Photo by Chung Chow
Often referred to as Canada’s gift to the world, hockey season is here again.
The Richmond Sockeyes face off against the North Vancouver Wolf Pack in their 2017-18 home opener Thursday, Sept. 7 at Minoru Arenas. Game time is 7 p.m.
Great anticipation fills the air for the start of the Sockeyes’ 45th campaign, their 27th in the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) They are the most successful franchise in PJHL history with six league, five provincial and two national titles, and as hosts of this year’s B.C. championship tournament next April have their sights set on another Cyclone Taylor Cup.
“If we can achieve 50 wins we will have accomplished all our goals for the season,” says newly-appointed head coach Steve Robinson. “We have broken the season down to 11 four-game segments. Our goal is to win at last three of every four starts.”
A player’s coach, Robinson’s teams in minor hockey enjoyed much success. He coached the Seafair Midget A rep team last year and is anxious to introduce the Sockeyes to an up-tempo, entertaining brand of hockey he hopes will not only produce positive on-ice results but also increase fan engagement.
“We have to do our part on the ice, but we are going to be very active off the ice too trying to stimulate interest in the team, tapping into alumni, minor hockey, schools, wherever we can to get a few more people to the rink on Thursdays to support the team,” he says. “The players are always more energized with a decent crowd on hand. If we can start this in the regular season, we should see steady improvement into the playoffs and peak during the Cyclone Taylor Cup.”
Veteran general manager Richard Petrowsky has again provided his club with a plethora of talented prospects to help round out a roster that is expected to feature as many as 12 players from last year’s team. That edition of the Sockeyes, after a third-place, regular-season finish (22-13-3-5) went on to push eventual playoff finalist and historic rival Delta Ice Hawks to the brink before bowing in a memorable seven-game series.
The core features five 20-year-olds including Tyler Andrews, Brett Gelz, Connor Kavanagh, last season’s leading scorer Arjun Badh (40 points) and top goal scorer Brodie Crawford (22). Seafair grad Jacob Latrace will assume the No. 1 goaltending job after sitting out last season, while Tyler Paterson has opted to forgo an opportunity to suit up for the Surrey Eagles in order to play his final season of junior hockey with some good friends.
“There will be lots of natural leaders in the room,” says Robinson. “We have a very mature group of kids who are hungry and motivated to take advantage of the opportunity to host the Cyclone Taylor Cup. I expect us to be a team of balanced scorers. We don’t necessarily have any game breakers but I think we are positioned well to have multiple players contributing on any given night.”
EYE BROWSE: The Sockeyes regularly play their home games on Thursdays at 7 p.m. at Minoru Arenas. Tickets are $10 ($6 seniors and students, $3 children) and available at the door on game night. They are also available in season-ticket packages.