Monday, July 20, 2020

BCHL News & Trades:

I found these press releases off team websites, twitter accounts, blogs or online. All Vipers news-trades are posted on this blog as soon as released-announced.

BCHL News & Trades:

Mazzocchi Commits To Capitals:

The Cowichan Capitals are excited to announce to commitment of 18 year old Matthew Mazzocchi for the 2020/2021 season. Mazzocchi, a 2002 born forward out of Calgary joins the Capitals after spending the past two seasons on the Calgary Flames U18 team in the Alberta Elite Hockey League. This past season Mazzocchi finished 4th in team scoring at 24 points, 13 of them goals in 26 games. Over his two seasons with the U18 Flames, Mazzocchi totalled 38 points in 57 regular season games. “I’m really excited to join the Capitals organization. It’s been my goal to play junior hockey and being able to do so in the BCHL with such an established team like the Capitals is a great opportunity I am looking forward to with  heart felt enthusiasm” said Mazzocchi. The 18 year old has already gotten his first sniff of junior hockey, suiting up for a pair of games with the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Drumheller Dragons in the 2018/2019 season, and scored his first goal on November 10th, 2018 against the Calgary Canucks. “Matt is an extremely hardworking physical player who excels on the forecheck. He brings a lot of intensity, grit, and has some upside offensively. He is a physical player who will make us a harder team to play against. We are excited to have Matt join the Capitals” said Capitals Head Coach Geoff Grimwood. Welcome to the Cowichan Valley Matt!

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A Fresh Start For The West Kelowna Warriors:

The West Kelowna Warriors have always seemed to be a franchise in turmoil. Maybe it is because they live in the shadows of the well-run BCHL franchises in Vernon and Penticton. Maybe because they compete for eyeballs with the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets, another successful franchise. Maybe it is because of the ownership issues that have plagued the team for the past few years. Regardless of the reasons, even after the Warriors were crowned national junior A champions in 2016, attendance at Royal LePage Place has declined and community interest has waned. The Warriors relocated from Langley in 2006 and regular season attendance averaged as high as 1,250 per game in 2008-09. This past season, attendance was down to 717 per game. Fans have spent years listening to dire warnings from prior ownership that if the team didn’t get more community support, it would be sold and moved. In fact, in 2017 the Warriors very nearly moved to Delta. Years of negativity from various ownership groups took a toll, both for the fans and local corporate support. On top of that, the results on the ice have not been particularly good. The Warriors found themselves in the middle of the pack or near the bottom of the standings for the past four years and haven’t advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs since winning that RBC Cup in 2016. West Kelowna had its worst year in 2019-20 since the Warriors moved from Langley and finished 16th out of 17 teams.

On the right track

The good news is the ownership issue seems to be resolved. In November 2019, the team was purchased from the BCHL by a group led by John Murphy and Rod Hume (JMRH Hockey Development). Chris Laurie, who was raised in West Kelowna and worked as the Marketing Director for the Warriors when they first moved from Langley was named president of the team. Laurie had moved back to West Kelowna in 2013 after honing his hockey management skills in the American Hockey League and the North American Hockey League. After years of inconsistency in the back office, the team seemed to be back on a firm footing. Last year’s performance also wasn’t as bad as it looked. The loss of Parm Dhaliwal in the pre-season and Jake Harrison in the first game of the year stripped the young team of the on-ice leadership it depended on. The first home win didn’t come until October 18 and by the end of December, the Warriors had only won three home games. It was obvious by the new year that this team was in a rebuilding phase. By the end of the year, they were one of the youngest teams in the league. West Kelowna was in a lot of close games but just could not seem to finish. A coaching change in December to bring in Simon Ferguson seemed to breathe new life into the Warriors. In January, they won four out of seven games at home and three out of six on the road. There was a different vibe in Royal LePage Place. Attendance went from 682 per game in December to 738 per game in January.

February brought hope

In the last three games at home in February, the Warriors averaged 1,227 fans. They did manage to make the playoffs and met the powerhouse Penticton Vees. Penticton won handily in the first two games and then embarrassed West-K at home in the third game, outscoring the Warriors 9-2. The Warriors were down three games and the series outcome seemed a foregone conclusion, but the young squad fought back with a 2-1 overtime win at home in game four. Forcing another game in Penticton, West Kelowna played its best game of the season. Although they came up short and lost 5-4 in overtime, the playoff experience for all the young players was invaluable. The future looks bright for the Warriors. They are young and the franchise has a front office that seems committed to putting a quality product on the ice. Hopefully, stability and success translate into more bums in the seats. After 14 seasons, it would be a shame to see the team leave for supposed greener pastures.

