The Nuway Crushing Whitehorse Huskies have experienced their first setback of the season – and they haven’t even played a game yet.
The senior men’s AA hockey club is actively searching for teams to play this season following the announcement B.C.‘s Fort Nelson Yeti team has folded.
The Huskies, who had games scheduled with the Yeti, are required to play six B.C. Hockey sanctioned games to qualify for the Coy Cup – British Columbia’s AA championship trophy.
The Whitehorse club was caught off guard by the announcement, but Huskies president and general manager Matt King is optimistic.
“Obviously it’s unfortunate the Yeti folded,” said King. “Being the team closest to Whitehorse, it’s easier for the season. It’s more cost effective to travel out and to get the team up to Whitehorse to play.
“It’s a new challenge and I’ve contacted probably five different teams here in the last day and we have some interest in teams coming up. So I’m pretty optimistic we’ll be able to keep our planned three home series. We’ll just have a different team than the Yeti.”
The Yeti made the announcement on the team’s Facebook page on Sunday. Less than two weeks ago the Huskies and Yeti firmed up dates for a home-and-home series this season.
A “player shortage” was the main cause for the team’s decision to scrub the season, said Yeti captain and general manager Ryan Carter.
“It was pretty sudden, for sure,” said Carter. “We had good expectations for this season. Senior hockey is quite like this: a few key guys missing and it really changes the landscape, especially in a town of ours that is only 3,000 people.
“The economy is really hurting. A couple guys get laid off or a couple guys move away, it really changes the landscape. We’ve never cut a player from our team.
“We haven’t had a lot of guys try out. A lot of our recruiting is begging and pleading for guys to come out and play.”
In addition to a low turnout at tryouts, the Yeti also lost one of its two goalies to injury. The announcement comes after the Yeti already played a two-game series against the Fort St. John Flyers – last season’s Coy Cup champions – losing 4-3 and 7-1 this month.
This season would have been the team’s third season since senior hockey returned to Fort Nelson. There was another senior team about 15 years ago, said Carter.
“If the local economy turns around, maybe some hockey players will move to town,” said Carter. “This is the worst the economy has been in Fort Nelson in probably 40 years. Guys are scared to take a day off to travel for hockey when they might get laid off.
“We tried to get some guys together to play here in three weeks and the commitment just wasn’t there for the whole year. We didn’t want to get in a case where Whitehorse came down here and we couldn’t reciprocate and make the games up there too.”
Yeti staff will review the situation over the off-season with the hope of returning next year.
The Huskies were scheduled to play the Yeti in Fort Nelson Nov. 13 and 14 and then host the Yeti Dec. 11 and 12.
The Whitehorse club is also looking at Jan. 22 and 23 and Feb. 5 and 6 as possible dates for other series.
“Now we’re just trying to find teams to fill those time slots,” said King. “We were already in talks with Powell River and they are likely to take one of those spots. We’ve been talking to a AAA team out of Alberta that will probably take the January spot – we’re just trying to work out the details. There’s actually a brand new senior AAA team out of Vancouver that just formed and they have some interest in coming up here.”
The Huskies went undefeated in eight exhibition games with four wins over the Fort Nelson Yeti, two over the Powell River Regals and two over the Yellowknife Flyers last season.
Whitehorse then lost two straight in a best-of-three playoff series to the Fort St. John Flyers in March, ending the team’s Coy Cup run. The Flyers went on to win the Coy Cup, defeating the Terrace River Kings in the final.
Not only do the Huskies hope to win the Coy Cup in the coming years, the club wants to host it as well.
With the Yeti folding, “It makes it more logistically challenging for us and also more expensive,” said King. “A lot of teams we end up bringing up here, we’ll have to help pay for them to come up here. The advantage with Fort Nelson is they paid their way up here.
“We’ve looked at the budget, we’ve crunched the numbers, and we think we can still make a go of it.”
Contact Tom Patrick at