For the second straight year, the Moose Jaw Warriors hosted a special hot stove panel as part of their annual general meeting.

The panel on Wednesday featured Warriors head coach Tim Hunter and general manager Alan Millar, as well as special guest Bruce Hamilton, the Owner of the Kelowna Rockets and Chairman of the Western Hockey League.

The three touched on subjects from the outlook for the season, changes in the game, their experiences with Hockey Canada and much more.

* * *

Hamilton took time during the panel to address the pending lawsuits against the WHL and CHL in regard to players' amateur status, which has been a rare occurrence for a league official over the past few years.

Hamilton said that they’re continuing to progress, but it's going to be a long process.

"We have legislation in every province now except Alberta and Ontario, we anticipate Ontario when the new Premier can find time to works towards that, we feel confident that it will go through; Alberta, we may need to wait until there's an election there… It's sad because if it came to be, it would really impact a lot of other sports and amateur athletics in Canada," said Hamilton.

"We're confident that in the end, we'll succeed, but how long it takes is the thing that probably wears people out a bit, but we can only do what we’re asked to by the courts and in the end our plan is to be successful and save the amateur status for the players."

It would no doubt be costly for the WHL and the entire CHL if the lawsuits are successful. Hamilton said while they remain confident, it would be prudent for teams to have a contingency plan in place.

"Everybody is very informed, one thing we've done is keep our governors up-to-date with exactly what's going on," said Hamilton. 

"If something is going to happen you want to be able to handle it, to me that’s just good business."

Hamilton also talked about the Rockets' bid for the 2020 Memorial Cup. They're one of three teams in the running with the Kamloops Blazers and Lethbridge Hurricanes also looking to host the national championship.

Hamilton said the process has definitely changed since the last time they hosted the tournament in 2004, "It's a massive undertaking in the sense that it's millions of dollars just to host the thing," he said. "To win it will be a big honour for whoever gets it, but it's a big, big undertaking compared to what it was before.

The Rockets' owner added that they've had strong support from the City of Kelowna and Tourism Kelowna this time around, which is helping their bid.

* * *

After winning the Scotty Munro Trophy last season, the Warriors will be a different team this season, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing, according to the team's brass.

Millar feels that the Warriors are further ahead heading into the season than other teams in the East Division, like Swift Current and Regina, who made pushes last season.

"Within our division, everybody just has the blanket statement that Swift Current, Regina, and Moose Jaw (aren't going to be good), we're ahead of the curve based on our draft-and-develop model and the job that our scouting staff has done, we've got some good young players," said Millar.

"One thing we had those other two teams didn't, is three players at the World Junior camp, so our foundation is good and we'll maybe surprise a little bit as we go along."

The Warriors lost a lot of offence from their forward group coming out of last season, 434 points to be exact. They won't be able to replace that kind of production, but Hunter said that the team will adjust.

"We have some game-breakers up front in Justin Almeida and Ryan Peckford, but our strengths will be in the backend, in goal and on defence, led by Josh Brook and Jett Woo," said Hunter.

"We're an emerging team and we’ll get better and better as the year goes along and our plan is to work hard to develop this team in a hurry, having a young team and that's the real quest, speed up the development of these young guys."

Hunter said this year's team will require more coaching than last season because of the younger lineup, but that's something he’s looking forward to.

"It's another challenge and that's what you want," he said. "I've learned a lot and grown a lot as a coach."

The Warriors open the regular season next Friday against the Brandon Wheat Kings.

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