A whole bunch of Osoyoos Coyotes will be looking for familiar faces in the stands this weekend as the club travels to Quesnel — some 635 km north — for a pair of games against the Kamloops Storm.
Those friendly faces, they hope, will be travelling almost 700 km of their own from BC’s Pacific Northwest to watch sons, grandsons, brothers and nephews play some junior hockey.
A few friends might tag along as well.
Seven Coyotes call Terrace home; another — Judd Repole — is just a smidge further west on Hwy. 16, hailing from Prince Rupert.
“We’ll probably have a bigger crowd than Kamloops,” said Coyotes head coach Ken Law.
“From what I understand there’s a big contingent coming down from Terrace and Rupert and points in between, from places the guys have played in the past and family they have in the area.”
The Storm (10-16-1) have scheduled six games for the new $20-million West Fraser Centre, which opened in September, offers an NHL-sized ice surface and seats 1,300.
In mid-November, the Storm twice played the 100 Mile House Wranglers and after this weekend’s contests will play two more games in February — the first against the Wranglers, the second against the Kelowna Chiefs.
The talk is the Storm are pondering a move to the community of 10,000 and its new hockey arena.
Many of the Coyote family travel to Osoyoos to catch an odd game, but this weekend in Quesnel offers a unique community experience.
“It’ll almost be like old times when we traveled together,” said Rob Bell, the father of Colin Bell and a Midget hockey coach in the Terrace community. “A lot of us started off in Atoms and Peewees together and went all the way through.
“I’m going to drive down with some other parents, the Reinbolts.”
That “drive down” is “eight or nine hours with good roads,” he added.
From this end, the Coyotes plan to leave Osoyoos “very early” Friday morning and arrive mid-afternoon in Quesnel. With a game Friday evening, that doesn’t leave much time to share with family until Saturday.
“I’ll probably see (my parents) during the day Saturday instead of napping,” said Repole. “It’s still so far away that it’ll be just like when they come down here.”
Seven of the eight from BC’s northwest — the others include Carter Shannon, Hunter Johnson, Sam Reinbolt, Nick Nordstrom and Colin Bell — are expecting family and/or friends to attend.
The exception is Colin Bell, unique among the crew for having a girlfriend.
“It’s still pretty far and she has to work,” he says of that girlfriend as the others add a little chuckle. “And my parents can’t make it. They’ll watch it online.”
There’s a thought the addition of a Quesnel team to the KIJHL might rupture the pipeline the Coyotes have built to bring young players from Terrace — the youngsters instead opting to play closer to home. But the Osoyoos coaches and players aren’t so sure that will occur.
“Since there’s already a lot of guys here (from Terrace), we just talk them into coming to Osoyoos, how nice of a place it is,” said Repole, a team captain. “100 Mile is closer than this and we didn’t go there.”
Adds Rob Bell, “Ken never stops turning over rocks. He’s ruthless like that. He’ll get the quality players.”
Still, the Terrace coach adds, it would be good to see a team in Quesnel.
“We don’t have any junior hockey up here in the northwest,” he said. “I’m glad to see Quesnel is possibly getting a team. Maybe, eventually, it will creep farther this way.”
The Quesnel games this weekend are scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Fans in Osoyoos can watch the games online for a nominal fee. Visit kijhl.ca and follow the playfullscreen link.
The Yotes will be returning to Osoyoos Sunday morning.