The Nanaimo Clippers begin the 2012-13 B.C. Hockey League season with a showcase tournament and end it with at least the Western Canada Cup junior A tournament, but head coach Mike Vandekamp said at this point the smaller battles are more important than the wars.
“I like the [BCHL] showcase event idea, it’s a good opportunity for the players,” said Vandekamp. “But for me it’s an opportunity to go in there and try to get some wins and hopefully the players are thinking the same way. These games now count in the standings and they’re important games for us as a team.”
The league hosts its first-ever showcase event in Chilliwack at the Prospera Centre beginning Friday (Sept. 7). All 16 teams from the league will come together over three days to play two games each, all of which count in the regular season standings.
Scouts from many NHL teams as well as Canadian and NCAA colleges and universities are expected to be in the stands to gauge talent.
The Clippers have the honour of facing the hometown Chiefs to begin the season Saturday (Sept. 8) at 7 p.m.
“It doesn’t matter who we play to start,” said Vandekamp. “We’re just playing to win every game. There might be a bit more energy in the building because it’s the home team, but for us it’s just another game we want to win.”
Vandekamp said he’ll have his hands full preparing his players for games and won’t have much of an opportunity to see how other teams stack up against his Clippers from a scouting standpoint.
“I would if I could but I won’t have too much time to be too involved in looking at other teams,” said Vandekamp. “I’m going there to concentrate on our own team right now and we only get there in time to prepare the team to play. The next morning we play a quick turnaround game then come home.”
On Sunday the Clips play Salmon Arm at 11 a.m. before heading home to Nanaimo to get ready for the home opener against Powell River Sept. 15 at Frank Crane Arena.
Nanaimo defeated Powell River 4-0 in the final game of the pre-season, where the Clips were 3-2 overall. Nanaimo beat Port Alberni 8-2 in both pre-season tilts but lost to Island rivals Victoria and Cowichan Valley 4-1 and 3-1 respectively.
Vandekamp said he doesn’t put too much stock in pre-season results, and that he likes his team’s work ethic and that additions in size on the blue line for the 2012 season suggest a team that is built to last.
“We want to get off to the best possible start this year and play well at home. We start the year with a tournament and end with a big one, hopefully two,” said Vandekamp.
Nanaimo hosts the Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup from April 26 to May 4.