Working with rival to get fans into the building

  • The Kelowna Rockets and Kamloops Blazers both reside in Interior Health. This area is dealing with arguably the stiffest health restrictions in Canada. Under the current rules, you can't have more than 50 people gather in-doors. What does that mean to those two teams? They can't hold pre-season games with fans in attendance if that stipulation isn't lifted. The Blazers have cancelled two games and will instead play tune-up games in Prince George in dealing with that restriction. The Rockets, who have five pre-season games on their schedule, have yet to move or cancel any, instead hoping things might change in the next few days. The exhibition schedule starts next Wednesday, on the road, against the Vancouver Giants. The game will be played in Ladner. 
  • It's been neat to see the Blazers and Rockets work together with Interior Health over ways to allow the two teams to run their businesses. Arch rivals on the ice, these two organizations have banned together in an effort to bring some normalcy to have fans in the stands when the puck drops for real on October 1st. At the end of the day, we are all in this together. We need each other to succeed and it's nice to see that the animosity on the ice can be separated for the greater good for hockey fans in our region.
  • Will you have to wear a mask inside the building to watch Rockets games this season? Unless you are eating or drinking, likely. If that's the case, will the screaming at the referee or at the opposing team be audible in the building with masks on? Hockey fans will find a way to show their disgust and dismay. I should mention, the Portland Winterhawks have already informed fans that they will have to mask up this season. The same goes for the Seattle Thunderbirds. I anticipate it being the norm in the Western Conference. 
  • It's hard to wrap your head around it. The Rockets haven't had fans at a home game at Prospera Place in over 500 days. The last game played with fans was March 11, 2020 in a 3-2 loss to Victoria. Over 47 hundred patrons took in that game.
  • The best case for the Rockets and Blazers right now is being allowed 50% capacity to start the season. That would translate to essentially 3,000 fans at the Rockets home opener. It's a baby step to full capacity, which will likely be feasible in November if COVID numbers remain stable. 
  • It's to early to name a captain, but I would like to see someone anointed that role this season. I want someone to step up and show they are the alpha-male of the group. It takes a special person. He doesn't have to be the loudest voice in the room, but must have the respect of his teammates and the individual must be inclusive. What does inclusive mean? As a veteran leader, you need to talk to the rookies. You need to bring them into the group. You need to lead by example by working hard in practice and doing what's best for the team. You do not need to be the best player. Character is paramount. The team did not have a captain last season and named Nolan Foote to that post in  October of 2019.
  • Pavel Novak made his return to Prospera Place. It was nice to see the 19 year-old back in the city after a long hiatus. The skilled forward did not play with the team during the abbreviated-COVID-19 season, instead suiting up for his country at the World Junior Hockey Championships and honing his skills in the Czech Republic. Novak is the teams leading scorer from two seasons ago. The teams rookie of the year in 2020, it's safe bet the Minnesota Wild prospect will be the trigger man this season.
  • Mark Liwiski had 9 goals during the abbreviated season. That was the most goals of anyone on the Rockets roster. At that pace, pro-rated over 68 games, the 20 year-old would have scored 40 times. Let's be realistic though. He won't score that many goals this season. It's easy to preform at a high level over a short period of time. It is way harder to be consistent with extensive travel and a more laborious schedule. Is 20 goals a possibility though? His career high is 11 set in 2018-2019.
  • New rule changes in the WHL. The most significant is coaches being able to challenge off-sides that result in goals. I like the idea. We see it in the NHL. My only complaint is the length of time it takes to review them. It puts the game 'on-hold' which can suck the life out of the building. If the coach challenges and gets it wrong, his team receives a minor penalty. Coaches.....choose wisely.  And yes, as media, we will be keeping a close tally on the success rate of these challenges.
  • If you are up early Sunday morning, I will be on Global News Morning with Jay Janower speaking of the virtues of the Kelowna Rockets. I may not have any pants on, but the Zoom call is only from the shoulders up! 8:23 am is when I am scheduled to appear.