B.C.’s Sunshine Coast will provide the backdrop for a pair of PJHL games this weekend and while fans eagerly anticipate some high-flying hockey action, organizers plan to put on a show that proves Junior hockey can be a more permanent feature in the area.
It’s an initiative spearheaded by the Sunshine Coast Junior Hockey Society (SCJHS), a registered non-profit organization with a goal of bringing Junior hockey to the region. SCJHS director of operations Rick Hopper senses hockey fans in the Town of Gibsons are looking forward to the opportunity.
“The community is very excited,” says Hopper. “We have sold over 500 (tickets) as of this past weekend. We have also had a positive response from the local business community, with corporate sponsorships accounting for half of the budgeted revenues to host these games.”
The SCJHS has sold most of the tickets for the games via an online platform and have guaranteed, thanks to some more local partnerships, that the 50/50 jackpot will be a minimum of $1,000 to the winner each night.
While all this is going on in the background, four points in the standing are on the line for the Jets and Wolf Pack. A change of scenery might be nice for North Van as they’ve picked up just four points through 11 games to start the season
“We are very excited about the opportunity to head over to the Sunshine Coast to represent the PJHL as we face the Jets,” says Wolf Pack head coach and assistant general manager Michael Borrelli. “This will be a great chance for our group to have time away from the Lower Mainland, spend time bonding and enjoy a different experience.”
North Van, PJHL champions in 2019 and regular-season winners in 2020, and Chilliwack – who joined the league during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season and are off to a 7-4-2 start this year – represent the league’s Tom Shaw and Harold Brittain Conferences respectively and should put on a good show. JJ Pickell is a proven producer for North Van and is over a point a game this season while Chilliwack boasts one of the current Players of the Week in Brendan Williamson, fresh off a five-goal game Sunday versus Abbotsford.
“This is a unique experience for our players as they get to make a road trip to a beautiful part of B.C.,” said PJHL Commissioner Trevor Alto. “Rick and his group have shown great enthusiasm and I know they will give us an ideal setting to showcase the PJHL.”
Puck drop for the first game is 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday’s game is set for a 4:15 p.m. start.
Hopper will be the master of ceremonies for the weekend and is looking for some key indicators to show the area is worthy of a franchise.
“What would we consider a success? A packed house, some great hockey and two teams – players and coaches alike – wanting to come back for more.”