After winning the top division of the men’s hockey league in their hometown last season, the Kelowna Sparta were asked not to come back.
It had nothing to do with poor sportsmanship or rough play — they were just too good.
“A lot of teams weren’t even showing up to play us because the gap was too big, so the league actually told us that they didn’t want us to come back,” said Sparta president and player Kelly Loudoun. “So we were wondering where we’re going to play hockey and that’s where it came about.
“We were trying to figure out what we’re going to do for next year and we were like, ‘I guess we’re going to make a AA team.’ That was it.”
The Whitehorse Huskies will find out just how good the Sparta are this weekend as the two senior men’s AA hockey teams meet for the first time in a two-games series.
The Sparta, which formed last season and are going for the Coy Cup — B.C.’s AA championship — for the first time this season are bringing five ex-pros and a bevy of ex-college/university players to Whitehorse.
“I think pretty much every guy on our roster played college or university hockey,” said Loudoun.
“Since we’re independent like the Huskies, we have a six-game minimum of exhibition games to make the playoffs of the Coy Cup, so I thought Whitehorse would be a good option for us,” he added. “After this weekend we will have our six games.”
So far this season in exhibition play the Sparta have defeated their local Junior B team, the Kelowna Chiefs, and won two out of three games against the Vikes men’s team from the University of Victoria.
Though it looks like the Huskies will have a tough battle on their hands, it seemed that way when they hosted the Bonnyville Sr. Pontiacs in their first series of the season in October. The Pontiacs won their division with a 15-1 record and went undefeated in 21 consecutive games in Alberta’s North Central Senior Hockey League last season, but the Huskies beat them 9-1 and 7-6 in the series.
“Obviously we’re excited. Every time you go a month or more in between games, guys are going to be excited to hit the ice and play,” said Huskies head coach Michael Tuton.
“Practices have been going really well — stepping intensity up — and I think they guys are just excited to have another series.”
The Huskies will take to the ice with a new captain this weekend with forward Derek Klassen wearing the ‘C’. Klassen, who has been an assistant captain the last two seasons, had two goals and two assists in the series against the Pontiacs.
“He’s been a leader the last three years now,” said Tuton. “When it comes to picking a captain in that dressing room, it’s not too hard to find somebody who can step up and get the job done.”
Outgoing captain Evan Campbell is likely done for the rest of the season following surgery to fix nagging shoulder damage in October.
This weekend’s games will start at 6:45 p.m. on Friday and 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Takhini Arena.
The Huskies will host the Coy Cup March 28 to April 1 in Whitehorse.
“This is a team we could potentially see up here in March for the Coy Cup, so this will be a good meeting for both clubs,” said Tuton.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org