It’s an exciting time for the BC Hockey League, with what should be a normal 2021-22 season on the horizon. That excitement has reached new heights with the schedule for the upcoming season officially being released. For the Cranbrook Bucks, the upcoming BCHL schedule means a few different things.
The biggest of which may be that when the puck drops on Oct. 8, the Bucks will play their first-ever regular season home game. Cranbrook will also see the 15 other BCHL teams it has not faced yet, having only played the Penticton Vees and Trail Smoke Eaters during the 2020-21 pod season.
With Cranbrook being so remotely located in the southeast corner of the province, many of its games come in back-to-backs. In fact, over 58 per cent of Bucks games come in blocks of at least two games against the same opponent. There are also times throughout the season where Cranbrook plays the same team three or even four times in a row.
Cranbrook kicks off its 2021-22 regular season against a team it is very familiar with. The Bucks begin the season with a home-and-home series against their Kootenay rival Trail Smoke Eaters.
The first game is at home on Oct. 8, in what is Cranbrook’s first home opener. The Bucks and Smoke Eaters square off again the next night in Trail to complete the home-and-home.
The Bucks 2021-22 regular season schedule
Here is Cranbrook’s schedule for the upcoming season, as released by the BCHL.
Oct. 8: vs. Trail Smoke Eaters
Oct. 9: @ Trail Smoke Eaters
Oct. 15 & 16: vs. West Kelowna Warriors
Oct. 22: @ Powell River Kings (BCHL Showcase)
Oct. 23: vs Cowichan Valley Capitals (BCHL Showcase)
Oct. 30: vs. Nanaimo Clippers
Nov. 3: vs. Merritt Centennials
Nov. 5: @ West Kelowna Warriors
Nov. 6: @ Langley Rivermen
Nov. 12: vs. Alberni Valley Bulldogs
Nov. 13 & 14: @ Salmon Arm Silverbacks
Nov. 20: vs. Chilliwack Chiefs
Nov. 21: vs. Penticton Vees
Nov. 26: @ Victoria Grizzlies
Nov. 27: @ Cowichan Valley Capitals
Nov. 28: @ Surrey Eagles
Dec. 1: vs. Trail Smoke Eaters
Dec. 3: @ Penticton Vees
Dec. 5: vs. Coquitlam Express
Dec. 9, 10, & 11: @ Prince George Spruce Kings
Dec. 17: @ Trail Smoke Eaters
Dec. 18: vs. Trail Smoke Eaters
Dec. 31: vs. Trail Smoke Eaters
Jan. 1: @ Trail Smoke Eaters
Jan. 2: @ Merritt Centennials
Jan. 7 & 8: vs. Prince George Spruce Kings
Jan. 13: vs. Wenatchee Wild
Jan. 20 & 21: @ Wenatchee Wild
Jan. 23: @ West Kelowna Warriors
Jan. 28 & 29: vs. Salmon Arm Silverbacks
Feb. 4 & 5: vs. Vernon Vipers
Feb. 11 & 12: @ Vernon Vipers
Feb. 18: @ Merritt Centennials
Feb. 19: @ West Kelowna Warriors
Feb. 20: @ Penticton Vees
Feb. 25 & 26: vs. Wenatchee Wild
Mar. 3: vs. Salmon Arm Silverbacks
Mar. 5: @ Wenatchee Wild
Mar. 10 & 11: vs. Merritt Centennials
Mar. 13: @ Vernon Vipers
Mar. 18 & 19: vs. Penticton Vees
Cranbrook’s Oct. 22 and 23 games against Powell River and Cowichan Valley will be played at the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack.
Breakdown by opponents
In addition to the schedule in its entirety, here’s how it breaks down by opponents. Notice that Trail and Wenatchee are considered Cranbrook’s geographical rivals, meaning they play those two teams the most.
The Bucks play the rest of the Interior Conference five times, while they face the Coastal Conference teams just once each. The one exception is the Cowichan Valley Capitals who the Bucks see twice — once in Cowichan, and once in Chilliwack at the BCHL Showcase.
Trail: seven games — four home, three away.
Wenatchee: seven games — three home, four away.
Penticton: five games — three home, two away.
West Kelowna: five games — two home, three away.
Vernon: five games — two home, three away.
Salmon Arm: five games — three home, two away.
Merritt: five games — three home, two away.
Prince George: five games — two home, three away.
Cowichan Valley: two games — one home, one away.
Chilliwack: one game — home.
Coquitlam: one game — home.
Langley: one game — away.
Surrey: one game — away.
Nanaimo: one game — home.
Alberni Valley: one game — home.
Powell River: one game — away.
Victoria: one game — away.
When the 2021-22 BCHL season comes to a close, the Bucks will have officially faced each of the league’s other 17 clubs. They then hope to be adding to some of their new rivalries, in the form of playoff series’.
Also of note
There are a few intricacies that stand out while looking at Cranbrook’s schedule. Including the home-and-home with Trail to open the season, the Bucks start the season with a flurry of home games.
In total, Cranbrook will be the home team in six of its first eight games of the campaign. The Bucks season will end in a similar fashion, as seven of their last nine games are also at home.
In between, Cranbrook has some interesting road trips to make. In November, the Bucks head west to play in Victoria, Cowichan, and Surrey over a three-day stretch. Just a couple of weeks later, the Bucks spend a weekend in Prince George, playing three games in three days against the Spruce Kings.
There are two teams that Cranbrook plays four consecutive games against. The Bucks see Trail four straight times around Christmas, with two contests before the holiday break and two after. In February, the Bucks play four straight against Vernon. In both sets of four straight, they are evenly split between home and away games.
For now, it’s just a schedule. However, for the BCHL and its teams, and especially one that hasn’t played a real home game yet, the schedule brings both hope and excitement.
Hopefully, it leads to the first completed postseason in three years. At the very least, we have a date to look forward to, some teams we want to see, and a season that resembles normality.