Bauer Unveils Protective Masks For Hockey Players, Options For Fans:

Bauer Hockey has announced a new line of face-shield products aimed at keeping players safe in the event that hockey returns to the ice this fall. The company, which earlier this spring began producing medical-grade face shields for front-line workers, is taking what it learned from that endeavour and applying it back to hockey, with specially-designed shields for players, coaches and fans, alike, according to a news release on Wednesday (June 17). It’s hoped that the new products can spur forward hockey’s return which, given the difficulties of physical-distancing in a contact sport, has encountered a few challenges other sports have not had to deal with. The on-ice shield for players is called the Bauer Concept 3 Splash Guard, which is similar to the traditional helmet shield, but are designed “to enhance coverage around the mouth and maintain a high level of vision and breathability.” The Concept 3 guard is expected to be available in stores by August. “It was a natural pivot for our team to shift from protecting players to members of the medical community in a time of crisis, and now we’re looking to continue our mission of protection as communities re-open and sports return,” said Craig Desjardins, vice president of product for Bauer Hockey. Bauer announced two new products designed for those in the stands – the Integrated Cap Shield which attaches to a hat and a reversible fabric mask. Bauer has also partnered with Canlan Ice Sports – which operates sports facilities across the country, including in B.C. – and all three new products will be used by Canlan’s staff, the release noted. While professional hockey has its own set of challenges as it aims to return to the ice – Vancouver has been floated as a possible ‘hub city’ for the NHL’s return – it is unlikely to affect minor hockey’s return. “Totally two separate scenarios, but that would be a question for the Health Authority who are outlining both situations,” BC Hockey’s Keegan Goodrich said in an email to Black Press Media this week. Earlier this month, the provincial government also passed a cabinet order protecting amateur sports organizations from COVID-19-related liability.

A history Of Junior Hockey In Chilliwack:

Long before the Chiefs played in Chilliwack, several other junior hockey teams operated out of “The Green Heart of the Province”. Since the original Coliseum was built in 1958, there have been a few hockey tenants as well as exhibitions in the rink.  Chilliwack has had eight, and soon to be nine, junior hockey teams call the city home. All played their home games at the Chilliwack Coliseum except one. Many people don’t remember or know how many teams Chilliwack has had, given the notoriety of the Chiefs. These are the stories of the other junior hockey teams in Chilliwack, from before the Chiefs arrived in 1990 to after they left in 2006.

The Bruins

The Bruins came to Chilliwack as a BC Junior Hockey League expansion team for the 1970-71 season, 20 years before the Chiefs. Their first head coach was Bob Foster. The Bruins did not have a good first year, finishing the season in last place with a 12-43-5 record.  Some notable players from the first season are Ron Greschner, who went on to play 16 seasons with the New York Rangers, and Roy Carmichael, who was drafted by the Boston Bruins and played for the Broome County Dusters of the North American Hockey League (the league that inspired Slap Shot). In 1971-72, the Bruins improved their record to 25-31-4. They also had 1128 (!) penalty minutes. The Bruins hired Hermie Gruhn as their new head coach for the 1972-73 season and he led them to a 29-31-1 record. They made it to the BCHL final and lost to the Penticton Broncos in seven games. Chilliwack had a new head coach the following season in Gary Newport. He only lasted half a season and was replaced by Orv Litchfield. The Bruins finished with a 22-39-3 record.  1973-74 was the Bruins best year with new head coach Ernie Neely at the helm. They finished with a 34-32-0 record for their first winning season but lost a first-round playoff series to the eventual champion Bellingham Blazers.  In 1975-76, the Bruins re-hired Litchfield as head coach. They had a terrible year and finished dead last with a 16-49-1 record. After the 1975-76 season, the Bruins moved to Maple Ridge, where they lasted one season before moving to Revelstoke. The Rangers ceased operations in 1985, ending the franchise that started as the Chilliwack Bruins.

