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Wizards excited about season opener

Sept. 20, 1996

By Russell Reneau

Lariat Sports Reporter

Professional ice hockey will soon be a reality in Waco. The Waco Wizards' front office has been preparing for months to make sure that the inaugural season is a success.

'Everything is moving along great,' said Rob Schriner, the Wizards' general manager. 'Brad (Buetow, the Wizards' head coach) just arrived in Waco on Monday and he is getting settled in here, and we have also hired two equipment managers, an athletic trainer, and a radio announcer.'

The Wizards will play their home games in the Heart O' Texas Coliseum, which will seat nearly 8,000 spectators for hockey. The Wizards will play their first home game Oct. 26 against the Austin Ice Bats.

'Construction on the Coliseum is going well,' Schriner said. 'We had new lights installed so it will be easier for the fans to watch the game and easier for the players as well. We have the boards and the glass in place and we are currently working on the press box and the dressing rooms.'

The Wizards also have their Zamboni machine. For those who do not know hockey, the Zamboni is a machine that replaces and cleans the ice before the games and during the intermissions.

A professional franchise cannot exist without players, and the Wizards have already signed seven players: player/assistant coach Chris Gotziaman, forward Alex Kholomeyev, defense men Tim Green, Jamie Hearn, Dave Anderson and two others to be named later this week.

'The roster looks great,' said Schriner. 'Defensively we look very strong. Everyday we are getting new information about players over the wire. We just want to find the best players available for our team.'

'We are bringing in some quality skaters,' said Brian McLean, the Wizards public relations director. 'Alex was asked to attend the Stars rookie camp, which is by invitation only, and Chris was a second-round pick by the New Jersey Devils, so I think that the team is looking good so far.'

Buetow is also looking forward to the prospects of his new team.

'I think we'll have a good team, because we have signed some good players,' Buetow said. 'The key is having a good staff. [Coach] Rob [Schriner] is young, energetic and was a very good player himself, so he knows what kind of players to bring in here. It also helps to have a great owner like Joel Milano, who loves the game of hockey and wants to see hockey succeed in Waco. Good people make good things happen.'

Buetow should have a good idea of who will be on the roster before the team leaves for training camp at the Dr Pepper StarCenter in Dallas Oct. 7-11.

'The higher leagues will be making their cuts this week, so we should be able to sign some free agent players in the next eight to 10 days,' Buetow said.

The Wizards belong to the Western Professional Hockey League, which is just a step below the International Hockey League and the NHL. The other teams in the league are the Amarillo Rattlers, the Austin Ice Bats, the Central Texas Stampede from Belton, the El Paso Buzzards and the New Mexico Scorpions from Albuquerque. The Wizards begin their season on the road against Central Texas Oct. 16. Tickets for the first four home games are on sale now at the Wizards office on Valley Mills Drive and at Dillard's department stores. Tickets range in price from $6-$12.

'Hockey is a fun game and I think people will enjoy it,' Buetow said. 'This is a good league and we have a good team. The games will be fun social events where students can come and see two to three hours of fast-paced action.'

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