Whitehorse Peewee Mustangs forward has his shot deflected during the final of the Yukon Bantam Hockey Championships. (Tom Patrick/Yukon News)

Yukon Rivermen to hit the ice for the first time

Tier 1 Bantam team means young local hockey talent can stay closer to home

Amy Kenny

Special to the News

The members of a new Yukon hockey team will don their jerseys for the first time Oct. 27.

It’s been a year in the making for the Yukon Rivermen — a new Bantam Tier 1 team — but head coach Martin Lawrie is already anticipating growth in the league for next season.

“I think the quality of the hockey in the Yukon has been improving over the last several years and we’re starting to produce more good young players,” says Lawrie, namechecking Dylan Cozens, who plays for the Lethbridge Hurricanes. “So we’ve been looking at trying to create opportunities in the north to keep players in the north because some of the higher-end ones have kind of had to move down south to play at that higher competitive level.”

The obvious solution? Bring that higher competitive level up here.

It’s not as easy as it sounds though. Finding enough teams was no problem (B.C. Hockey already had a tier 1 pilot program going in the south Okanagan, and they were eager for the Yukon to join), but securing ice time was a real challenge.

“Ice is already at a premium,” Lawrie says. It took a year to arrange a 30-game schedule for the six tier 1 teams representing the Yukon, North West, East Kootenay, and the Okanagan.

Historically, another challenge has been the travel component.

Lawrie says a trip out for a weekend tournament could cost a Yukon team $16,000 to $20,000. As for getting teams to travel here, in the past it’s been tough to get B.C. Hockey to recognize that Whitehorse isn’t that far away.

“The Yukon is unique for sure, but it really isn’t that difficult to get to.… We’re only two hours away from most of the teams in B.C.,” he says. “We’ve spent the last several years showing that the Yukon is a legitimate hockey destination.”

Lawrie says the territory has a strong hockey community, with a great First Nations hockey tournament annually, strong women’s teams, and excellent leagues for old-timers and recreational players.

“This is a natural fit to what we’re seeing in the population here,” he says.

Additionally, he says hosting more games at home helps bring family into the equation for bantam-level players, who are 13 and 14 years old. Not only can they now invite aunts, uncles and grandparents to their games, the hope is that more developed players will be able to stay in the North and still compete at an advanced level.

“Not having to have a 14-year-old move away from home is a big benefit,” says Lawrie. “That’s probably the biggest comfort for a young man, is to be able to stay at home and stay at a school that he knows.”

Going into the weekend, Lawrie’s not looking to measure success in wins and losses. He wants to see his team go out, play hard, and prove they can play at a tier 1 level, both individually, and as a team.

“Our kids haven’t had the opportunities to play at this level in the past so it’s going to be challenging … but they’ll adjust and adapt quickly and continue to improve,” he says.

Lawrie says they kick off the season this weekend with a trio of games against stiff competition.

“The Thompson Blazers out of Kamloops (are) the strongest team in the league so we kind of jump into the deep end right off the bat,” he laughs.

All games take place at Takhini Arena and are free to the public. Games are scheduled for Friday at 6:30 pm., Saturday at 2:30 p.m., and Sunday at 11 a.m.

Contact the Yukon News at editor@yukon-news.com

BC Minor HockeyhockeyYukon Rivermen

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Jodie Gibson has been named the 2020 Prospector of the Year by the Yukon Prospectors Association. (Submitted)
Jodie Gibson named 2020 Prospector of the Year

Annual award handed out by the Yukon Prospector’s Association

A number 55 is lit in honour of Travis Adams, who died earlier this year, at the Winter Wonderland Walk at Meadow Lakes Golf Club in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A new take on holiday traditions

Winter Wonderland Walk, virtual Stories with Santa all part of 2020 festive events in Whitehorse

Eric Schroff, executive director with the Yukon Fish and Game Association, poses for a portrait on Feb. 20. Schroff says he is puzzled as to why the Yukon government is cutting back on funding for the association. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News file)
YG cuts Yukon Fish and Game Association funding, tried to vet outgoing communications

Yukon Fish and Game Association says 25 per cent government funding cut will impact operations

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Nov. 27, 2020

Premier Sandy Silver during a live update on the COVID-19 situation at a press conference in Whitehorse on March 27. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Total Yukon COVID case count increased to 42 cases

Premier urges patience after national meeting on vaccine roll-out

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Keith Lay speaks at a city council meeting on Dec. 4, 2017. Lay provided the lone submission to council on the city’s proposed $33 million capital spending plan for 2021 on Nov. 23, taking issue with a number of projects outlined. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Resident raises issues with city’s capital budget

Council to vote on budget in December

Most Read