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Kamloops Blazers’ captain Franklin talks pandemic, hope for playoff run, lost opportunity

God love her, but baking cookies with mom on the family farm just outside Marwayne, Alta, is not where Zane Franklin wanted to be on Thursday.
Zane Franklin
Kamloops Blazers’ captain Zane Franklin is not ready to give up on playing in the 2020 WHL playoffs.

God love her, but baking cookies with mom on the family farm just outside Marwayne, Alta, is not where Zane Franklin wanted to be on Thursday.

The Kamloops Blazers’ overage captain planned to be preparing for the Prince George Cougars, who were slated to be in town for games on Friday and Saturday, his club’s final tune-ups ahead of the playoffs.

Everything changed on March 11, the day the Blazers returned from a U.S. Division road trip and COVID-19 pandemic news gripped the continent.

“We were going to watch the New Orleans [Pelicans] game and they cancelled it right before tip-off,” Franklin said. “That was right when it hit.

“I remember saying to him [20-year-old teammate Ryan Hughes] — ‘If they’re going to cancel the NBA, there is no way the NHL doesn’t cancel and then what do we do?’”

The WHL nixed the regular season on Wednesday, leaving the B.C. Division champion Blazers to wonder if they will get a shot at the league title and a trip to the Memorial Cup in Kelowna.

“It’s hard to put into words,” Franklin said. “When you start the 20-year-old season, the last thing you think that’s going to end it is this. I don’t think it’s set in yet, also. It just feels like we’re on a week break.

“You’ve got to protect your players, protect your fans. This is such an unknown thing, really, still. You’ve got to be on the safe side. What the league is doing, what every league in North America is doing, is smart.”

That it’s smart does not make it any more palatable.

Franklin, the league’s fourth-leading scorer, is without a pro contract and these next few months may have changed that, his story similar to many that will be shared across the Dub.

“I wouldn’t say I was close to anything, but I was really excited to have a good playoff with the team and go far,” Franklin said. “Everybody told me a good playoff run — you do good, the team does good — those lead to contracts. I’m really hoping for a playoff run.”

The captain is trying to drink glass-half-full milk with those chocolate chip cookies.

He first expressed doubt the season will continue, but then said he believes it will.

“Everybody is bummed,” Franklin said. “There is no way around it. Everybody is disappointed on how the regular season ended.

“To the fans, I just want to say thank you for coming out and just be ready when, and if, playoffs start. I believe they will. Bring that excitement again and we’ll have a good run.”

His teammates are healthy and so is Franklin.

“We were all a little worried because we were in that area where it was getting bad,” Franklin said.

“It was kind of nerve-racking, but we saw we were healthy, so we weren’t too worried after that. I’m as healthy as I can be.”

If the Blazers and Rockets do square off in Round 1 of the post-season, Franklin and company plan to be ready for the series.

Game 1 would mark the first rematch since fight night at Prospera Place on Jan. 11.

Mrs. Franklin’s son hopes to trade the apron for mitts and cookies for the biscuit.

“That would be a good series to have after the break,” he said. “It would be an easy series to get excited for.”