Startin’ fresh: Royals players begin new chapter
The scene is the second period of game 1 of the Western Hockey League first-round playoff series between the sixth-place Chilliwack Bruins and third-place Spokane Chiefs on March 25.
The score is 1-1.
Bruins centre’ Kevin Sundher breaks down the right wing on a 2-on-1 with left winger Jamie Crooks. Sundher cuts left around sliding Chiefs’ defender Tanner Mort and makes a perfect pass for an easy tap-in by Crooks, giving the Bruins a 2-1 lead.
Premature maybe, but the Bruins were in control of the series, even if just for a few minutes. The Chiefs eventually came back to win that March 25 game in overtime, 3-2, and pushed the Bruins out in five games.
As the Victoria Royals open main camp on Monday (Aug. 29) all the hype and excitement of their 2011-12 debut will slowly give way to the fact this is not a new team.
It’s a team with a returning core of players who are bringing preexisting, nasty rivalries against the Vancouver Giants, Kamloops Blazers and Kelowna Rockets. It’s a team that ended the 2010-11 regular season and playoffs knowing their time in Chilliwack was up, but is shunning the idea there’s any baggage from the move.
“It was a shock but it wasn’t as hard on the boys (as one might think),” said forward Robin Soudek following a team skate at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre on Tuesday.
After all, most players left their homes long ago to join the WHL.
A former Edmonton Oil King, Soudek is a Czech import who scored 25 goals and 57 points for the Bruins last year. He said the leaked news of the team’s sale and relocation was harder for the city and the team’s billets.
“We heard all the rumours but no one really knew what was going on. We thought it was one or two years away, not (one month). Finally, in March sometime, the ownership came in to the dressing room and told us.”
WHL and RG Properties didn’t make the news official until April 20, nearly a month later.
“Billets were doing a favour for the team. That was the sad part.”
Soudek is one to watch in 2011-12. He arrived last week to logos plastered on bus stops all over town, is aware this town. He is aware this town has a history of hockey and, is just as excited to play here as the city is to have him.
Self-imposed expectations for Soudek are to equal his output from last year but don’t be surprised if the 20-year-old right winger is in the mix to lead the team in scoring this year.
Rookie camp. Aug. 25 to 28: scrimmages from 8 a.m. to 10:15 p.m., at SOFMC.
Main Camp. Aug. 29 to 31: Scrimmages from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5:15 to 10:15 p.m.
Aug. 31 intra-squad game (by donation), 7:05 p.m. at SOFMC.
All days at SOFMC except Aug. 30 at Bear Mountain Arena.