Like other BCHL teams, the Alberni Valley Bulldogs are preparing for the upcoming season. Their first regular season game is Oct. 8 against the Victoria Grizzlies at The Q Centre. The Bulldogs home opener is Oct. 15 against Victoria.
While acquiring new players, this Bulldogs season is unlike any before it because they will share the Alberni Valley Multiplex with a Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League expansion franchise. The Port Alberni Bombers will begin playing during the 2021-22 season.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs are also looking for upgrades to the Multiplex. Since July 2020, the Bulldogs have sought funding to install a video screen. In Nov. 2020, the City of Port Alberni asked for proposals to make it happen.
In this article, I’ll look at the Bulldogs recent player acquisitions as well as the Bombers and how they’re shaping up. Finally, I want to examine the big screen proposal and compare it to other screens like it.
Welcoming the new guys
The Bulldogs have been busy recruiting new members to the team. Since June 5, the Bulldogs have recruited no fewer than nine players to the roster. One of them is a new goaltender to replace Luke Pearson, who was named top goaltender during the 2020-21 Island Pod.
After the 2020-21 BCHL pod Season, Pearson committed to Yale University, and replacing him is goaltender Hobie Hedquist. Hedquist comes to Port Alberni after playing for the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the US Hockey League. During the 2020-21 season, Hedquist played 21 games for Dubuque and had a 4.45 goals-against-average and an .831 save percentage.
The Bulldogs have acquired @HobieHedquist from @fightingsaints in exchange for future considerations. Hedquist is committed to play college hockey @UNDmhockey. Welcome to the Dawg Pound! #bulldogshockey pic.twitter.com/ygmQ2GdqRq
— AVBulldogs (@AVBulldogs) July 27, 2021
Hedquist is joining a team with several returning veterans as Brandon Buhr, Brady McIsaac, and Stevie Castagna are all back in Port Alberni for one more season. All three veterans have college commitments for 2022-23.
The Bombers arrive
Like the Victoria Grizzlies, the Bulldogs will share their arena with a new junior B team. The Port Alberni Bombers season starts on Sept. 10 when they visit the Campbell River Storm. The Bombers’ first home game is on Sept. 15, when they host the Kerry Park Islanders.
In comparing the two schedules, one thing is clear, the Bulldogs and Bombers games are scheduled to avoid conflicts. Each team will either alternate weekends or if they both play at home on the same weekend, the teams alternate days.
From Oct. 15 to 17, the Multiplex hosts three games. The first game on the 15th is Alberni Valley vs. Victoria. The second game is on the 16th as the Bombers vs. the Lake Cowichan Kraken. Finally, on the 17th, the Bulldogs host the Cowichan Valley Capitals.
The good news is that the Bulldogs and Bombers seasons don’t conflict too often. The Bombers regular season ends on Feb. 20 in Lake Cowichan while Alberni Valley’s regular season ends on Mar. 19 in Langley.
On the big screen
Since July 2020, there’s been an ongoing effort to secure a big screen for the Multiplex. The Bulldogs ownership group is seeking the big screen as a way of generating revenue for the team. They cited a six-figure loss during the 2019-20 season.
The ownership group estimated the screen would cost $200,000. However, asking for money during a pandemic is difficult.
Alberni Valley Bulldogs speak in support of big screen at multiplex https://t.co/1G0xlp508L
— Richard Earl (@RichardGEarl) July 29, 2020
The team approached Port Alberni city council last summer. They were turned down then because of priority pandemic spending. As things continue to open up, there might be a glimmer of hope for the Bulldogs as city council starts to put out requests for funding proposals. However, they might still be reluctant to commit funding for the screen.
Obtaining a screen isn’t cheap. In March 2018, the Powell River Community Forest Grant funded the video screen at Hap Parker Arena. The total cost of the screen and equipment was $137,000. It was $85,000 for the screen itself while the rest bought the tech equipment to run the screen.
In North Saanich, the community won Kraft Hockeyville 2015, and part of the $500,000 in arena upgrades went towards the video screen at the Panorama Rec Centre.
A return to normal
Like many teams, the Bulldogs are looking forward to next season. We are slowly coming out of the pandemic. If all goes well, there won’t be any need for pods like the one Port Alberni hosted last season.
While they’re still preparing for next season, the Bulldogs look forward to seeing fans return to the Multiplex. If all goes well, there may be some upgrades coming as well.