It’ll be a while before any Campbell River Storm fans are packing the Brindy.
The Junior B hockey team is set to host its first team this Friday and it’s likely the stands will be empty.
The team, which plays in the North Division of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL), has approval from at least one governing body to have up to 25 fans present during games, but the home venue, the Rod Brind’Amour Arena at the Strathcona Regional District-operated Strathcona Gardens, has yet to give its seal of approval.
“Right now, the local health authority has said that we are allowed to have a small number of fans. The regional district has not agreed to that yet,” said Head Coach and General Manager Lee Stone. “So we’re really hoping that the regional district steps up to help out the Campbell River Storm.”
On Wednesday morning, the facility’s deputy manager, Ryan Christison, said they were still waiting to hear from viaSport and other sport governing bodies about how many people will be permitted in the arena for games.
Part of the VIJHL’s plan includes cohort groups. The Storm would be part of the North Division cohort, alongside the Comox Valley Glacier Kings, the Oceanside Generals and the Nanaimo Buccaneers.
Stone says the games will be home-home on weekends. On Oct. 2, they’re set to host the Glacier Kings before heading down to Comox Saturday for the second game. The following weekend, the Storm are set to face the Buccaneers, followed by the Generals the weekend after.
Stone says that right now, the plan is for the Storm to only play games within its North Division cohort and then the winner of the North Division would face the winner of the South Division in the league final.
With the uncertainty over whether fans will be permitted at games, the Storm has moved the camera closer to the ice surface to offer better coverage during game broadcasts.
Mark Berry, the voice of the Storm, will once again be doing play-by-play during the games.
“With no fans, we’ve tailor-made the arena a little bit for the broadcast,” says Stone. “Mark Berry has pumped up the broadcast so we’re going to be gearing different things toward that broadcast and really working on building that.”
The Storm have no qualms about their goal this season: they’re chasing a championship.
The team has been making moves in the offseason with a number of returning players as well as the addition of some “big pieces” Stone says.
“We’re really excited about the group we have. We probably have one of the more offensively talented groups that we’ve had here in a really long time,” he says. “It’s unfortunate we won’t be able to fill the Brindy at least right away, but we should have a team that most nights is the more talented squad as long as we can put in the work, we should be pretty successful.”
The Storm’s season is set to begin Oct. 2 against the Comox Valley Glacier Kings.
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