The Waterloo Wildfire, one of the NRL’s founding teams, will be starting their 8th season this coming Sunday October 16 in Cambridge against last year’s Eastern Conference Champion Turbos. The Wildfire home opener will be on Saturday Oct 29 at 6:45 pm at RIM Park in Waterloo vs the Richmond Hill Lightning.
There have been a few changes to the Wildfire lineup since they ended last season in a playoff loss in Quebec City. Gone is Shelly Kraemer, a seven-year veteran who retired, as well as Leah Henderson who, after four years on the Wildfire defense, was unable to win a spot on the current squad. Forward, Tia Toko, obtained in a trade from the Whitby Wild back in January, is uncertain of her status with the team pending an opportunity for a school exchange to Europe.
New faces on the team include Waterloo native, Katelyn Doerbecker and Cambridge native, Johanna Padalino – both on defense.
Veterans Shelagh Rouse (5th year) and Bryanna Kelly (4th year), both former Team Ontario players, will be the Wildfire centres for returning forwards, Tara Gross (8th year), Lindsey Vivian (7th year), Katie Dawson (6th year), Amanda Somerville (5th year), Brianna Thompson (2nd year and last year’s Eastern Conference Rookie of the Year) and Tawni Constantin (3rd year, her 2nd with Waterloo).
Returning defense players include Cathy VanOosterhout (6th year), Kerith Gordon (3rd year), Heather Statham (2nd year) and Lauren Borland (2nd year).
Both Lisa Malanka (7th year) and Amanda Voisin (4th year) are vying for the starting goaltender job.
Head Coach, Doug Miners, in his sophomore year with the Wildfire will lead a coaching staff of three returning assistants: Jodi Walsh, Bonnie Kelly and Donna Jones. Walsh will work with forwards and Kelly will direct the defense with Jones as special assistant to Miners who, earlier this month, said to the team, “We are building toward a championship team here and whether it happens this year, next year or the year after, it will happen!”
Last year’s Team Ontario managers, Jim and Linda Thompson of Etobicoke, ON, are the final aspect of the off season changes to the Wildfire. Jim takes over the GM role from the original Wildfire GM, Gerry Kraemer, while Linda will be an assistant Manager along with Kraemer who will play a supporting role to the Thompsons in this, their first NRL season. In some of his first words to the team, Jim Thompson said, “Linda and I are delighted to be coming to Waterloo – we are not new to this region and we were extremely impressed by the Wildfire grit in their two exhibition games against Team Ontario last season.”