Each year, the best junior hockey players in B.C. end up in Chilliwack for four days in hopes of turning the heads of coaches and scouts from higher levels of the sport.
And the Coquitlam Express may have an advantage in playing what is set to be the last game of this year's BC Hockey League (BCHL) Showcase.
The Tri-Cities' junior 'A' club has been tapped to play in the 2022 event finale against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks — one of two contests they'll play at the Chilliwack Coliseum.
This could help the players gain some bonus attention of hockey operations staff from across the continent, including the NHL, NCAA and U-Sports, as well as hundreds of hockey fans that choose to attend the showcase.
"Many relationships are built between players and coaches during the event, so this is always a very important part of our league’s schedule," said BCHL chief operating officer Steven Cocker in a news release.
The finale will also be a redemption meeting for Coquitlam after losing to Salmon Arm 5-2 at the 2021 showcase. They also lost to Nanaimo 3-2 in their second outing in Chilliwack.
The Express were, however, able to get back on the right track to make the playoffs after finishing the regular season with a record of 22-26-1-5, which included 10 wins in their final 12 matches.
The black and gold lost in the first round, but stretched the Chilliwack Chiefs to seven games before their exit.
Coquitlam's 2022 showcase games are set for Oct. 19, 2:30 p.m. against the Prince George Spruce Kings and Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. with Salmon Arm.
What's the season schedule like?
The showcase schedule comes three weeks after the Express were given their official 2022-23 season schedule, which their general manager admits there will be some challenges.
This includes an extensive stint away from their home barn as Coquitlam won't have any games at the Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex between Oct. 2 and Nov. 2, including the showcase tilts.
GM Tali Campbell said the long gap without local games means the Express will have to amplify its efforts to keep fans engaged through community initiatives and a strong presence on social media.
"We’ll have to step our community game," Campbell told the Tri-City News.
The absence also puts the pinch on the Express’ annual awareness campaign for breast cancer that typically runs through the month of October and includes special pink jerseys worn by the players.
Much of that effort will now be focused on the Oct. 2 game against the visiting Surrey Eagles.
"We’re in the sports entertainment business and we’ve got to focus on the entertainment side," Campbell said.
"It’s our job to make sure the excitement continues to build."
Coquitlam will open regular-season play with three straight games on home ice; Sept. 23, 30 and Oct. 2.
The full 2022-23 schedule for the Express is available on the team’s website.
- with files from Mario Bartel, Tri-City News