Kelowna Rockets forward Pavel Novak has a new fight on his hands, and it has nothing to do with hockey.
The 20-year old Minnesota Wild prospect announced earlier today he is stepping away from the game for the time being to focus on his health.
In a statement released by both the Wild and Rockets, Novak said his current health condition does not allow him to prepare for next season.
"I was diagnosed with an oncological disease a few days ago and will soon begin treatment," he said.
"The coming months will not be easy for me, but I firmly believe that everything will turn out well, and soon I will fly again on the ice with joy and passion."
Novak played two full seasons with the Rockets, and signed recently with the Wild who selected him in the fifth round of the 2020 NHL draft.
Rockets president and GM Bruce Hamilton says Novak is a special person who would more than likely have worn the C if he had returned for his overage season.
"I'll never forget when he moved here, he wanted to go into a home where English was spoken... he didn't want to move in with another European player," said Hamilton.
"He was all about adjusting to North American life because his goal was to play in the National Hockey League.
"He's just a special, special person, and that's not based on what has come out today."
Hamilton says the success rate of the treatment Novak will undergo has been very good, and Novak is very optimistic.
"Our prayers and thoughts are with him that it is going to work out.
"He's a very upbeat guy no matter what, and I think he'll go through the next few days of concerns..and begin treatments on Wednesday."
While we wait for summer to finally arrive in the Okanagan, you'll be happy to know the Kelowna Rockets will hit the ice in less than three months.
The Rockets will begin training camp in late August or early September before kicking off their five game pre-season schedule Sept. 9.
The exhibition schedule will include three games at Prospera Place.
They'll kick off the pre season schedule Friday night, Sept. 9 in Kamloops, before hosting the same Blazers at Prospera Place the next night.
The Rockets will host Victoria Tuesday, Sept. 13 and Vancouver Friday the 16th, then close out the exhibition schedule against the Giants Sept. 17 at Cam Neely Arena in Maple Ridge.
The Western Hockey League regular season opens up Friday, Sept. 23.
The league will announce each team's home opener next Monday. The full schedule is expected to be released in early July.
The Kelowna Rockets will be well represented at pair of high-profile Hockey Canada camps this summer.
Centre Colton Dach is one of 44 players invited to the national junior team summer camp, while forward Andrew Cristall and defenceman Caden Price will take part in the national men's summer under-18 selection camp.
Forty-four players have also been invited to that camp.
Both will take place next month in Calgary.
Dach will be looking to impress coaches and management as part of the first step in the process to select Canada's team for the 2023 World Junior championships.
Cristall and Price will be vying for spots on the team that will compete in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup later this summer in Red Deer.
Rockets head coach Kris Mallette will serve as an assistant coach for that event.
Dach led the Rockets in scoring during his first season in Kelowna with 29 goals and 79 points after being acquired from Saskatoon in a deal for Trevor Wong.
Cristall, the Rockets and BC Division rookie of the year, posted 69 points in 61 games while Price, also in his rookie year, had two goals and 19 assists over 47 games while finishing a plus 24.
The Hlinka Gretzky squad will be named July 24 following a four day camp.
Kelowna Rockets head coach Kris Mallette will be busy this summer.
Mallette is one of five coaches selected to lead Canada's under-18 team at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup in Red Deer, Alta. July 31 to Aug. 6.
He will serve as assistant coach of Canada's entry while former Rocket Kelly Guard will work with the goaltenders.
Stephane Julien with Sherbrooke in the Quebec Major Junior League was named head coach while Sarnia's Alan Letang will work with Mallette as one of the two assistant coaches.
Raphael-Pier Richet is the video coach.
“We are excited to announce the coaching and support staff that will lead our National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team through selection camp and at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup,” said Tyler Dietrich, senior manager of hockey operations with Hockey Canada.
“We know this group will use its CHL experience to help build and a lead a team that will represent Canada with pride and give us the best chance to win gold on home ice in Red Deer in August.”
Mallette, who just completed his second full season as head coach of the Rockets, is no stranger to Hockey Canada.
He was named assistant coach of Team Black at the 2020 World Under-17 Challenge which was cancelled due to COVID, and head coach of Team Canada Red at the 2021 Capital City Challenge.
Guard meantime has served as goaltender coach with the Prince Albert Raiders since 2012.
He backstopped the Rockets to their only Memorial Cup championship in 2004, establishing a CHL record with a 0.75 goals against average, en route to being named tournament MVP.
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