In our first installment of PJHL Q & A for the season, we catch up with Rob Toor who is the governor of the league’s newest team, the Port Coquitlam Trailblazers. While early results for the team reflect a steep learning curve that often challenges expansion clubs, Toor is encouraged about the team’s reception in Poco and the direction the team is taking under its coaching staff.
PJHL: Your season is well underway and you’ve had a couple of home games. What has the response been like from the community in Port Coquitlam?
Rob Toor: Our first home game on September 15 was amazing. We sold out the arena with 850 people. It was great to have so many fans especially for the inaugural game. There was a tremendous energy in the arena. We had a great local band perform during the intermissions. We hope to have the band back every month. We recognized our first ceremonial Trailblazer, Mayor Brad West. Other than the last ten minutes in the third period where we let a 3-0 lead fall to lose 4-3, it was a successful evening.
PJHL: How exciting was it to see the recruiting process and watch the roster come together?
RT: The recruiting process was left with our general manager, Ryan Ross and head coach, Greg Ross. There are some great young players. I really enjoyed watching the team form bonds with each other, on and off the ice. The team is really trying to create a strong positive culture. I think with having a young team, it is going to take a little time for our team to fully adapt to the requirements of junior hockey, but they will catch on sooner than later.
PJHL: What was the pitch to new players about being a part of a new team in the PJHL
RT: I think the GM and Coach did a great job with recruiting and letting players know the culture we are trying to build, and the chance of being part of something new and exciting. As for the directors, we were fortunate to be able to take in and view the prospect, all star and main camps, and see the team/players get chosen.
PJHL: There is a lot of local Poco talent on the Trailblazers roster. How much of a focus was that for you?
RT: We really want our Port Coquitlam minor hockey association players to see other local youth who were part of the minor hockey program at one point now participate at the Junior level and play with the local Junior A team, and hopefully see themselves playing for the Trailblazers in the future. After our first game, I already had minor hockey players coming up to me and saying, ‘One day, I want to be a Trailblazer.’ It was so enriching and fulfilling to hear minor hockey players aspire to play for our local Junior hockey team. Moreover, it is important we are providing real local opportunities and development for future players.
PJHL: For friends and family that may be getting exposed to the PJHL for the first time through your involvement, what do you tell them about the calibre of hockey and the development opportunities the players have?
RT: I think the level of hockey at the PJHL level is fabulous. The league and its teams provide an invaluable opportunity for players to continue to develop. This is only going to continue to grow as the teams continue to establish their Junior A standards, and the league continues to create and harvest the great partnerships with WHL teams and that league. Our teams could eventually be the farm or development system for WHL teams. We are truly continuing to evolve to be an amazing development league for players for all of their hockey aspirations.