“Get ready for some high paced hockey,” says Whitehorse Huskies Coach Michael Tuton. “The top AA teams of B.C. and the Yukon are battling it out for the Coy. It’s gonna be great hockey. Very hard hitting games. “Bring some excitement. Let’s blow the roof off the Takhini arena.”
Tuton says to expect a high calibre tournament as the Huskies play in front of the home crowd. The Coy Cup is typically awarded to the Senior AA ice hockey champions of British Columbia. Hosting the event here is a historic moment for Senior AA hockey in the Yukon.
“This is the first time the Coy Cup has ever been held outside of British Columbia (the championship has been given out annually since 1923), so for Whitehorse to be awarded the opportunity to host is a big deal, says Huskies Marketing and Communications Director Echo Ross. “The majority of our players are born and raised Yukoners. Many of them have returned home post-university and junior hockey careers, and now for them to have the opportunity to compete for a major championship on home ice, in front of their friends and family, is special.”
“For minor hockey players, the championship will provide inspiration for them that they can play a high level of hockey in their hometown, and that maybe one day they can compete for a championship on home ice…” she says. “The Coy Cup tournament will offer spectators the highest level of hockey currently played in the Yukon. It’s a great opportunity to get out and enjoy quality competition in your local rink while socializing with friends and supporting members of your community.”
Last year’s Captain Evan Campbell is back on the ice after recovering from shoulder surgery.
“I’m excited to see the roster that we had envisioned from the start hit the ice on home turf. This will be the first opportunity to see the full lineup take the ice together, as we have always been missing one or two pieces in every series,” says Tuton. “Our first two years ended with a loss. We’ve built a stronger team and this year has the best roster.”
The coach is proud that this year’s team is almost entirely made up of Yukoners.
“This is really a community-based team,” Tuton says. “We need all the support we can get and I hope to see everyone out at the rink.”
Key players include team captain Derek Klassen, goaltender Jon Olthius and forward player Kevin Petevello who, “moved up here a few years ago and never left.”
One advantage to hosting the tournament is that the Huskies will automatically qualify for the finals. “It’s gonna be a long week of contact hockey. Four nights of full crunch hockey will take the toll on the players, so having a rest on Friday will be nice,” says Huskies General Manager Dan Johnson. “The guys are really excited about playing in their hometown… Takhini Arena will be filled with friendly faces. This group of 20-30 year olds are one of the best that have come through. They’re a high tempo team. They move the puck well and are a pressure-all-over-the-ice crew.”
Johnson and Tuton agree that each player brings something unique and valuable with them on the ice. “(There’s) no particular player to look out for,” says Tuton. “I’m looking forward to watching the complete, healthy forward group make life tough on teams. Highly skilled, creative and fast, this group is hard to handle,” says Johnson. The Huskies manager wants to develop the team into a long term, feasible franchise that provides consistent, competitive hockey for a growing community.
“Success for us is when the minor hockey kids come out to the games, look up to the players and see themselves in a Husky jersey someday,” Johnson says.
The Husky games are an important focal point for Hockey in the territory, he says.
“We’d also like to continue to step up for the community by contributing to hockey schools and the Special Olympics program,” says Johnson. “Since the Dawson City Nuggets, this has always been a hockey territory. When you live in a cold climate and are isolated, the sport gives us not only something to do, but something to be proud of (our various Yukon Teams) and also offers opportunity for continued growth for the elite youth outside the territory.”
Another thing that makes this year’s event special is an expanded beer garden at Takhini Arena, “right in the rink so you can have a beer and sit in the stands,” says Tuton. So make sure to appoint a designated driver if that’s part of the plan.
The 2017 Coy Cup kicks off at Takhini Arena on Tuesday, March 28th. The Terrace River Kings and Kelowna Sparta go head to head at 4 p.m. and the Whitehorse Huskies open against the North Island Capitals at 7 p.m. on the same day. The Playoffs begin on Friday, March 31st and the championship trophy is handed out on Saturday, April 1st.