Grande Prairie Storm players got in some fun at a Salvation Army Food Bank event at the Northside IGA on Thursday and helped the commuknity.
Tonight they are hoping to help themselves when the 2012-2013 campaign kicks off with a tailgate party at 5:30 p.m. (free hot dogs for the first 100) in the parking lot of the Crystal Centre and continues with one man circus Balanzo with a performance at 6:30 p.m. (weather permitting) . . . and then the real fun begins.

The 18th Grande Prairie Storm hockey home season, and 17th in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, starts Friday at 7:30 p.m. when the Storm host the Lloydminster Bobcats.

It's called the GT's Oilfield Hauling/Isolated Equipment Services Home Opener Weekend and there will be lots of pomp and circumstance – figure skaters doing a routine, player introduction under the spotlights and Balanzo each intermission on the ice – but mainly it's all about the hockey.

After an 0-2 start last weekend (5-3 loss to the Sherwood Park Crusaders and 2-1 to the Camrose Kodiaks) the Storm need some wins to get some confidence going. As do the Bobcats, who also had an 0-2 start.

There is a new confidence, and a lot of new players, to start the season and a promise of better things ahead.

After three wins, just one outright loss and an overtime loss in exhibition
he signs of improvement are there and fans are going to see a Storm team with more talent, more depth and more enthusiasm as Storm head coach/general manager Blaine Bablitz begins his second season as the Storm mentor.

Last season the team had its first below-.500 campaign ever, but despite that continued to be the only team in the AJHL that has made the playoffs every year.

The goal this year is playoffs and home ice advantage in the first round  – which means a top four finish.

This weekend is a good time to start that push for the top four. It continues Saturday at 7:30 p.m. (Balanzo is back in the parking lot at another tailgate party at 6:30 p.m. and on the ice in both intermissions) and then for the third time in five days the Storm host a home game when the Drayton Valley Thunder visit on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.