Fan support has never been so important for the Huskies as it will be starting Thursday, says head coach Randy Merkel.
Cheering fans can boost a team’s play, but a low spectator turnout for this week’s five-game series against the Powell River Regals could mean the end of the road for Whitehorse’s AAA senior men’s hockey team.
“I wouldn’t say it’s do-or-die, but we couldn’t need the fans any more than we do now,” said Merkel. “If we have a bad turnout this weekend, I don’t know what we’re going to do.
“If we can’t generate the crowds – I’m not going to say 100 per cent that we’ll be done – it’s going to be very tough. Unless some substantial corporate sponsors come forward prior to next season – we definitely can’t rely the fan support right now.”
This week’s five-game series against the Regals will determine which of the two teams goes to the Allan Cup, Canada’s AAA senior men’s championship being held April 19-24 in Fort St. John, BC. The Huskies club, playing its first season in 16 years, won the Cup in 1993 before dispersing.
So far this season, having played a total of eight games, the Huskies sit with a dismal 1-7 record. However, a string of losses to end the regular season mean nothing and were simply testing ground for this week’s all-important games, said Merkel.
“Everything up to now has been learning and there have been adjustments made each and every time,” he said. “This time all our players will be here – at any given time we’ve been missing players and it’s been difficult to get the cohesion and develop a familiarity with each other so they can play together.”
The Huskies’ lone win over the season came against the Powell River in November, but Whitehorse’s revived team has lost the last three against the Regals since. With as many as 10 Outside players flying in to play for the Huskies each series so far this season, mistakes resulting from a lack of unity among the team will be a key obstacle to overcome.
“Turnovers is one thing, but the big factor for us is discipline,” said Merkel. “It’s ultimately important to stay out of the penalty box.
“At this level it’s the little things that will catch up to you quickly. It doesn’t take much for someone to make you pay for your mistakes.
“Just to enter AAA and be competitive with these guys in a first year is hopefully something the town will get behind,” added Merkel. “It’s very expensive to host this (series), but it’s fine as long as people come out to support this.”
The five-game series against the Regals is also the first leg of the Savage Cup, BC’s AAA senior men’s championship. The Cup will be awarded to whichever team makes it furthest in the Allan Cup, between the Fort St. John Flyers and the winning team of this week’s series.
“If you’re a hockey lover and you want to see this hockey continue, e-mail everybody we know, tell everybody you know, get everybody out,” said Merkel. “Because of the folding of professional leagues, the level of play in the Allan Cup, AAA senior level – it’s been a long time since it’s seen this calibre of hockey.”
The five-game series, which will take place at Takhini Arena, starts Thursday at 7:30 p.m. with games following each night at the same time. Tickets are $12 and half off for seniors and children 11-and-under. Packets of three tickets for the first three games are also available for $30. Since the games scheduled for Sunday and Monday will only take place if necessary, tickets for those will only be available at the door each night.
Tickets for the first three games can be purchased at the Roadhouse Bar and Grill, Porter Creek Super A, Midnight Sun Coffee Roasters, Sports North and Shirley’s Concession Stand (at Takhini Arena).
For additional ticket inquiries, call 456-2316.
Contact Tom Patrick at