Sockeyes will begin No. 50 at home

By Don Fennell

Published 12:08 PDT, Fri September 3, 2021

Last Updated: 12:37 PDT, Wed September 22, 2021

Richmond’s junior hockey team will begin its golden anniversary season Sept. 9 at Minoru Arena

The 2020-21 Pacific Junior Hockey League season was barely underway before it was abruptly put on hold. This past March it was officially cancelled.

The Richmond Sockeyes, for one, hope history doesn’t repeat itself—at least not when it comes to being able to play. 

Scheduled to begin their 50th season with a home date against the North Vancouver Wolf Pack on Sept. 9 (7 p.m. face-off at Minoru Arena), the Sockeyes expect to be serious contenders for yet another championship. After all, it’s in their makeup—and they appeared on course for yet another winning season last year, going 7-0 before the proverbial axe fell.

In consultation with the B.C. provincial health office, the league divided its 13 teams into four cohorts to reduce the chances of a large scale spread of  COVID-19. During the games they managed to play, the Sockeyes outscored Port Moody Panthers and Grandview Steelers with which they were paired, 26-14.

This year, the Sockeyes and their peers will also be playing in front of fans, something that was not the case last fall. Certainly head coach Bayne Koen is happy about that.

“It’s absolutely not normal to not be playing in front of fans,” Koen told the Richmond Sentinel in an interview last year. “But we’ve talked a lot about the fact that nothing these days is normal, so we have to be prepared to adjust on the fly.”

It would be equally wise to be prepared to adjust at any point this season—even if the adjustments are restricted to the ice.

“Everything is a moving part,” Koen said this week. “We’re like every other organization I think. We expect to have the majority of the guys (who are trying out for higher level teams) back, but we don’t know. Things are changing every day.”

He expects to start the season with a “pretty long roster as far as numbers,” with several players at junior camps and their returns uncertain. But, he added, that does give some talented prospects who impressed during camp a leg up.

“We’ve got some really good young talent in the lineup right now and we’re giving these guys every opportunity to solidify a roster spot in the next week or two,” he said.

That the Sockeyes are angling for another championship—let alone a winning season—should come as no surprise. After all, this is a franchise that expects success having won nine league titles, six provincial crowns, and two nationals. And in its previous days in the BC Hockey League in the late 1980s, the club reeled off three consecutive league and provincial banners and three Doyle Cups (a now-retired trophy once awarded to the winner of an annual series between the B.C. and Alberta playoff champions). They won their first Pacific Junior league title in only their second season in 1990 and have rarely been out of cup contention since.

Koen’s return to the Sockeyes last season represented coming full circle. He was appointed the club’s new bench boss in May, returning to the team with which he began his coaching career as an assistant to the legendary Ron Johnson in the early 2000s.

“Ron was a big part of me getting into the coaching world,” Koen said. “I also played for him, and one of the things he taught me was patience and process.”

Patience and process—two very important traits that will no doubt determine how successful the Sockeyes’ 50th season will prove to be.

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