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Royal arrival for Victoria WHL players

Regulars acquaint themselves with city prior to camp
Victoria Royals-new ice
The ice is in at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. Victoria Royals WHL players are now arriving with three of them skating a closed-door practice on Tuesday

After skating for the first time in Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre on Tuesday, a quartet of Victoria Royals players took time to meet the media.

Among the many questions, the most common asked of players was for their thoughts on their new barn.

“This is the same rink (as Kelowna) but on steroids,” said forward Brendan Persely.

“Speechless,” said goalie Keith Hamilton.

“Probably the best facility in the league,” said forward Mike Forsyth.

Think these guys are excited?

Persely and Forsyth are returning Chilliwack Bruins, along with defenceman Zach Habscheid. All skated and took shots on Hamilton, the newly acquired netminder formerly with the Portland Winterhawks.

They’ll be on the ice again throughout the week during captain's ice – a league mandated, players-only ice slot which management has no authority over player’s decisions. Media, however, are welcome to gush from the seats.

After the skate Habscheid spoke of the unique father-coach relationship he has with his dad Mark, the team’s general manager.

Habscheid the player tried to play down the connection as it’s not something he want to become a focus. It’s clear thought that the third-year WHLer shares not only his dad’s focus but also his NHL-sized 6-foot-4 frame.

Royals fans will also want to keep their eyes on Persley. He’s a Kelowna product with a ton of personality, a self-described grinder with a dozen scraps on

“In the room I try to keep the guys loose, especially at the beginning of the season. I’ll be talking up the guys to try and keep everyone relaxed,” he said. “(On the ice) I’m a grinder, looking to dig the puck out and make that nice pass but it doesn’t happen (as much I’d like).”

Persley confirmed the Royals’ biggest rivalries will be with the Vancouver Giants and his hometown Kelowna Rockets, as well as the Kamloops Blazers.

“It’s going to be an unreal home opener (against the Giants).”

Players will continue to arrive and settle with their billets this week as the rookie/draft and main training camps start next week.

Suitcases stop here

For goalie Keith Hamilton, this year’s billet is his fourth in four years. At 16 the Kelowna native left for the Portland Winterhawks. As a 17-year-old he opted to play for the Merritt Centennials of the B.C. Hockey League, then returned to play 28 regular season games for Portland in 2010-11.