The Colts

The Chilliwack Colts joined the BCHL in 1978 along with the Delta Suns. The Colts finished fourth in the Coastal Conference with a 28-31-3 record and were ousted in the first round of the playoffs by the Bellingham Blazers. For the 1979-80 season, the Colts hired former Bruins boss Litchfield. After two not-so-good seasons with the Bruins, Litchfield led the Colts to a 35-30-1 record. They finished third in the division and lost to the Nanaimo Clippers in a series that went the full seven games. After a promising second season, the Colts didn’t fare very well in 1980-81. The team didn’t finish the season and ceased operations halfway through. The Colts record before folding was 1-34-0.

The Eagles

Chilliwack didn’t have a BCHL team for six years before the Langley Eagles relocated to the city following the 1987-88 season. The Eagles finished their first season with a 21-31-0 record and missed the playoffs. The following season, Chilliwack amassed an 18-42-0 record.  After the 1988-89 season, the Eagles moved to Ladner to become the Penguins, where they lasted one season before moving to Bellingham to become the Ice Hawks. The team lasted in Bellingham until 1995 when they were bought by the Trail Smoke Eaters of the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League, with the intention of joining the BCHL for the 1995-96 season.

The Chiefs

In 1990, the Richmond Sockeyes moved east to become the Chilliwack Chiefs after the franchise was bought by the Brew family. The relocation prompted a hugely successful run of junior hockey in Chilliwack, as the Chiefs won three BCHL championships and represented the Pacific region twice at the national junior A championship.  The Chiefs were a model BCHL franchise for 16 seasons but with a massive 5,300 seat facility in Prospera Centre, the city of Chilliwack was poised to bring in the highest level of junior hockey in Canada.

The WHL Bruins

Chilliwack was awarded a Western Hockey League expansion team in 2005 after a failed relocation of the Tri-City Americans. The new WHL team pushed the Chiefs out to Langley where a spot had opened when  Hornets moved to West Kelowna.  The new WHL team couldn’t use the Chiefs name because of the Spokane Chiefs already being in the league, so they resurrected the Bruins name from the 1970s BCHL team.  The Bruins first season of 2006-07 had them make the playoffs with a 25-40-5-2 record where they met the defending WHL champion Vancouver Giants in the first round and lost in five games.  In the 2007-08 season, the Bruins improved to 28-35-4-5. They made the playoffs and faced the Giants in the first round again, with the series ending on a four game sweep by Vancouver. It was a closer series than it appeared on paper, with each game decided by one goal. The following season, Chilliwack finished two points above the Portland Winterhawks with a 19-46-2-5 record and the Bruins fired head coach Jim Hiller. 2009-10 saw the Bruins hire Marc Habscheid as head coach. They finished with a record of 32-33-2-5 and played Spokane in the first round of the playoffs, only to lose in six games.  In 2010-11, the Bruins finally had a winning record at 33-31-4-4. They played Tri-City in the first round of the playoffs and lost in six games. Following the season, the Bruins were sold and moved to Victoria to become the Royals.

The return of the Chiefs

A short time after the moving trucks pulled out of Prospera Centre, the Chiefs Development Group purchased the Quenesl Millionaires to move them to Chilliwack.  In the process, the CDG sold the Langley Chiefs to the Henderson family on the terms that the team name and history were to come along with them to Chilliwack. On September 27, 2011 the Chiefs made their return to Chilliwack with a 7-1 win over the Penticton Vees, who went on to win the RBC Cup that season.

Youth Movement Underway For The Victoria Grizzlies:

