ST. PAUL, MINN. - Break out the tuxedos folks, the Montreal Canadiens will serve as the first regular-season opponent for Winnipeg’s new NHL franchise.
Although the full NHL schedule will be released on Thursday afternoon, True North confirmed Wednesday evening that they’ll host the fabled Habs on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 4 p.m. at the MTS Centre in a game that will serve as the season and home opener for Winnipeg.
“To be honest, I could care less about who we’re playing,” Winnipeg captain Andrew Ladd said in a text message. “It’s going to be more about the first game back in Winnipeg and how crazy the fans will be!”
Manitobans will get a double dose of scheduling pleasure on Thursday.
In the morning, the preseason schedule for Winnipeg’s NHL team will be unveiled.
Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff revealed on Wednesday that Winnipeg has simply picked up the preseason schedule the Atlanta Thrashers planned to play.
Winnipeg will play seven preseason tilts, three at home, three on the road and one neutral site game against the Ottawa Senators on Sept. 26 in Conception Bay South in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Having a game in the same province as their American Hockey League affiliate is a bonus.
“It was very fortuitous that the exhibition schedule for Atlanta already had a game already scheduled out there,” said Cheveldayoff. “For us, it’s great. It’s an exciting time for the fans of Newfoundland to really get to see a lot of players that could be there way, but certainly a lot of players who will be in Winnipeg as well.”
That game against the Senators will be part of the Kraft Hockeyville promotion.
Another one of the games is expected to come against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
NAME GAME: Even the potential first round picks of the Winnipeg Whatevers are wondering what the team will be called.
When meeting with reporters on Wednesday, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff shared a little tidbit when the discussion turned to what the team might be called.
Cheveldayoff met with two players expected to go in the first round on Friday and both were curious about the name.
“When we did ask the kids if they had any questions for us, they did ask us that,” said Cheveldayoff. “We had have a good chuckle.”
It’s entirely possible True North could use Friday’s first round pick to unveil the name, but that’s far from a certainly at this stage of the game.
“I do not believe we will have any type of logo jersey with respect to what a team name would be,” said Cheveldayoff. “It will be something that will make for a good story. I told the kids today, ‘don’t worry, we’ll get you one hot off the press when they do come out.’”
SEARCH CONTINUES: When asked about the head coaching search, Cheveldayoff gave no timetable as to when we might have an answer about whether it will be Manitoba Moose head coach Claude Noel or Chicago Blackhawks assistant Mike Haviland who gets the nod.
“It’s something we’ve been very methodical about,” said Cheveldayoff. “We’ve been thorough in our due diligence, both with the prospective coaching candidates and around the league and hockey in general, discussing it. Getting all of the opinions, putting them together to lead to a process that will hopefully conclude soon.
“It’s still a moving target. We’re essentially focused on the draft right now, but things could come together very quickly.”
Cheveldayoff wouldn’t weigh in on whether or not there would be a second round of interviews with Noel or Haviland either.
“I’ve been true to my word that I’m not talking about any of the potential candidates or any of the situations, any time frames or anything like that,” said Cheveldayoff. “The process has been something that’s taken care of itself. I’ll leave it at that.”
As for the head coaching vacancy with Winnipeg’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s, that process is underway and there are plenty of interested candidates out there — some of whom had also expressed interest in the NHL job.
“We’ll start looking at that in short order,” said Cheveldayoff. “The list is long and we haven’t begun anything in that regard yet.”
Two potential candidates on that long list would be Manitoba Moose assistant Keith McCambridge and Montreal Canadiens assistant Kirk Muller.
PLAYER DECISIONS: Cheveldayoff said he had spoken with the agents for the three players on the Thrashers’ roster who are set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1, but that no decision had been made on the future of forwards Eric Boulton and Radek Dvorak or defenceman Freddy Meyer.
Meyer is no longer in the mix as he’s signed a one-year deal to play with Modo of the Swedish Elite League.