The Aldergrove Kodiaks have carved their own hockey niche — and this year, they’re baring their teeth.
With a league-best 25-6-0-0 record going into the holiday break, the junior B Kodiaks have bolted out to a fantastic start to the Pacific Junior Hockey League season. This comes after a tough end to their 2015/16 campaign that saw them ousted by the Abbotsford Pilots in the first round of the playoffs.
“We have a good mix of veteran leadership, second year guys, and good rookies,” said Kodiaks associate coach and general manager Rick Harkins, an original owner who has guided the team since its 2008 inception.
“The guys have been listening to the coaching staff and buying into what we have to say, and it’s working. From one year to the next, we may have the same talent level, but they (the players) have gotta want it.
“This year, they’re willing to do what it takes to get a win.”
Lots of competition
When it comes to junior hockey, the Langleys have it covered.
To the north, the Langley Events Centre (LEC) is where the major junior Vancouver Giants live — or at least play their home games.
A sojourn south to the 44-year-old, newly remodelled George Preston Recreation Centre in Brookwood, and you’ll find the Langley Rivermen.
The junior A squad moved to their new/old digs in the wake of the Giants’ announcing in May that they were relocating from the Pacific Coliseum to the LEC.
Finally there’s the Kodiaks, who play their home game in the cozy confines of Aldergrove Arena.
The Kodiaks have a loyal fan base with, Harkins noted, “the best attendance in the PJHL.”
“For us being in Aldergrove, it’s a small community which is why the Kodiaks have been successful,” Harkins said.
“With the sponsorship from community businesses, everybody backs us so well.
“It’s unreal and we can’t thank the community enough.”
Harkins continued, “I make sure the boys are part of the community.
“It’s about giving back and making sure these boys know that without community support, there wouldn’t be a Kodiak hockey team.”
Harkins noted that the Kodiaks have a solid relationship with the Rivermen.
“It’s not a competition,” he said.
“If anything, they are trying to help us succeed. It’s not like we’re all at the same level of hockey.
“We’re all feeding off each other and needing each other to survive.”
As well, the Kodiaks’ Wednesday night home games don’t typically conflict with either the Rivermen or Giants, both of whom — more often than not — play the bulk of their home games on weekends.
“We seem to have our own little niche and it’s worked very well,” Harkins said.
If a planned new 550-seat arena complex in Aldergrove is up and running in time for the 2018/19 season, the Kodiaks will be saying goodbye to Aldergrove Arena.
“We’re going to miss it, Harkins said.
“On one end, we can’t wait for the new arena to be built, but we’re going to miss the confines and the ice surface, and the ice maintenance is the best around.
“With the way (Aldergrove Arena) is built, the crowd really feels like they’re part of it.”
Vets leading the way
Leading the Kodiaks is their 20-year-old captain, Langley’s Eric Callegari, who leads the PJHL with 55 points and is tied for the goal-scoring lead with 23.
Callegari is being helped out up front by another 20-year-old, Cameron Davitt, who is third in the league with 21 goals and 48points.
“There’s a difference between putting up points and helping a team win,” Harkins said, about Callegari and Davitt.
“At 20, they’re still doing it for a reason, not just finishing their final year.
“Eric is going to SFU next year (and is) still playing with a purpose, and with Cameron, it’s the same kind of thing. His hockey won’t end next year — he’s got a few options.”
As well, 19-year-old defenceman Elijah Vilio is tops among PJHL blueliners with 27 points, including 21 assists.