For the first time in years, the Flyers will face the Canucks in Dawson Creek.
After a hiatus dating back to the days of the South Peace Hockey League, the Senior Canucks are again a part of the hockey landscape this year, now in the North Peace Hockey League. And on Thursday night, the Canucks host an old rival, in the form of the Fort St. John Senior Flyers.
Of course, things are much different now than they were in the ’70s. For one thing, the Flyers are a ‘AAA’ team, meaning fans can’t necessarily expect the expansion Canucks to compete on an even footing with their cross-river rivals. The Flyers come loaded with talented locals and former pros, as they prepare to host Canada’s Senior Championship, the Allan Cup, this April.
For another thing, the two teams have signed an affiliate agreement, meaning bad blood is less likely, and scorelines are less important. "It’ll be slightly different now we’re affiliated with them" says Flyers Coach Adam Brash. He admits his team might approach things a bit differently, "but when the puck drops, hockey players want to play hockey, so I’m sure the rivalry will come out."
But, despite being a new team, the Canucks have fared well in the NPHL so far this year. With a record of 2-2, the Canucks have scored 22 goals and conceded only 10. But, their wins have both been over clubs from the NPHL’s weaker East Division, and the Canucks have the daunting task of playing out of the West Division. The Canucks boast some talented players of their own, including leading scorer Jeff Taylor, and former Flyers Dustin Kersey and Adam Loncan.
But, therein lies the rub. With the Flyers expecting a ‘handful’ of Canucks to play for Fort St. John in the Allan Cup campaign, there is the possibility that players won’t play their normal physical game, for fear of injuring a potential teammate. Coach Brash admits it’s something that can’t be avoided. "It’s nothing a coach would say, but the players might approach it differently" Brash concedes.
But, while he says it might not be the physical battle that entertained crowds 40 years ago, it will still be well worth the price of admission. "I think you’re going to see a quick hockey game – quicker than usual" he says. "They’re speedy up front, we’ve got speed as well as depth, so I think you’re going to see a lot of fast hockey, and end-to-end action."
The Flyers also welcome the Hythe Mustangs to the North Peace Arena on Saturday. The Flyers beat Hythe 6-3 on November 6th, in the only previous meeting this season. After impressing fans with their work ethic in their inaugural season last year, the Mustangs added some depth this season, courtesy of the defunct Spirit River Rangers. Mike and Colin Lefley, and goaltender Matt Yeseminki are just a few of the players Hythe inhereted, which certainly gives them more high-end talent to compliment their gritty style of play. Coach Brash says the Mustangs still lack the depth to really compete with Fort St. John, though he says their top lines can compete with the Flyers on any given night.