The Kamloops Blazers will raise their 2011-12 B.C. Division championship banner on Sept. 21, when they open the WHL regular season against the Kelowna Rockets.
The Blazers announced their 72-game regular-season schedule Wednesday. Kamloops will play 36 games on the road and 36 games at Interior Savings Centre, where, on Sept. 21, the Rockets will pay a visit.
All of the Blazers' home games — with the exception of a March 3 game against Kelowna (6 p.m.) — will start at 7 p.m. Of their home dates, 25 of them fall on either Friday, Saturday or Sunday, and there is a rare Thursday game against the Everett Silvertips on Feb. 7.
The WHL regular season officially opens on Sept. 20, when the defending-champion Edmonton Oil Kings play host to the Kootenay Ice. The game will be televised on Shaw TV.
After playing at home on Sept. 21, the Blazers will hit the road for three games — in Kelowna on Sept. 22 and back-to-back against the Royals in Victoria on Sept. 28 and Sept. 30 — before returning to ISC for four straight.
The Blazers' longest road trip will run from Oct. 14-20, when they visit five of the Central Division's six teams. Kamloops will open against the Hitmen in Calgary on Oct. 14, before playing in Red Deer on Oct. 16, Edmonton on Oct. 17, Lethbridge on Oct. 19 and Kootenay on Oct. 20.
Although the Blazers won't play road games against the East Division, they will head back to Alberta for four games — in Calgary on Dec. 11, Edmonton the next night, Lethbridge on Dec. 14 and Medicine Hat on Dec. 15.
The game with the host Tigers will be the last for Kamloops before a lengthy Christmas break. The Blazers are to return on Dec. 27 in Kelowna.
Technically, that is the longest time away from home for Kamloops, which is to play in Vancouver on Dec. 9 before heading to Calgary. The Blazers will be away from ISC from Dec. 8-28.
Kamloops' longest homestand of the season is a seven-gamer. It starts on Nov. 16, when the Portland Winterhawks make their first appearance in Kamloops since the teams' second-round playoff series in April, and will end Dec. 1, when the Moose Jaw Warriors come to town.
As always, the Blazers will finish the regular season with a home-and-home with the Prince George Cougars. The teams will play here on March 15, and up there on March 16. The playoffs will start March 22.
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As expected, the Blazers didn't use their pick in the CHL Import Draft, which was held Wednesday.
Kamloops expects to have back its two imports from last season — winger Tim Bozon, 18, and defenceman Marek Hrbas, 19. With teams only allowed two imports, the Blazers didn't see a need to add another.
The QMJHL's Moncton Wildcats has the first overall pick, and took 16-year-old Russian forward Ivan Barashev.
The Prince Albert Raiders, who picked second, also went with a 16-year-old forward, taking Leon Draisaitl of Germany. The Prince George Cougars, who had the fifth overall selection, took goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, who was a third-round selection of the Columbus Blue Jackets in Saturday's NHL entry draft.
The Blazers were supposed to pick 55th, but passed — it was the only pick that was passed in the first round.
A total of 77 players from 11 countries were selected by the CHL's 60 teams.