Sockeyes preparing, as usual, for season ahead

By Don Fennell

Published 11:56 PDT, Fri July 31, 2020

Last Updated: 2:13 PDT, Wed May 12, 2021

The Richmond Sockeyes are like so many sports teams, uncertain how or even if next season will play out. But they’re preparing as best they can.

“We have to have the mindset to be able to adapt at any time,” says head coach Bayne Koen, who is as hopeful and anxious as anyone that the 2020-21 Pacific Junior Hockey League schedule proceeds as drawn up.

League officials held their annual general meeting via video conference July 28, at which time the 13 member teams agreed to start the season Sept. 29. But in what will be the league’s 55th season, governors were unanimous that safety must be the No. 1 priority, and play must reflect advice from appropriate health authorities.

“Our board has been very diligent in their communication with their (respective community) facilities,” says commissioner Trevor Alto. “Both league and team return-to-play plans are in place and being monitored. With the increased opening of facilities, we are confident we can execute these plans and return to the ice safely.”

Eager to improve on last season’s 27-12-1-4 record which saw the team finish second to North Vancouver Wolf Pack in the Tom Shaw Conference, the Sockeyes have been skating regularly for the last few weeks. Gathering in small groups, they’ve also impressed Koen during some drills.

“But it’s hard trying to really assess where we’re at because we’re not able to see the (total) essence of what the team might look like,” Koen explains. “Some guys we’ve talked to about coming to play for us might not be able to, or might make the jump (to a higher level). It’s a pretty level playing field as far as that goes because at the end of the day we just don’t know. But I’ve liked what I’ve seen. I think we’ve got a good basis of returning guys and recruits.”

Welcoming the expansion Chilliwack Jets, the PJHL expects the season to consist of 44 games per team, each playing a single interlocking game against each club from the opposing conference as well as two games at the Winter Classic Showcase Jan. 1 to 3, 2021 in Richmond. Other regular events, including the annual prospect and all-star game (with the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League) are still to be decided. 

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