Jim Swanson Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

© Copyright – 2015 – Victoria Sports News

The Victoria Grizzlies Junior A hockey team put on a Meet and Greet event Thursday night at the Olympic View Golf Course. The event was organised to thank the season ticket holders for their loyalty as well as to recognise the many volunteers and sponsors that were in attendance for their hard work and support of the team.

Jim Swanson, Director of Operations hosted the event and introduced the various speakers including Lance Black, who is a very enthusiastic Governor of the team, as well as PJ Conlon, Team Captain and Craig Didmon who is the Head Coach.

Black, originally from Flin Flon, Manitoba told Victoria Sports News of the emotional impact left on the small town of Flin Flon when they lost their major junior franchise in 1978 – a team that boasted the likes of two-time Stanley Cup champions Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach. The team ended up in Edmonton as the Edmonton Oil Kings in 1979. “We are bringing the fans back into the seats at the Q Centre to support the Grizzlies, I know what it was like to lose our team in Flin Flon, a team that brought up the likes of Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach,“ shared a very enthusiastic Black.

Lance Black Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

When Black took to the microphone he thanked everyone from the players, to the sponsors, naming each person including Bob Saunders of Saunders Subaru, who was in attendance, as well as some of volunteers who put in countless hours organising events and putting together the season ticket packages. It is clear that Black loves his hockey and he showed his appreciation of the support that the community puts into the team.

Conlon is a second year player. Why he was chosen as captain quickly became apparent, as he was given just a single day’s notice that he would have to speak to a packed room. Conlon spoke well. He also showed appreciation for the community support and talked about how his team despite their 0 and 3 record to start the season, are now ready to play and win in front of the Q Centre crowd. “I don’t like excuses, but we have 15 new players and we were on the road for the first three games, I think the players on this team are ready to win.”

Not only were the Grizzlies first three games on the road and they have welcomed 15 new players to the team, additionally, each of the three games that the Grizzlies played, were the other team’s home opener; they lost each game by just one goal. Thursday, October 1st is the Grizzlies turn to play a home opener.

After volunteering at the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks Kraft Hockeyville practise and game, the Grizzlies players had an opportunity to see how the NHL players prepare for game day and had a chance to watch up close and personal in the Q Centre, which for an NHL game is quite small. When asked if they made any mental notes on things to bring to the game, several of the players said they had including defenceman Kevin Massy, “yeah I picked up a few things that I can bring to the game, the biggest difference was that they moved the puck so well and the speed of the game was so fast. It was a great opportunity to watch that level of hockey up close”

Coach Didmon introduced the team by memory, naming each player as well as their hometown and position, no small feat considering the 15 new players.

Craig Didmon Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

The Grizzlies roster is made up from players from as far away as Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Costa Mesa, California, Williston, Vermont, Montreal, QC and Aurora and Barrie, Ontario, as well as BC players from Whistler, Burnaby, Kelowna, Kamloops, Colwood and Langford. Wherever they are from, they genuinely appreciate playing in the Q Centre – one of the finest Junior A buildings in North America and in front of such a supportive hometown crowd.