A full 44-game Pacific Junior Hockey League regular season starts Tuesday night for the Delta Ice Hawks when the White Rock Whalers visit the Ladner Leisure Centre at 7:35 p.m
It will be the Hawks’ first game in front of fans since February 2020 after COVID-19 resulted in the 2020-21 campaign being nothing more than a handful of cohort exhibition games, in empty arenas, before the league was shut down for good last November.
The team is winding down a busy pre-season with three more games this week as general manager and head coach Steve Robinson prepares to trim his roster for the opener.
“We have been going pretty hard since August 15 so the frequency of the skates and the fact we have been really busy feels like we are ramping up for something. Of course you can’t help to be a little gun shy with what has gone on, like you are ramping up to fall off a cliff, but it has been good,” laughed Robinson.
What the line-up looks like on Tuesday compared to later this month could be substantially different thanks to the PJHL starting its season so early. Robinson will be waiting on up to seven players that will be attending upcoming BCHL camps that could make their way to Delta.
“This is the tightrope we walk in this league. It’s the earliest to start yet the most trickled down to (level of junior). It is super counterintuitive for sure and definitely makes it more of a challenge but it’s the same for every team in the league.”
What isn’t the same is the Ice Hawks knowing their season is going until mid-April. B.C. Hockey is expected to announce soon Delta will be hosting the 2022 Cyclone Taylor Cup Junior “B” provincial championships. The Hawks will host the champions from Kootenay, Vancouver Island and PJHL leagues in a four-team tournament.
With just five players slated to return, Robinson is borrowing a blueprint from former coach Darren Naylor by attempting to load up on 17-and-18-year-olds that are still aspiring to reach the next level.
“It’s the one year bounce (to junior ‘A’) and trying to find as many of those kids as I can and that’s going against the conventional wisdom of (loading up on) 20-year-olds,” he said.
His most intriguing signing is 19-year-old forward Alec Scouras who is expected to be named team captain. The South Delta native put up big numbers at the academy level, captaining a West Van team that featured current WHL phenom Connor Bedard. After playing in the BCHL with Cowichan Valley last season, Scouras has decided to focus on his studies at SFU and play for his hometown team.