BCHL Today: Mental health talk for BCHL players and Clips making move

BCHL Today is a (near) daily feature providing news and notes from around the junior A world.

Welcome to the Feb. 1, 2018 edition of BCHL Today, a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

I was at Prospera Centre in Chilliwack Tuesday afternoon to talk to Nathan MacMaster and Steve Bull.

These two men are involved in outreach for the Together We Can Addiction Recovery and Education Society. Both are former high-level hockey players who battled severe addiction issues. At one point, Bull was losing his fight big-time and found himself on the street.

They were in Chilliwack to deliver a presentation to the Chilliwack Chiefs. They did the same later than night in Merritt before traveling on to West Kelowna and Salmon Arm Wednesday. They are due to finish their BCHL tour today in Penticton.

You can read my story about MacMaster here.

But there’s one thing that didn’t make it into the piece and I wish there’d been space to use it. At the tail end of the interview I asked Bull if the landscape had changed since he played in the early 1980’s. I was wondering if the stigmas around mental health and addiction had faded and if there were more supports available to players, and I expected him to say that the hockey world had moved in the right direction.

I was wrong.

“I’ll be honest, as far as I junior hockey goes I don’t (think things are improving),” Bull said. “I have friends and sons who are now in junior hockey, and it’s being spoken about, but at the end of the day, if somebody has a problem it’s still up to the family to deal with it.

“The leagues don’t have programs in place and they’ll still deal with it the same way. They’ll trade that player as opposed to giving him help.”

Hopefully, this outreach tour is the first step in a larger plan for the BCHL.

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So you want to be a BCHL head coach?

Powell River’s interim head coach, Brock Sawyer, ran the bench for the first time last night in Wenatchee in a 5-2 loss to the Wild and it didn’t go well.

Sawyer’s Kings got out-shot 11-2 in the first period and trailed 1-0 on an AJ Vanderbeck snipe. It was the first of two for the Colorado native. Wenatchee native Matt Dorsey also scored a pair with Daniel Chladek picking up a single.

Jonny Evans and Andy Stevens replied for the Kings, who were out-shot 42-27 and have now lost four straight games.

Hang in there Brock. There will be brighter days.

A side note on Sawyer. Until this morning I had never heard of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL), but Powell River’s bench boss is an alum. According to the interwebs it’s a 10 team circuit with teams based in the southeastern United States. Sawyer spent parts of two seasons with the Fayetteville FireAntz, which is both a great and a horrible name.

Fire Ants = great and unique. FireAntz = no good. Didn’t we leave that extreme stuff back in the 1990’s? Maybe Fayetteville agreed because they’re now known as the Marksmen.

Sawyer played his final 26 pro games with the Huntsville Havoc in 2013-14.

It’s going to be a side project over the next month to see how many BCHL grads are active in this league.

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After earning three of a possible four points in Wenatchee last weekend, the Merritt Centennials were feeling good heading into a Wednesday nighter at Kal Tire Place in Vernon.

Then the Vipers happened.

Jimmy Lambert, Josh Latta, Jesse Lansdell and Brett Stapley scored for the Snakes, who skated to a convincing win over the Cents.

Jackson Munro scored the lone Merritt goal on a power play, with just 2:15 remaining in the game.

It wasn’t all good news for Vernon Wednesday as they learned that star centre Josh Prokop will be lost for the season. Prokop suffered a badly dislocated shoulder with less than four seconds remaining in last Sunday’s game in Trail.

“He’s going to need surgery so he will be out for six months,” Vipers head coach Mark Ferner told Kevin Mitchell of the Vernon Morning Star. “It’s a huge loss. He’s a very good player. 2018 hasn’t been good to us.”

Prokop had been enjoying a very productive season, with 21 goals and 37 points in 48 games. He is one of 10 draft eligible junior A players from across Canada who’ve been rated by the National Hockey League’s Central Scouting Bureau and played in the Canadian Junior Hockey League Prospects Game earlier this month.

Read Mitchell’s full article here.

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Jamie Collins scored the game-winning goal with just 1:17 to play as his Nanaimo Clippers topped the Victoria Grizzlies 4-3 Wednesday night.

The Clips out-shot the Grizz 39-29 at the Frank Crane Arena in Nanaimo with Parker Colley, Brady Lynn and Lucas Vanroboys also lighting the lamp. Jamie Rome had a pair for Victoria with T.J. Friedmann picking up a single to give him five goals in last four games.

Where once Victoria and Powell River seemed destined to duke it out for top spot in the Island division, Nanaimo is making it a three-team race. The Clippers are within one point of Powell River and within three of Victoria.

Sadly, that was the last head-to-head they’ll have against either team this season. But if you’re betting on a team with a weak schedule, four of Nanaimo’s final eight games are against the Cowichan Capitals (9-31-5-2) and Alberni Valley Bulldogs (14-26-4-4).

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I wanted to finish off today shining the spotlight on Chilliwack’s Anthony Vincent.

For Chiefs rivals in the Mainland division, his name is actually Anthony $#&^@*% Vincent! He plays an agitating style that gets under the skin of opponents. I don’t know if he’d care for the comparison, but when I watch him play I want to add a No. 1 to his No. 4 and call him Alex Burrows, who remains one of my favourite all-time Vancouver Canucks.

The reason I mention Vincent today is because of one shift from last weekend’s 5-1 home-ice loss to Prince George.

Chiefs radio colour man Jacob Bestebroer describes it as follows…

“During a Prince George power play in the second period, he was out at the start of the kill playing the left forward position. Early in the man advantage, one of the Kings defenseman let go a hard shot from the blueline that Vincent threw himself in front of. You could tell it hurt him and he lost his stick in the process. Three more times in the next thirty seconds he put himself in front of Kings’ shots. Each shot was harder than the last. When the Chiefs finally got the puck out of their zone and he managed to get his aching body to the Chiefs bench, every player congratulated him for his effort in one way or another.”

The closer camera angle in the video highlights don’t do it justice, but start watching at 3:27 and that’s Vincent putting himself in the line of fire. It was inspiring to watch from my perch up top and I almost wanted to jump on the ice and kill the rest of that penalty myself, for Vinny!

He also scored Chilliwack’s only goal in the game, which you can see at the 1:40 mark.

If there’s one player on the Chilliwack roster whose compete level you can never question, it’s Vincent’s.

The NCAA’s Holy Cross Crusaders will be getting a valuable player next season.

Eric Welsh is the sports editor at the Chilliwack Progress and has been covering junior A hockey in B.C. and Alberta since 2003.

Email eric.welsh@theprogress.com

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