UNB's confirmation in today’s Daily Gleaner that the Varsity Reds will be travelling to Maine to play the AHL's Portland Pirates in an exhibition game on Sept. 30 is yet another indicator that CIS hockey is gaining credibility with NHL organizations. Both UNB and Université de Moncton played the New York Islanders rookies the last two seasons; the Islanders have moved their training camp to Saskatoon this year and will be playing the U of S Huskies on Sept. 15 in Prince Albert.
St. FX will play the Florida Panthers in Port Hawkesbury on Sept. 14. The Manitoba Bisons have often played the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, but not this season.
Of course, the CIS leaders in playing pro teams are the Alberta Golden Bears with their long running annual game against the Edmonton Oilers rookies. This year they host the Oiler rookies on Sept. 11, preceded by the Vancouver Canucks rookies on Sept. 9.
How important are these games? Well they certainly get the CIS players another look by NHL scouts. Two years ago, UNB's Rob Hennigar lined up against the Islanders rookies in Moncton. The next year in Fredericton, it was Hennigar in an Islanders (well, AHL Bridgeport) uniform taking the opening faceoff against his former UNB linemates.