The University of Manitoba's men's hockey team is gearing up for the 2023-24 campaign. The Bisons have added a number of former MJHL players for the upcoming season, including Portage's own Kian Calder.
The captain of last year's Portage Terriers squad enjoys being a rookie once again.
"It's been awesome. The older guys at the school and on the team have made it really easy to adjust to my new circumstances here. Gord Burnett is the new coach, and he's been awesome. I've learned a lot from him already," Calder continues. "Practices have been great. We have a tight-knit squad, so I think it's going to be a good year."
The Bisons have already played a pair of preseason games in Saskatchewan.
"We played Briercrest, and then we had another game against the University of Regina. It was nice to dip my toes in for what to expect this year and for the next four or five years of my life. I think the guys learned a lot about each other and the way we play."
Calder will have longer road trips than he's been accustomed to this year, as the Bisons play a plethora of games out of the province. While the bus trips were always within Manitoba during his time with the Terriers, Calder developed a routine to help him boost his energy quickly.
"Once we get to the rink, I go stretch. I have a stretching routine that I do before every game, home or away. So, I do that right away as soon as we get off the bus. If there's a bike at the rink, I'll ride the bike for ten minutes to get my legs going. The team does the dynamic warmup together, so I'll do that. It's pretty simple, but it's something that helps me prepare."
Calder is one of six first-year players with the Bisons that are coming from the MJHL. He says it's been cool to see a different side of a few of his former opponents.
"Everybody is a good guy off the ice, I find. I battled against these guys in the MJHL, but now that we're on the same team, all of that is in the past," Calder explains. "These guys are now my teammates. I'm going to look out for them and they are going to look out for me. I'm going to fight for them every night."
The defenceman notes it was pretty easy to build chemistry with the guys he played against last year.
"A lot of the top players from their teams committed here; guys like Owen Wareham, Riley Zimmerman, Josh Paulus, Andrew Boucher, and Cameron Trimble. Those are guys that you really had to keep an eye out for in the MJHL. So, those are guys I had quite a bit of knowledge on from doing scouting reports before playing them. It's nice to have their skills and qualities on my side now. They made it really easy to adjust to all of this."
The 21-year-old says his two goals for the season are to make the playoffs and get on the ice as much as possible.
"We're a hard-working and gritty team. We're going to rely on our systems to help us have success. We're going to be focused and motivated this upcoming season."
The Bisons' season opener goes down on September 28 as they host the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.