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COMMEN-TERRY: Comox Valley junior hockey is fun again

Crowds pack the Comox Valley Sports Centre with the Glacier Kings are playing
Seats were hard to find at Friday’s (March 8) Comox Valley Glacier Kings game. Photo by Terry Farrell/Comox Valley Record Seats were hard to find at Friday’s (March 8) Comox Valley Glacier Kings game. Photo by Terry Farrell/Comox Valley Record

For the first time in nine years, the Comox Valley Glacier Kings have advanced past the first round of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League, and the best part about that is the team is treating that series win as only a minor step toward a bigger goal.

Winning one round is nice, but it’s not the end game.

There has been a shift in culture in the local junior B hockey scene - a shift that began on May 15, 2020, when owners Iris Churchill, Marsha and Dave Webb hired Mike Nesbitt as the team’s coach and general manager.

The team had just missed the playoffs for the third straight season - not an easy task in a nine-team league.

They had also finished dead last in the league for the third straight season, registering only nine wins in 48 games. The previous two seasons were both four-win seasons.

When Nesbitt signed on, he became the fifth head coach of the team since September of 2017.

There was even a season where training camp opened with no coach.

The first thing any business needs to succeed is stability at the helm.

Nesbitt has provided that.

He came here with a vision for the team. He said off the start he was going to change things up. His impact was almost immediate. The team has made the playoffs every season since his arrival, notwithstanding the COVID-shortened 2020-2021 season.

He has made the Comox Valley a desirable hockey environment for junior players, once again.

More importantly, he has brought the fans back to the arena.

The Webbs and Churchill have witnessed some dark days at the Comox Valley Sports Centre. Those days appear to be gone. The Sports Centre is now “THE” place to be when the Glacier Kings are in town.

I remember back in my Campbell River Days, the only time the Glacier Kings would daw 200 fans to a game is when the Storm would come to town, along with about 150 of their supporters.

These days it’s common to see 300-400 fans at a regular season game in November, with that number always growing as the season carries on.

Last Friday night (March 8), for Game 5 against the Oceanside Generals, the only seats available were the front row benches… the worst seats in the house.

Better yet is the attitude the fans bring with them. Visiting players and coaches will always claim to be able to drown out the fan noise (funny how they never say that about their own fans), but fans know better. And the electricity in the stands for Comox Valley Glacier Kings games is through the roof.

A lot of it has to do with the special “Mount Washington Cheering Section” that will have you wondering whether you are at a hockey game or a UEFA Cup soccer match! Chants and singing barely stop long enough for the public address announcer to get a word in edgewise, and anyone who says they don’t hear it is either lying, or deaf.

Now that the team has advanced to the second round, the crowds are likely to get bigger, and louder. And that’s something the owners have been waiting a long time to recapture in this market. Will it ultimately result in the Glacier Kings winning the league championship for the first time since the 1994-1995 season? Who knows. One thing is for sure, it has been fun to watch. But don’t take my word for it. The next home game in the VIJHL North Division final is Wednesday, March 13 at 7:15. Saturday’s game starts at 7:30. Go check it out. Bring your family. It will be a fun night for all.

Attending junior hockey games in the Comox Valley is fun again.

Terry Farrell is the managing editor at the Comox Valley Record

Terry Farrell

About the Author: Terry Farrell

Terry returned to Black Press in 2014, after seven years at a daily publication in Alberta. He brings 14 years of editorial experience to Comox Valley Record...
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