The Victoria Grizzlies management team has the difficult job this offseason of constructing a competitive hockey team to bounce back after a disappointing 2019-20 season. The Grizzlies last season finished with a record of 22-33-1 and were swept in round one of the playoffs by the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. General manager and head coach Craig Didmon has a lot of work to do this summer to bring more scoring to his club after the loss of Marty Westhaver and Henri Schreifels to college. Luckily the Grizzlies scoring will be helped with the return of star forward Cody Monds, who is committed to Providence College for the 2021-22 season. You could say there is a small youth movement happening in Victoria with the recent crop of commitments for the Grizz being mostly born in either 2002 or 2003. What makes this group of youngsters different is how good they are already, with many of them being elite scoring star players in their previous leagues. Even though the production of some of these new players may be different in the BCHL compared to where they played before, there are still major expectations for a few of them to make an impact as well as returning players to put more pucks in the net this coming season. Last season was a letdown and step back from the year before, but this upcoming season fans should expect an improved team led by Monds. The Grizzlies aren’t just recruiting young guns either, they have acquired veteran players to improve scoring problems and lead the rookies in the right direction. One of these players is overage forward Thomas Maia, who turns 20 on July 26. Maia was in the NCAA with the Rochester Institute of Technology last season but didn’t play an official game due to a broken fibula suffered at practice. In 2018-19, Maia put up 20 goals and 58 points in 53 games for the Oakville Blades of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. Returnees and new guys. The good news this offseason, if you’re a Grizzlies fan, is that many players from last season’s squad are back, and most likely better with a year in the BCHL under their belts. Many of these returning players will be counted on heavily to contribute offensively and provide leadership. The notable returning players for next year’s team include goaltender Blake Wood as well as Monds, Andrew Amousse, Alex Dipaolo, Connor Eddy, Eddie Yan, and Michael Hoekstra up front, along with defensemen Brady MacDonald, Reid Lindsay, and Isack Bandu. All of these returning players will be expected to put up more offensively if the Grizzlies want to get back into contender status in the BCHL. Didmon has been busy this offseason with commitments and signings of some very interesting players. In addition to Maia, some of the notable players the Grizzlies acquired include defenseman Trevor Longo, forwards Colby Joseph, Devon De Vries, and Ellis Rickwood, and goaltender Justin Easter. The most notable name from that group of players is Longo, who split this past season in the Western Hockey League with Medicine Hat and Vancouver. The 20-year-old will be an overage player and this move appears to be a signal that Longo is BCHL-bound. The Vancouver Giants are well over the allowed number of 20-year-old players and Longo is seemingly one of the odd men out.Joseph will be counted on next season to contribute offensively as a rookie after an impressive season in Manitoba AAA U18. He put up 36 goals and 71 points in 48 games for the Yellowhead Chiefs, good enough for second in scoring in the league. Keeping it local- Even though many new players for the Grizzlies come from different parts of North America, they still find a way to bring in local talent for the fans at The Q Centre to cheer on. In the past, those fan favorites included Marty Westhaver, Nolan De Jong, Cole Pickup, and Shawn McBride. But with the departure of Westhaver next season to Long Island University, who is a potential candidate to be the hometown hero for the Grizzlies going forward? First up we have returning player Michael Hoekstra. The 17-year-old product of Saanich is entering his second year with the team after putting up a goal and six points in 47 games in 2019-20. After playing more sheltered minutes in his rookie season, Hoekstra should be counted on more to put up points and potentially earn some powerplay time in 2020-21. Next is Connor Eddy, entering his second year with the Grizz. Eddy should also be expected to put up more numbers after a decent rookie season playing low minutes and almost no special teams minutes. He still managed four goals and a dozen points in 45 games. Next up is another Saanich kid, Desmond Arthurs. This 17-year-old forward is a very exciting player who posted 10 goals and 32 points in 44 games for the Victoria Cougars of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League last season. This power forward is no stranger to the Grizzlies organization either, playing for the Grizzlies U18 spring league team during the 2018-19 season and suiting up in two games with the BCHL squad last season as an affiliate player. Last we have defenseman Andrew Braun. He played for Shawnigan Lake School’s midget prep team, putting up two goals and 14 points in 26 games this past season. Braun is also familiar with the Grizzlies, he played in three games as an AP in 2019-20 and scored a goal. Other trades and next season- Even with this crop of new players, the Grizzlies had to make space on the roster for them by making trades. The Grizz really seem to like dealing with the Dauphin Kings of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, swinging two separate trades with them in the last few weeks. The first trade between Victoria and Dauphin saw the Grizzlies send Vincent Nardone to the Kings in exchange for future considerations. The second swap between the two clubs had the Grizz move speedy winger Kahlil Fontana to Dauphin in exchange for future considerations. Other players who have been dealt include Bryce Anderson to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs for future considerations, Colton Kitchen to the Nanaimo Clippers for futures, Brendan Bowie to Oakville for Maia, and Chace Oliver to the Notre Dame Hounds of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League for Hardy Wagner. With Monds back in Victoria this fall, when you add his scoring ability to the crop of returning players and new faces joining the Grizzlies, they look like a good, young team, and a dark horse to make some noise in the new Coastal Conference of the BCHL for 2020-21.

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