The YKK-sponsored Widnes Wild play their first home game of the new season when they entertain local rivals Altrincham Aces in a challenge match this Sunday 1st September at Planet Ice Widnes – 5.30 p.m. face off.
The Wild beat the Aces away in Altrincham last Sunday by a comprehensive 1 – 10 score line but it is early days in terms of pre-season preparations and both teams are likely to have different players available, so anything could happen.
The Aces had a disappointing time by their own standards in the Laidler Division last season and the Wild beat them in all four league meetings. However, previous form tends to count for very little in local derby games and matches between the Wild and the Aces are always keenly contested affairs, due to the relatively close proximity of the clubs and regular interchange of players over the years.
New Wild signings Sam Anderson and Charlie Ratcliffe both played for Altrincham-based teams last season and Mikey Gilbert and Jakub Hajek have also iced for the Aces in recent years. There are a lot of new faces in the Wild team this season, after several members of last year’s League and Play Off double winning side chose to retire from the game or move to pastures new.
Looking ahead to the return game against the Aces, Wild Head Coach Mike Clancy said:
“Our preparations for the return match started on Tuesday night. I expect much of the same but will demand a much higher tempo to the game as we use this next fixture to fine tune a few things for the tougher tests ahead.
“I think the home crowd will really like the mix of youth and experience this year as we build the new core to allow us to compete at a higher level.”
Before the game on Sunday, there will be a special ceremony to “retire” the No. 7 playing shirt that was worn by previous player/coach Ollie Barron.
A shirt retirement is a comparatively rare occurrence in ice hockey and is accorded to a player who has shown a great service to a club and. It means that his playing shirt number will never be worn by another player.
The retirement ceremony typically consists of lifting the player’s shirt up to the roof – or some other similar action – accompanied by a round of applause.
The only previous Wild player to have had his shirt retired was netminder Greg Ruxton, whose No. 64 shirt was retired in October 2017. Interestingly enough, the Altrincham Aces were also the visitors on that occasion.
The game will face off at the usual time of 5.30 on Sunday, but because of the shirt retirement ceremony beforehand, supporters are advised to take their seats in plenty of time.