Junior A hockey playoffs are still underway across the country, but the Nanaimo Clippers can concern themselves with next year’s playoffs.
The B.C. Hockey League club hosted a press conference Thursday to promote next spring’s Western Canada Cup.
The cup, a brand-new playoff format, will replace the Doyle Cup series. In 2013, for the first time, five junior A hockey teams will play off in a round-robin tournament to determine Western Canada’s two representatives to nationals.
“I think it’s going to attract so many people from around the Island, and they are going to be blown away by the hockey they are going to see,” said Kelly Hrudey, part owner of the Nanaimo Clippers.
He said even though the participating teams might not have existing rivalries, players are conditioned to compete hard in big games.
“Whether you’re familiar with your opponent or it’s somebody that you’ve never faced before, the energy gets going pretty quickly and it only takes one hit early in a game to get everybody involved,” Hrudey said.
Canadian Junior A Hockey League chairman Kirk Lamb said he likes the Western Canada Cup format because it creates a showcase event for a community, and also a showcase for junior A.
“We’re about developing players, exposure and opportunity…” he said. “Playing a 10-day tournament in high competition, obviously they’re going to benefit from that on the development side. On the exposure side, we think this is a great destination tournament for scouts.”
He met with the commissioners of the junior A leagues from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in Nanaimo this week. There was talk about rules and also about the Western Canada Cup tournament, including the cup itself.
“We are confident we’ll have a nice trophy to represent the prestige of our leagues,” said Kim Davis, commissioner of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.
The CJHL also plans to announce a title sponsor of the event later this spring.
Graham Calder, chairman of the WCC host committee, said he has filled key positions on the committee and will begin reaching out to volunteers as the 2012-13 season approaches.
Clippers plan to be worthy competitors
Four of the teams in the Western Canada Cup will be champions. So the Nanaimo Clippers want to ensure they won’t seem out of place at their own tournament.
The Clippers failed to qualify for the B.C. Hockey League playoffs this year, but the chairman of the Canadian Junior A Hockey League said he isn’t concerned about that.
“The Clippers have a history of success," said Lamb. "They have a good coaching staff and they’ve got a great organization, a great community to draw players to. This is a proud organization and they’ll step up to the plate, on the ice and off the ice.”
Ken Wagner, owner of the Nanaimo Clippers, said the whole organization will take responsibility in making sure the team is competitive in 2012-13. He said any host team of a tourney like the WCC wants to avoid losing in the first round of the playoffs and sittling idle for weeks.
Hrudey said he met with Wagner and coach Mike Vandekamp on Thursday and feels “really comfortable” with the direction the Clippers are headed.
“We really expect and we’re going to demand that we’re going to have a great team next year. It’s imperative,” Hrudey said.
GAME ON … The Western Canada Cup junior A hockey tournament will be held April 26-May 5, 2013. The host Clippers will take on the playoff champions from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Two of the five teams will advance to the Royal Bank Cup national championships.