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Port Coquitlam gets a junior hockey team — again

It will be the first junior hockey team in Port Coquitlam since the old Buckeroos left for Port Moody in 2004.
Young minor hockey players line up for Thursday's announcement at the Port Coquitlam Community Centre that the city has been awarded a franchise in the Pacific Junior Hockey League, beginning next season.

Junior hockey is returning to Port Coquitlam.

Thanks in part to Instagram.

Rob Toor, a Vancouver lawyer and volunteer coach in the PoCo Pirates minor hockey association, said it was a positive response to a generic PoCo junior hockey account on the social media platform that convinced him the time is right to put a Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) team into the city’s new Port Coquitlam Community Centre (PCCC).

The still-unnamed team will be the 14th franchise in the Junior B league that stretches from North Vancouver to Chilliwack. It will begin play next season.

The Port Coquitlam Buckeroos played in the same league — when it was known as the Pacific International Junior Hockey League — from 1992 to 2004. The team then disembarked from the old Rec Centre to Port Moody, where it still plays as the Panthers.

Toor said his experience coaching a U18 rep team in the Pirates minor system showed him there’s a need to provide emerging young players an opportunity to continue their development close to home. So last April he launched the social media campaign to determine if there was enough fan interest to support a junior hockey venture.

“There’s amazing passion for hockey in the community,” Toor said following the official announcement Thursday (Jan. 26) of the new team at centre ice of the PCCC's Jon Baillie arena where it will be based. “People really want a local team to identify with.”

Discussions with the league, city and its minor hockey association commenced to determine how the social media response could be turned into reality.

All were supportive, said Toor.

PJHL commissioner Trevor Alto said the league had been has been looking for another team to attain balanced divisions since it revived the old Chilliwack Jets franchise in 2020.

He said Toor’s passion, community and civic support as well as the spanking new 800-seat facility that is one of three arenas at the community centre proved a winning combination.

“This facility is a crown jewel,” Alto said, adding Toor’s long-term vision for the team as a community builder fills him with confidence it will be a success.

Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West said he’s been waiting for this day.

He shared his own memories of running up and down the bleachers of the dingy old rec centre, horsing around with his hockey buddies as the old Buckaroos played on the ice, then heading home with his head full of hockey dreams.

“They looked like giants,” he said of the junior hockey players he followed when he was young. “It really gives you something to be inspired by.”

West said with the recent announcement of a new high-performance soccer hub to be built at Gates Park, and the completion of the $135-million community centre that’s already hosted BCHL and Western Hockey League games and was the training camp base for the Abbotsford Canucks AHL team last September, Port Coquitlam has gained some real sporting momentum. Having a hockey team residents can call their own will only push that further along.

“Sport brings people together,” he said. “It contributes to community building.”

Toor said now that the franchise is official, his next order of business will be to give it a name. He said so far there’s been support for bringing back the old Buckeroos’ name, as well as linking it to the Pirates’ minor moniker. A final decision will be made by late February or early March.

Toor also announced a special prospects tournament to be held from April 21–23, where coach Greg Ross and general manager Ryan Ross will be able to identify local players ready to take the jump to Junior B.

From there, it will be only a matter of filling the seats.

“We want to see 800 roaring, cheering, crazy fans every Friday night,” Toor said.