While the Neepawa Natives junior ‘A’ hockey club has been extremely busy recently on the ice with its pre-season training camp, the team has also made huge progress away from the rink.
Team president Ken Waddell said that the organization has a number of new and exciting initiatives this year, including the NACI Student program and the Billet Sponsorship program.
The Billet Sponsorship program
Billet costs are one of the biggest expense items for any junior team. The Neepawa Natives pay billet families $350 per month per player for six months of billeting. That amounts to $2,100 per player or over $50,000 in total for the entire year. So far, the team has six sponsors at $2,100 per season each and would like to get enough sponsors for the season to cover the entire roster. Billet sponsorship is a way for individuals to help the team and community assure that the players who come to Neepawa from all over North America have a good, safe family home atmosphere. If you would like to be a billet sponsor for six months or three months, please contact team president Ken Waddell at (204) 476-6214 or billet coordinator Mary Ellen Clark at (204) 476-6214, for information on how you can become a billet sponsor.
NACI Student Program
The Neepawa Natives are pleased to have a private sponsor this year that allows the team to offer free game day admission to all Neepawa Area Collegiate Institute (NACI) students. All a student has to do is show their NACI student pass at the entrance of the Yellowhead Centre on game day to attend a regular season Neepawa Natives game.
HMK Student Program
Back again this season is the HMK Student Program. A generous sponsorship has allowed the team to offer free tickets to all Hazel M. Kellington students.
Myles Cathcart has served in every position on the team, from player to bus driver to coaching and management. Cathcart returns this season as General Manager overseeing Hockey Operations for the club. His efforts and passion for the game are the backbone of the Neepawa Natives franchise.
2016-2017 coaching staff
Head coach Dustin Howden steps into the top job this season. Howden hails from Deloraine and has a long career in minor hockey. Having served as an assistant coach for the Neepawa Natives for the past two years, Dustin is very enthusiastic about the upcoming MJHL season.
Ryan Menei has stepped into the role of assistant coach. Menei is a Manitoba boy, who has played professional hockey in both the Central and East Coast Hockey League, as well as the Italian League. After spending a few years in Alberta, Menei and his family have relocated to Neepawa. Menei’s pro experience should offer a benchmark of performance for the players to aspire to.
Also an important part of Neepawa’s coaching staff this season is Jim Platt. Platt has been a part of the Natives organization in the past, serving as a co-coach in the 2011-2012 MJHL season. His 30 plus years of experience will provide a strong level of mentorship to both the staff and roster for the upcoming season.
Neepawa Natives Scouting
One of the most important aspects of any hockey team is its scouting staff. These individuals put in endless hours watching future prospects from all across the prairies, develop their game. Once again this season, Byron Billett is serving as the club’s Director of Player Personnel/Head Scout/Education. Billett’s commitment to the team is well known across the region. Other members of the scouting staff for this season include; Shane Baranyk, Derek Cathcart, Dale Dufour, Dustin Fisher, Stephen George, Dean Hardern, Michael Juce and Ross McBride.
Derek Pearson is Neepawa born and raised and returned to his hometown a few years back to open the Boxe Neepawa Combat Sports and Fitness Club. He is a skilled salesman and trainer, so his role with the Neepawa Natives is a perfect fit.
As the summer draws to a close, the Neepawa Natives would like to thank everyone who has worked behind the scenes to ensure the upcoming MJHL season is a success.