Players gather near the net during the White Rock Whalers’ prospect camp in June. (White Rock Whalers photo)

Expansion White Rock Whalers set for first-ever game

Pacific Junior Hockey League team to play Richmond Saturday at Centennial Arena

After a whirlwind summer spent putting an entire organization together from scratch – both players on the ice, and staff off of it – the White Rock Whalers are finally ready to hit the ice.

The Semiahmoo Peninsula’s newest hockey team – an expansion franchise in the Pacific Junior Hockey League – is set to play its first regular-season contest Saturday, Sept. 8 against the defending league champion Richmond Sockeyes. The game, to be played at White Rock’s Centennial Arena – the Whalers’ home rink – begins at 7:30 p.m. The following evening, the Whalers travel to Burnaby Winter Club to play the Grandview Steelers.

It’s fitting that the Whalers’ first official opponent will be the Sockeyes, considering the Richmond franchise was current Whalers’ owner Ronnie Paterson’s former team. Paterson was co-owner – and last year, even an assistant coach for a time – of the Sockeyes before bringing an expansion squad to the Semiahmoo Peninsula.

“I think it’s great for the community,” Paterson told Peace Arch News in May, when the team was announced.

The Whalers will play in the PJHL’s Tom Shaw Conference, alongside the Sockeyes, Delta Ice Hawks, Grandview, North Vancouver Wolf Pack and Port Moody Panthers. The Surrey Knights and Langley Trappers – White Rock’s two closest geographical rivals – play in the PJHL’s Harold Brittain Conference.

White Rock – coached by Jason Rogers – opened training camp earlier this month, and have spent much of the last two months adding to their ranks.

On the ice, the team added a number of players earlier this summer – many with local ties.

The team’s first addition, back in June, was Surrey’s Eric Bocale, a defenceman who had previously played for the Kootenay Junior Hockey League’s Beaver Valley Nighthawks. Around that same time, 16-year-old Semiahmoo Minor Hockey product Cameron Newson was added to the fold and not long after that, Newson’s older brother, Calder, was acquired from the Sockeyes.

In July, White Rock acquired another brother act, trading for Matt Rogers from the Kootenay circuit’s Fernie Ghostriders, and then signing Tyler Rogers from the South Delta midget AAA program.

In a Twitter post announcing the moves, Whalers brass described Matt as a “strong, two-way player with high hockey IQ,” and said of the younger Tyler: “He is a gritty, high compete player with a nose for the net and will bring the energy every single night.”

Other additions over the summer include former Sockeyes’ blue-liner Marcus Sihota; defenceman Hayden Dance from San Diego of the Western States Hockey League; Saul Khalifa from Jason Rogers’ old midget team, the Vancouver Thunderbirds; and forward Leland Konrath of Langley.

The rest of the roster was fleshed out at training camp in late August.

In early August, the team also announced Julian Feijo would join the team as an assistant coach.

Off the ice, the organization made a flurry of announcements this summer. Raelene Lang was brought aboard as the team physiotherapist; Jon Guyer was named athletic trainer and equipment manager; Sean Bideshi was hired as the team’s play-by-play broadcaster where he’ll be joined on the mic by new colour commentator Catherine Garrett.

“I could not be any happier to be the new Colour Commentator for the @WRWhalersHockey!” Garrett posted on Twitter last month. “Thank you so much to the organization for giving me this opportunity. I’m looking forward to taking the mic and running with it this season!”

The Whalers also hired Chris Charlton as marketing co-ordinator; Britney Boyce as game-day operations and volunteer co-ordinator; Tyler Paterson and Keenan Scardina as sales representatives and longtime Richmond Sockeyes volunteer Lou Fuchs as front-gate volunteer.

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Members of the White Rock Whalers at Sea Fest in August. (White Rock Whalers photo)

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