Photo by Don Fennell
Defining success is a subjective process, but by any measure the Richmond Sockeyes emerge victorious.
Entering their 19th Pacific Junior Hockey League season, the Sockeyes are the defending Cyclone Taylor Cup champions after netting their fifth provincial Junior B title since 1990 last April. But while winning has become an expectation for one of Canadian junior hockey’s most revered franchises, head coach Brett Reusch sees development as being an equal priority. The team’s long-stated goal is to help its players get to the next level, and the list of graduating players excelling in hockey as well as other fields is ever-expanding.
When the puck drops on the 2018-19 season Sept. 6 (a rematch against their longtime league rivals and Cyclone Taylor Cup final opponents Delta Ice Hawks, 7 p.m. faceoff at Minoru Arenas), the Sockeyes will sport a decidedly youthful look. With most of last year’s team aging out, returning players are few but will be counted on to take the rookies under their wings.
“With Junior B being underrated and this being a very good league, these kids coming out of minor are going to be introduced to a lot of new things,” says Reusch, himself a former Sockeyes’ player. “We’ll have video sessions once a week to go over mistakes, but I’m a player’s coach and I think a good communicator and patient guy.”
On the ice, Reusch will lean heavily on newly-named captain Matt Brown. The 19-year-old defenceman was an associate captain last season and brings all the qualities of a leader. But obviously he can’t do it all, and Reusch is optimistic that there is plenty of talent—albeit considerable inexperience—to produce positive results.
The Sockeyes made a major off-season trade with Delta Ice Hawks to add more leadership and help solidify their offence. But the acquisition of Richmond talents Isaih Hendricks and Michael Araki-Young, who had 31 points in 31 games with the Ice Hawks last season as an 18-year-old, cost the Sockeyes talented defence prospect Callum MacDonald.
Richmond will also look for strong contributions from its other “veteran” players including forwards Jacob Keremidschieff who produced 36 points last season and Trevor Townsend who had 15 points. The team also seems set to start the year with a pair of rookie local blueliners in Leo Li and Gabriel Suessenbacher-Fu.
The last line of defence on any team of course is goaltending, and the Sockeyes have been fortunate to have some of the best through the years—last season being no exception with Jacob Latrace and Hardy Hoonjan. This year, Reusch is excited to have Jeremy Kellway in the fold. The 19-year-old sat out last season to focus on academics.
Reusch says the way hockey is played has changed a lot since he suited up as a Sockeye in the early 2000s.
“It’s all about skating now. Back in the day it was always dump it in and go get it. Now, it’s all about possession and if you can carry the puck you have a good chance of winning each night.”
The role of the defenceman has also evolved. Skating the puck out of the defensive zone, or quickly passing the puck, is of paramount importance. As far as Reusch is concerned, however, relying on just one player is foolhardy.
“It boils down to five guys breaking out together,” he says.
FACTS AND FIGURES
League: Pacific Junior Hockey League
Club colours: Red, black and white
Game night: Most Thursdays at 7 p.m.
Home ice: Minoru Arenas
Tickets: Adults $10, Seniors/students $6, Children $3—Available at the door.
General manager: Richard Petrowsky
Head coach: Brett Reusch
Last season’s record: 33-8-1-2, second in Tom Shaw Conference
Playoffs: Lost Tom Shaw Conference to Delta Ice Hawks. Defeated Ice Hawks in the final of the Cyclone Taylor Cup provincial championship.