next year. I want them to make the playoffs.
"Our coaching staff knows the expectations and they know what to do, that's our job," Crocker added.
Crocker isn't about to reveal who they are looking to draft.
"There are about 125 players out there and we have them all ranked, but we keep that close to our lips."
What does the coming season have in store for fans?
"We have our two territorial picks, Justin Matthews and Wes Herrett," Crocker said. "They are great assets for both the present and future of this team, and I hope people come out and cheer them on when we bring them up to the podium and give them their Rambler jerseys."
Crocker has high hopes but he is also realistic.
"If you sit here right now and say the Amherst Ramblers are going to be the best team in the league, we'll laugh at you," Crocker said. "It's a building process and people can't lose the fact that these are kids, they're not professional hockey players.
"They have families and extracurricular activities. They're not pros but they work hard every night and they provide entertainment and they contribute to the community. That's what we want, we want to support the community and we want the community to support us."
Afterward there will be a dinner, dance and auction with a live band and signed NHL jerseys being auctioned off. Happy hour begins at 6 p.m., roast dinner is at 7 p.m., and the dance begins at 9 p.m.


Organizations: Maritime Junior A Hockey League, NHL, Toronto Maple Leafs

Geographic location: Amherst Stadium

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