On the weekend of September 25, the Victoria Grizzlies played two pre-Island Cup games against the Nanaimo Clippers. It was the first game the Grizzlies had played since their playoff exit on March 3.
Normally the regular season would have already started, but because of COVID-19 the BCHL has had to adapt to provincial regulations on playing sports. These two games, and the Island Cup, are some of the first meaningful games the players have played in months.
To get an idea of what to expect I want to give a primer for the Island Cup and lay out the details of the tournament. I also want to point out some of the major differences between the Island Cup and similar tournaments.
Before that, I will highlight some of the new arrivals on the Grizzlies this season. These players made significant impacts during the games against Nanaimo and the Island Cup is a great chance for them to showcase their skills.
The first of the new arrivals is Matthew Wood, a 15-year-old from Nanaimo. Last year he played for the West Van Academy Bantam Prep team where he put up impressive numbers. In 30 games, he had 40 goals and 31 assists for 71 points. Wood scored once in the Grizzlies 4-3 loss on Saturday.
The second new arrival is Matteo Turrin. Matteo is an 18-year-old from Montreal who spent most of last season at the Holderness Prep School in New Hampshire.
— Victoria Grizzlies (@BCHLGrizzlies) September 27, 2020
Turrin is the largest player on the Grizzlies roster at 6’4″ and 220 Ibs. He’s difficult to miss on the ice and can make his physical presence felt. At Holderness, he had four goals and 12 assists in 28 games.
Announced on August 13, the Island Cup begins on October 2 with two games. The Cowichan Valley Capitals visit the Alberni Valley Bulldogs and the Victoria Grizzlies visit the Nanaimo Clippers.
After October 24, the Cowichan Valley Capitals split off from the main cohort. They’ll join a new cohort with the Powell River Kings on November 8. The Kings and Capitals play six games against each other from then until November 28.
The Grizzlies’ final pre-season game is November 14 in Nanaimo. As for the Island Cup, the semi-finals and finals take place from November 16 to 18 at The Q Centre in Victoria.
Meanwhile, on September 22, the Vernon Vipers announced details of the Okanagan Cup. It’s a region-based tournament featuring Penticton, West Kelowna, Vernon, and Salmon Arm.
Their tournament began on September 25 and runs until November 7. The finals will take place from November 13 to 14. There won’t be any cohort swap because their cohort is already the perfect size.
On a related note, the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds announced details of the Cohort Cup last week.
UPDATED EXHIBITION SCHEDULE!
Be sure to get your @MyHockeyTV subscription so you don’t miss out on any of the action! Use the code BCHLGRIZZLIES2020 to get $80 off when you sign up for a limited time! Our first home game is October 3rd vs the Nanaimo Clippers.#WeAreGrizzlies pic.twitter.com/4DPbGe9akq
— Victoria Grizzlies (@BCHLGrizzlies) September 29, 2020
The Cohort Cup features the three Thunderbirds teams competing against other U18, U16, and U15 teams from around the province.
Except for the Vancouver Island, Okanagan, and Kootenay teams, the tournament includes several Lower Mainland teams and the Cariboo Cougars. In essence, it’s three separate tournaments occurring at once. Each level will start and end at different dates. All games will be played at the Abbotsford Centre.
This tournament has more in common with the recent NHL playoff bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton, with 18 individual teams across six programs and three different skill levels competing in one place.
An example of what could be
When the BCHL first announced the cohort structure, it was a precursor of what’s to come. Except for the Wenatchee Wild and Powell River Kings, the league sorted itself into four cohorts of four teams each.
Moving forward, the Island Cup is a good example of how the league could schedule games. Have three to four teams in a cohort before having a team split off to join another cohort. No doubt the league is looking at the Island Cup closely to see how well it works.
Many eyes will be focused on the Grizzlies and the Island Cup to see how well the tournament goes. As a result, the players will benefit from the extra attention. Players like Wood and Turrin will get some meaningful games before the regular season starts on December 1st.
All Island Cup games, and BCHL games, are streamed live on HockeyTV.