The Kamloops Storm practice on Monday, Sept. 27, at McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre ended with a bag skate.
Head coach Geoff Grimwood, hired in July, said his club is still searching for its identity, but pledged it will be formed around one pre-requisite quality — work ethic.
“With the season last year basically being missed, we’ve almost got a collection of first-year players here,” Grimwood said. “For me, we have to be a harder-working hockey club than we’ve shown through exhibition. I think the guys are realizing it’s not midget hockey and the competition level is harder.”
The 2020-2021 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season was shut down in its infancy, the Storm posting a 2-0 record before play was pre-empted by the pandemic in November.
General manager Matt Kolle took the reins prior to the 2019-2020 campaign, when Tracy Mero bought 100 per cent ownership of the club, effectively ending the Barry Dewar era.
Integral to Kolle’s master plan for Storm re-emergence is the move back to McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre from Memorial Arena, which begins in earnest this weekend with the club’s first home games in front of fans on the Olympic ice since the permanent shift to the North Shore after the 2019-2020 campaign.
Kamloops, which posted a 3-2 mark in pre-season action, will play host to the Osoyoos Coyotes and Revelstoke Grizzlies on Friday, Oct. 1, and Saturday, Oct. 2, respectively, with game time set for 7 p.m. both nights.
“The boys are pumped, the boys are ready to get going and have fans, so we’re ready to get back to it,” said Samuel Lewis, an 18-year-old defenceman and one of 16 Kamloopsians on the roster.
Added 18-year-old forward Jameson Rende of Kamloops: “We’re going to be a fast, skilled team that’s coming at you every shift, every period.”
Maximum capacity will be about 450, 12-and-over fans must be fully vaccinated and B.C. Vaccine Cards will be checked.
If Kolle’s early guess work is right, the Saturday night contest against the Grizzlies will feature the class of the Doug Birks Division.
“If I was guessing now, I’m going to say it’s us and Revelstoke battling for the division and maybe 100 Mile, Chase third and fourth and Sicky [Sicamous] at the bottom,” Kolle said, noting a new video projection screen will debut on Friday on Mac Isle.
“As always, Revelstoke will be a team to watch.”
The forwards are expected to be the pulse of the Storm. On the back end, a green blue line is facing a steep learning curve.
“Goaltending is a work in progress,” said Kolle, noting he is expecting to lose 16-year-old netminder Johnny Hicks of Kamloops to the junior A ranks.
Harrison Ewert, a 19-year-old forward from Kamloops, said the team is still gelling, but is unified in its goal.
“Win a championship,” Ewert said. “That’s what we want to do. I know everyone in that room wants to do it. We’re going to work hard every day for it.”