CEDAR RAPIDS – It was plane rides Thursday morning from Cedar Rapids to Chicago and Chicago to New York City. It was baseball tickets Thursday night to see the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees resume their rivalry.
The rest of the weekend for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders is all about hockey.
The Riders are taking part in the initial United States Hockey League Atlantic Challenge in New Jersey. Six USHL teams are playing preseason games Friday, Saturday and Sunday at rinks in Hackensack and West Orange.
This is about preparing for the upcoming USHL regular season, which begins for the Riders on Friday, Sept. 27 at Lincoln. But it’s also about showing young hockey players and their parents in the region what the league has to offer.
“I think it’s going to be a great experience,” said RoughRiders Coach/General Manager Mark Carlson. “I think it’ll give us great exposure to the East Coast. I think there are a lot of people that still don’t understand our league.”
Carlson said there will be a town hall style meeting Saturday night with players and parents to talk about the USHL. The RoughRiders play Sioux Falls on Friday night, Waterloo on Saturday afternoon and Youngstown on Sunday afternoon before returning home.
Also taking part in the Atlantic Challenge are Muskegon and Sioux City.
“We want those thousands of players and their parents in this region to better understand, not only the USHL, and why it is the United States’ only Tier I junior hockey league, but the USA Hockey pyramid of development on which we are perched,” said USHL President and Commissioner Skip Prince. “The education-based American development model is changing the face of the game, from the NHL right down to the qualify of coaching at the Mite level, and we need to bring the results of that model to this great region for everyone to appreciate.”
The RoughRiders also have a preseason game scheduled Tuesday night at home against Dubuque. Opening faceoff at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena is at 7.
There are 28 players in camp right now, with that number needing to be dwindled to 23 later this month. There is the possibility to keep more than 23 in town, however, by shifting younger players to the club’s affiliate list, where they can play a limited number of games but still practice on an everyday basis.
The bottom line is, as always, players are competing for positions.
“The same as every year, you know?” Carlson said.
Here is an updated list of protected players for all of the USHL teams, beginning with Cedar Rapids:
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