Lance Black believes that although the Victoria Grizzlies had “one of the most disappointing seasons” last year, it was a blessing in disguise.
The B.C. Hockey League team lost four consecutive games to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks to end their last season just before the lockdowns fell.
“Right after we got booted from the competition, the lockdown started to come in,” said the Grizzlies president. “We didn’t have to worry about closing our rink because it was already forcibly closed.”
Fast forward seven months, he believes the team is in a good place to make a comeback. Currently, they’re taking part in the Island Cup, a round robin tournament between the Grizzlies, the Cowichan Valley Capitals, Nanaimo Clippers, Alberni Valley Bulldogs and Powell River Kings.
Each club plays 12 round-robin games (the Grizz started 7/1/2), and the semifinals and finals expected to be held at The Q Centre in Colwood with dates yet to be announced.
Craig Didmon, Grizzlies GM and head coach has the same high hopes as the team recently finished an extended training camp. The coach also believes the new recruits and veteran players have been able to bond better because of provincial health regulations suggesting they stick to smaller groups.
Didmon pointed out that he thinks the lack of crowds due to the pandemic will actually help the new recruits warm up to playing on the ice without added distractions.
Although, the head coach noted, he missed the moment his team scored recently because there weren’t any cheers or loud outbursts from the seats.
“Having no fans in the audience, now that money right there is gone,” said Didmon.
“Our owners know that they are taking a loss, but they want to keep moving forward in the same direction as we are and we couldn’t be more grateful for their generosity.”
Black said he’s thankful for the West Shore Parks and Recreation Society’s board of directors, who have re-negotiated a new lease after their previous one expired last season. Also, the majority of the sponsorships the Grizzlies received last season are still intact, even though the rink isn’t open.
“Our team has always invested in charities, hospitals and schools and even though we can’t give back right now, they are giving to us,” said the Grizzlies president.
“We have never thought about closing up shop. We want the best for our team to get them scholarships and have the chance to move their careers forward. Not everyone gets to the NHL, but the first step to success is by getting the boys playing again.”
In its 26th year as a team, he’s grateful to see the twinkle in the eyes of his players when they step back onto the ice.
The BCHL regular season is set to begin on Dec. 1.
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