Hockey blown away

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

Oh, the uncertainty going into another hockey season.

Will your team come together? Will your goaltending hold up? Will your stars come up big?

Will your arena still be standing?

That last question is the biggest one facing anybody who plays hockey along the Gulf Coast of Texas these days, including a couple of Manitobans.

With hurricane Rita bearing down on the state like a power forward on an over-matched defenceman, Brent Zelenewich and Kirby Law aren't thinking so much about their home openers as they are about how open their homes will be after this weekend.

Zelenewich is a Winnipeg-born goaltender getting ready for his second season with the Corpus Christi Rayz of the Texas-based Central Hockey League.

"We've just built a brand new rink, too," Zelenewich was saying from his Winnipeg home yesterday. "It's beautiful. Unfortunately, it's made of glass, with one whole side facing the Gulf. I just don't know if it's going to stand up by the time the hurricane's through with it.

'Could be like the Saints'

"We could be on the road, sort of like the New Orleans Saints."

Zelenewich says a couple of his teammates, brothers Chad and Derrick McIver of Thunder Bay, Ont., who live in Corpus Christi year-round, are going to wait out the storm.

"They say they've got no place to go," Zelenewich said. "It's pretty scary. I'm a little worried for them."

A shift in the storm yesterday afternoon had Zelenewich optimistic his adopted hometown might be spared the worst of Rita. But if Katrina taught Gulf Coasters anything, it's that anything can happen.

Waiting, watching

Zelenewich says close to 800 displaced New Orleans residents who were being housed in his team's practice and game rinks have been evacuated yet again.

The 26-year-old was going to head south next Thursday, but now he's just waiting, watching and hoping.

Then there's Law, a 28-year-old winger from rural Manitoba who was supposed to leave for Houston and the AHL's Aeros today.

Problem is, that city's under a mandatory evacuation, too.

"They didn't want us driving down and running into the storm," Law told The Sun from atop a combine on a wheat field near McCreary, where he's putting his extra days off to good use by helping his parents with the harvest. "It's a different situation, something you don't ever really think about. You worry about the people in Houston, and hope they can all get out.

"What happened from the last hurricane, everybody kind of learned from it and is going to take off. I'm glad they made it mandatory and made everybody leave."

Law is supposed to contact the Aeros Sunday to find out how badly the city is damaged. Training camp, which was supposed to start Monday, has been delayed and could be moved to San Antonio, if the rink in Houston isn't usable.

"There's a very good chance of that," Law said. "And power lines are going to be knocked down, so your artificial ice starts to melt. The season's supposed to start in a couple of weeks. If anything major does happen, they obviously wouldn't have time to fix anything and have it ready to go. Hopefully, everything's still standing."

It's certainly a different way to go into a season for Law, the Aeros captain last year.

Released by the NHL's Minnesota Wild this week, he knew he was headed to Houston.

He just didn't know he'd take a detour to his parents' farm, first. Or that his home away from home was going to be threatened by flooding.

"Usually you're missing hockey for snow, and reasons like that," Law said.

There's nothing usual about this September. Not around the Gulf Coast, anyway.


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