Sports ‘n’ Things: B.C. junior teams poised for championship sweep

"...most of it has to do with the fact that, first the Kootenays, (Trail in particular) embraced minor hockey for its kids..."

The sports power in Canada has changed enormously in my lifetime, and recent junior hockey – not so much professional junior hockey, but even there – results are evidence.

Campbell River Storm just followed up on last year’s Western Canadian (Keystone Cup) win by the Beaver Valley Nitehawks with another title for a small-town British Columbia-based junior B squad, and the Penticton Vees are favoured to earn a national championship (Royal Bank Cup) playoff spot in the Western Canada Cup series in Fort MacMurray.

For contrast, when all junior hockey playoffs aimed at the Memorial Cup national championship finals, only once in the first 56 years of the competition did a B.C. based team – the 1944 Trail Junior Smoke Eaters – even reach the Memorial Cup final. It took 22 years more before a team from this province achieved that feat again and two more after that before a B.C. team (Saskatchewan transplants New Westminster) actually won the thing.

Since then, B.C. teams have won nine more titles, and close neighbours Spokane have gained two.

When Trail was the dominant junior hockey region in B.C., Smoke Eater squads won the B.C. title 24 times in 35 years. Only one of those teams (those pesky 44s) was able to advance past the Alberta champions against whom the playoffs always continued. Evidence of how drastic the hockey power change has been.

The Junior A national championship playoff began in 1971 and it took 12 years before a B.C. team (Penticton) won that. Since then there have been 10 more Centennial Cup/Royal Bank Cup champions from our province, and eight other times the B.C. representative made it to the national final.

Some of the change has to do with B.C. becoming almost uniformly (across the province) more wealthy, but most of it has to do with the fact that, first the Kootenays, (Trail in particular) embraced minor hockey for its kids, then B.C. became the place that supported minor hockey better than anywhere else in the nation outside of Metro Toronto and Montreal.

That built a broad supply of knowledgeable hockey folks able to carry on and enhance the tradition of hockey skills development in the province, and a large corps of relatively knowledgeable hockey fans who supported all their efforts.  From a tradition of long odds also rans to perpetual favourites for national glory, all in my admittedly (moderately) lengthy life span.

That all has led up to this year, when there is a decent chance all three top tier junior titles available could fall into B.C. hands – or mostly B.C. hands, because all levels now recruit from all over – despite our supposed warm weather status.

And then, of course, there are the Canucks, to keep us grounded.

 

Just Posted

Castlegar, Grand Forks areas to see cleaner winter roads under new contract

YRB set to take over 10-year maintenance contract on Monday

Montrose moves to ban pot retail

Retail, production and distribution of non-medical cannabis sales prohibited under Montrose bylaw

Setting sail to fight kidney disease

Trail’s annual Kidney Walk included an opportunity to raft down the Columbia River

MP Cannings spared brunt of Ottawa tornadoes

MP Richard Cannings was spared the impact of the tornadoes that hit the Ottawa region

Castlegar walk raises thousands for local Alzheimer’s support

Castle Wood Village fundraiser shows astounding support in community, organizers say

AFN national chief suggests moving Trans Mountain pipeline route

Perry Bellegarde said many Indigenous communities believe in the need to diversify export markets

UPDATED: Bill Cosby gets 3-10 years in prison for sexual assault

Judge also declared the disgraced comedian a ‘sexually violent predator’

B.C. making progress on senior care staffing, Adrian Dix says

Minister aims to meet residential care provincial standard by 2021

B.C. realtor receives racist letter touching on ‘empty homes’

The letter has been met with condemnation of the racism after Winnie Wu posted it online

Pawsitive response by B.C. community for 60-plus surrendered cats

Community comes together to help surrendered cats at Penticton SPCA

U.S. worker charged after video shows him spitting on customer’s pizza

Jaylon Kerley of Detroit is charged with a felony count of food law violations

Andrew Weaver congratulates New Brunswick on electing first Green caucus

Election win means there are now three provincial Green Party caucuses in Canada

Around the BCHL: Merritt’s Matthew Kopperud nets Sun Devil scholarship

Around the BCHL is a look at the BCHL and goings-on throughout the junior A world.

Father, 9-year-old son killed in crash along B.C. highway

RCMP say family of five was hit head-on by a pickup truck north of Williams Lake

Most Read