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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. —The start of the 2022/23 season marked the return of the Fort St. John Senior Flyers after a four-year hiatus, which began due to a lack of players and continued due to the pandemic. 

Although the first half of the season wasn’t an easy one, the Flyers’ developing confidence and on-ice chemistry are becoming more apparent in every game they play, suggesting their undeniable growth as a team.

For Flyers’ head coach Andrew Leriger, coaching a group of players who are dedicated to playing hockey has been a season highlight so far. 

“Guys move away, guys retire. We don’t always have the players that are willing to step up and keep playing at this level of hockey,” said Leriger. 

“As far as the standings go and where we are at – I mean, we always want to be better. But, I’m excited that we have a committed group that we could see in the future for a long time.”

The Flyers’ team consists of players with a wide range of skill sets. Some players have minor hockey, Junior B, and Junior A league experience; some have spent time playing college hockey in the U.S.A. According to Leriger, getting players from previous coaching backgrounds on the same page as the coaching staff was slightly challenging at the start of the season. 

“I might use a player differently than what he was previously used as,” said Leriger.

 “I’ve had kids that never played on a power play before, but I decided that I wanted to put them on the power play. Now, they’re excelling because they want to be there and try that different role.”

At this point in the season, Leriger believes his team has a better understanding of the league now that they’ve faced off against most of the teams within it. 

“They’re starting to understand what senior men’s hockey is all about,” said Leriger.

“We’re meshing better as coaches and players.”

Leriger was especially impressed by his team’s performance during their physically intense, infraction-filled game against the Grande Prairie Athletics last month. The game was also their last before heading into Christmas break.

“We had a player who was injured and had to go to the hospital to get stitched up, and our players stuck up for him. They really got in Grande Prairie’s face,” said Leriger. 

“We were down two-nothing and the team decided to step it up a little bit. They tied the game and went into overtime. Even though we lost, it was a huge moment for our team. We’ve been bullied a few times in other rinks, and that didn’t happen during that game.”

Armed with will and determination, (to quote the late Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip), the Flyers continuously demonstrate resilience, refusing to succumb to discouragement from their losses. Leriger hopes his team has learned that they have earned their place in the North Peace Hockey League. 

“Every team has to go through these learning curves,” said Leriger. 

“They need to believe that they can play in this league and belong in this league, and they’re showing that.” 

The Flyers will hit the face-off against the Valleyview Jets on Saturday for their first game of 2023.

The puck drops in the North Peace Arena at 8:30 p.m. 

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Jordan Prentice is a multimedia reporter for energeticcity.ca and a recent graduate of BCIT’s Broadcast and Online Journalism program. Born and raised in Vancouver, Jordan’s passion for broadcast and journalism began with her dream of becoming a hockey journalist and play-by-play commentator. During her schooling, Jordan discovered a deep passion for reporting on Indigenous issues, culture and affairs. Jordan is also passionate about connecting with and listening to stories from people...