Royal affair at Planet Ice

Victoria takes on Kamloops Blazers in first of two WHL exhibition games set for Maple Ridge

Steven Hodges and the Victoria Royals will play the Kamloops Blazers and the Kelowna Rockets at Planet Ice in Maple Ridge Aug. 31 and Sept. 7.

Steven Hodges and the Victoria Royals will play the Kamloops Blazers and the Kelowna Rockets at Planet Ice in Maple Ridge Aug. 31 and Sept. 7.

Payback will be the main course on the Western Hockey League menu Friday night as the Victoria Royals host the Kamloops Blazers at Planet Ice in Maple Ridge.

The two teams will square off in an exhibition match starting Aug. 31 at 7:05 p.m. with the Royals looking to avenge last year’s season-ending sweep at the hands of the Blazers in the opening round of the Western Conference quarter-finals.

Tickets are $10 for the match, with proceeds going to the Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey Association and the Ridge Meadows Female Minor Hockey Association.

While the exhibition game is the will feature a Royals line-up comprised of returning players and prospects, it will also be a chance to see how the team’s new management fits in.

Cameron Hope is the Royals new general manager after spending the last seven years with the New York Rangers. Hope left his position as assistant GM in New York to help reshape the Royals. His first order of business was to bring in former NHLer and WHL coach Dave Lowry.

“I think what is really more important than being a former player in the NHL is his experience as a former coach in this league as well being a father,” said Hope, a 48-year-old Edmonton native who also has a law degree.

Lowry played 19 seasons in the NHL after being drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the sixth round. He played 1,084 regular season games, amassing 164 goals and 187 assists for 351 points. He was captain of the Calgary Flames in the 2001/02 season and played on two teams that made trips the Stanley Cup finals.

Hope was an assistant coach with the Calgary Hitman for three seasons before being promoted to head coach in 2008/09. Lowry had spent the past three years as an assitant coach with the Calgary Flames

Hope said Lowry’s own experience in raising two boys affords him the knowledge of  knowing which buttons to push while motivating young prospects like 16-year old Royals defenceman Joe Hicketts.

While exhibition games serve manly as a evaluation tool for players on the bubble, Hope said it’s nice for his team to be able to reach fans outside the WHL boundries while contributing to young players.

“I think this is a great way to help minor hockey. I would like to see more events like this,” said Hope.

The Royals are back in Maple Ridge at Planet Ice on Sept. 7 to take on the Kelowna Rockets, starting at 7:05 p.m.

To purchase tickets online go to selectyourtickets.com/promo and enter the promotional code Rustlers or Barracudas for access to the site.  The promotional code will allow the website to determine where the sale came from and forward the funds to the appropriate association.