The White Rock Whalers are preparing for the 2020-‘21 season, which is currently set to start on Sept 29. (Jody Harris photo)

The White Rock Whalers are preparing for the 2020-‘21 season, which is currently set to start on Sept 29. (Jody Harris photo)

‘Our guys are ready to go,’ says White Rock Whalers coach as new season approaches

With COVID-19 uncertainty lingering, PJHL set to start on Sept. 29

Despite an off-season without traditional summer camps or scouting trips, and with a not-exactly-set-in-stone start date less than a month away, the White Rock Whalers are as prepared as can be for the 2020-’21 junior ‘B’ hockey season, their head coach says.

Prior to the COVID-19 shutdown in the spring – which came in the midst of the Pacific Junior Hockey League’s playoff schedule – the team had already scouted a number of potential future Whalers, and in recent weeks they’ve held numerous virtual meetings with returning and prospective players, alike.

As well, in lieu of one large spring camp – currently not allowed under the province’s 50-people-or-less rules – the White Rock squad has been holding smaller, more informal ‘identification skates’ where interested players can showcase their skills for the coaching staff.

“I think we’ve been fortunate with our group, having identified some players last season,” head coach Jason Rogers told Peace Arch News in mid-August.

“There was a lot of demand for skates, and it’s sometimes just a problem of getting ice – not just us, but everywhere – but we were fortunate to have some quality skates. We just set up a system where players could reach out to us if they were interested.

“And for meetings, virtual is the way to go. We set up Zoom calls with them, and made sure the parents were involved in the process, too, and if they had questions, we were available to answer them.”

Earlier this summer, the PJHL announced that the new 44-game season would start Sept. 29, and while that date could very well be rescheduled – Rogers himself said he’s not sure that date is “realistic” – the team is preparing as though they’ll hit the ice at the end of the month.

“We pride ourselves on being prepared and doing the heavy lifting early, so we’re ready for whatever comes at us. So no matter what the season looks like or when it starts, we’ll be ready,” Rogers said.

In the last few weeks, the team – which made the playoffs last season in just its second year of existence – had added three players to its ranks, announcing the signings of two former affiliate players, Sam Dowell and David Moody, while also adding Delta Hockey Academy defenceman Geoff Johnson.

Dowell, an 18-year-old South Surrey resident, scored a goal for the Whalers last season. He also has PJHL experience with the Delta Ice Hawks and Abbotsford Pilots.

“Last season when I was with the Pod, it was amazing,” Dowell said in a mid-August news release. “They brought me in like I was family.”

Rogers, meanwhile, predicted Dowell will “bring lots of energy each night.”

Moody, 17, also has previous PJHL experience with Abbotsford, and appeared in Whalers’ colours during their playoff run last spring.

“Two of them already had experience with us last year and experience in the league, so it’s a good fit. We were happy with the work they put in and that they wanted to come back, and then getting Geoff out of the Delta Academy, that’s a big pick-up for us,” Rogers told PAN.

“He’s got lots of room for improvement and he wants to get better and we think he’s going to be a real good player for us.”

As for further roster moves, Rogers said all teams are in something of a holding pattern considering the uncertainty that still surrounds the coming season, as well as the fact that the junior ‘A’ BC Hockey League isn’t planning to open its new season until December. Typically, both junior circuits begin at the same time – along with the major-junior Western Hockey League – and as players are cut from the top of the pyramid, they filter down to the lower leagues, such as the PJHL.

Now, players holding out hope for a WHL or BCHL roster spot may not be available to junior ‘B’ programs in time for a late-September puck drop.

Conversely, with junior ‘A’ and WHL teams expected to hold smaller camps, some players may choose the certainty of playing with a junior ‘B’ team instead, Rogers noted.

Regardless, the uncertainty is tough to predict, which may lead to more in-season roster shuffling than a typical year.

“It’s really hard to tell (what will happen), because it’s all about the trickle down. In junior ‘A’, they’re proposing skates and camps (that last throughout the fall), and we expect to have one or two guys there, so that’s a challenge,” Rogers noted.

“Quite honestly, nobody really knows the impact COVID will have on university-aged players, either. Are they going away (to play at university) or will they stay here? Are there some who aren’t comfortable playing hockey in the current environment at all? It’s all very hard to tell.

“But if some of our guys manage to make it into the smaller groups (at the higher levels), then good for them – I wish them the best. Part of our program’s goal is to develop them and see them move on to that next level, so if that works out for them, great. And if it doesn’t, we’ll see what our roster looks like at that time and then maybe we’ll have some decisions to make.”

In the meantime, Rogers said his team will continue to skate in small groups – with each a mix of returning, new and prospective players – and be prepared to play when called upon.

“Our guys are ready to go.”



sports@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Junior B Hockey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Photo: MOSAIC/Facebook)
Organization receives $10K from B.C. government to tackle racism in Surrey, White Rock

Funding to go toward forum for International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary. March 2021. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Reports of student attendance ‘dwindling’ at Surrey schools: teachers’ association

STA president said he’s heard from staff that students might not attend in-person for 4th quarter

Sports broadcaster and 30-year high school football coach Farhan Lalji. (Image via farhanlalji.com)
Farhan Lalji chats about the new B.C. high school sports governance proposal

Lalji, a 30-year high school football coach, thinks the new proposal will be bad for student athletes

Delta character - and former White Rock resident - Pansy May Stuttard inspects a loaded revolver in the cover photo for Jim Dwight and Gary Cullen’s fascinating biography, Lord don’t want me Devil won’t take me. Contributed photo
West Coast’s ‘Pistol-packin’ Pansy’ lives on in colourful biography

Infamous Delta character ended her days in White Rock and South Surrey

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

An Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island (XRVI) climate change event in 2019 saw a large crowd occupy the Johnson Street bridge. Black Press File Photo
‘In grief for our dying world’: B.C. climate activists embark on 4-day protest

Demonstrators will walk through Vancouver for the first two days before boarding a ferry Sunday morning

Most Read