With no training camp buzz, Kelowna Rockets try to stay busy

Rockets left to wait, hope

It's not a normal September for Kelowna Rockets president and GM Bruce Hamilton, or anyone else within the organization.

For the better part of four decades, Hamilton has spent early September in the midst of training camp, preparing for a new season.

But, COVID-19 has changed all that, forcing the team, and the league, to look at a possible restart in December.

So, gone, at least temporarily is the excitement, and nervous anticipation of training camp and the upcoming season.

"It's different," said Hamilton.

"We'd be right in into main camp. It would be an exciting time. We'd be getting ready to let the youngest guys go, and the coaches would be getting settled into the 30 guys that they would eventually work down to 23."

Hamilton says the challenge has been to stay relevant, and while the coaches have been holding zoom meetings with the players every two weeks, he knows they are frustrated.

"They're thoroughbreds, they want to get in the gate and run. Right now, the health boards are going to dictate when we are going to start."

The coaches have been staying busy, not only with occasional meetings with the players, but also holding Power Edge pro camps, a program the Rockets hold a franchise for.

They've been running one or two groups a week for about a month.

Hamilton says the office has been busy staying in touch with advertisers and also some of the senior season ticket holders, just to check in and see how they're doing.

The office has also been running shorter hours, but Hamilton admits come the end of September, that will change.

"It's time to get back and get some normalcy here," he says.

"We've got to get everybody feeling good about themselves...having a sense of getting something accomplished."

As for hockey itself, the league did announce last month its plan to begin a regular season in December.

But, Hamilton says, those decisions are ultimately made by the provincial health offices in each of the four provinces, and Washington and Oregon states.

"We can say what we want, but unless they decide it's good enough, it isn't going to mean anything.

'We've said a date that we hope, because we felt it was important that our players see something, and yet, they are going to decide probably in late October or early November whether that's a go or not."

If it is a go, Hamilton says players would begin arriving for a two week training camp before the season starts.

"From our side, if we get a two or three week notification that's what we've got," he says.

"I don't think it will take any of us to get fired up and ready to go."

It beats the "spooky" atmosphere he describes Prospera Place right now.

Overage forward Michael Farren has been placed on waivers

Rockets release Farren

While the start of the 2020-2021 Western Hockey League season remains in limbo, the business of hockey continues to go on.

The Kelowna Rockets made a move Monday to alleviate the glut of 20-year-old on the roster, waiving forward Michael Farren.

Any team within the league will be able to claim Farren during the waiver period.

If he goes unclaimed, Farren would become a free agent, able to sign with any team in any league in the country.

Farren was originally acquired by the Rockets from Saskatoon for a third-round 2020 bantam pick in 2018.

Over the course of 92 games, Farren registered eight goals, 19 assists and 64 penalty minutes.

Nolan Foote immortalized on Rocket's 'Wall of Recognition'

Foote gets spot on wall

Nolan Foote will forever have a place next to his brother on the Kelowna Rockets "Wall of Recognition."

The image of the former Rocket forward with his world junior goal medal dangling from his neck, was recently added to the wall outside the clubs dressing room.

He joins brother Cal and 19 other former Rocket players on the mural.

Foote booked his spot on the wall after leading Canada to a gold medal at the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championship in the Czech Republic.

Initially, the wall featured players important to the history of the team, however, as the club became a powerhouse in the 2000s and started producing championships and world-class players, the club established strict criteria for eligibility.

These include:

  • Named the MVP of the Memorial Cup
  • Captain of a Memorial Cup winning team
  • Win a world junior gold medal
  • Win an Olympic gold medal

Foote was a second round bantam selection of the Rockets in 2015. In 195 games over four WHL seasons, he amassed 83 goals and 88 assists, along with 10 points in 21 career playoff games.

He was selected by Tampa in the first round of the 2019 NHL draft, but was dealt to New Jersey prior to the trade deadline in a multi-player deal that sent Blake Coleman to Tampa.

Western Hockey League hopes to start season in December

WHL pushes back start

The Western Hockey League has joined the OHL in announcing plans to open the 2020-2021 season in December.

The WHL's new target date is Dec. 4.

The announcement Thursday comes a day after the Ontario Hockey League made a similar announcement.

In June, WHL commissioner Ron Robison said the league had hoped to restart at the beginning of October if it could get approvals from the various provincial and state health authorities to do so.

That has now been pushed back.

The league is still stipulating any restart is contingent on receiving the go ahead from each of those governments and health authorities.

In a news release, the league says discussions with those governing bodies concerning safety measures the league is prepared to undertake in order to protect players, fans and staff, and to address issues such as fan capacity and border crossing.

By moving to a December start, the league says it now has more time to address those issues.

“Regardless of our start date, the WHL is committed to playing a full regular season and playoffs in 2020-21,” said Robison.

“In our discussions with the government and health authorities, it has become apparent that additional time is required to ensure we can return to play in a safe and responsible manner. Our WHL health and safety protocols have been well received by the health authorities but we have several key issues that we will need to reach a resolution on in the coming months.”

In announcing its plan to return Wednesday, the OHL, which is hosting the Memorial Cup, says dates for the national championship tournament have been pushed back as well to June 17 to 27.

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