As the voice of the Campbell River Storm, Mark Berry has a pretty unique perspective on this year’s team.
He has watched and analyzed each game closely and interviewed Storm players and coaches countless times.
And from his point of view, even though the Storm didn’t repeat as Cyclone Taylor Cup champions this year, there was lots to cheer about.
The Storm finished the regular season with a 38-6-2 record and 80 points, good for first in the North Division and second in the VIJHL behind the Victoria Cougars, who had 84 points and a 41-5-1 record.
After finishing second to to the Cougars in the VIJHL Final, the Storm won a bronze medal at the Cyclone Taylor Cup last weekend.
Although it might not be the result they had hoped for, Berry still considers this a good season.
“Coming off a season where they were Western Canadian champions and won it all, with the caliber of the teams, particularly in B.C., it’s really difficult to repeat,” he said. “For me, it’s ups and downs but overall, it’s been a positive year.”
When Berry thinks back at this past season, there are a few distinct moments that stick in his mind.
One moment he’ll remember was a “horrendous” 13-0 loss to the Victoria Cougars back in October.
“That was a turnaround for the team,” he said. “They were mediocre at that point, but they turned the table after that.”
An on-ice highlight for Berry came Feb. 6 when the Storm played the Comox Valley Glacier Kings down at the Comox Valley Sports Centre. When starting goaltenders Jake Mullen and Riley Welyk were injured, the Storm put 16-year-old Jaydlin Spooner in goal in her first Junior B game.
The team won the game and Spooner was named the game’s first star.
“For me, what was so incredible was how hard that team fought in what was a nothing game in the standings,” he said. “I talked to the players and they’ll remember it forever.”
Another memorable moment for Berry came last weekend during the Cyclone Taylor Cup, as the teams sang the national anthem at the start of the game.
“I’ve never seen a group of young men sing so loud,” he said. “It speaks to their character. It caught me off-guard; I could hear them in the stands.”
One of the things that Berry will remember the most from this season doesn’t have anything to do with scoring goals, blocking shots or winning faceoffs. It’s the support the players provided each other.
He remembers one particular moment back in January when Keenan Scardina, who had been out since November, came back from an injury.
His first shift back was “horrible,” and Berry remembers that as he was coming back to the bench, he had his head down and you could tell he was feeling down. His teammates and coaches didn’t let him stay down on himself.
“It wasn’t one guy or two — everyone was patting him on the back and saying ‘it will be OK,’ said Berry. “You could see it right through to the end; they didn’t turn on each other when things went bad. They always supported each other.”
Berry considers January, when the team had so many injuries, to be a turning point for the team. Injuries continued to plague the team throughout the season and Berry found out this week just how many team members were dealing with injuries or illness during the playoffs.
“You don’t just measure a season by wins and losses; you often measure it by the adversity a team faces, and this is a team that faced a lot of adversity,” he said.
While Berry has been volunteering for the Storm for five or six years, this was his first year doing the volunteer play by play commentary for the team.
“I don’t regret a minute of it,” he said.
“For me, it’s not the play by play. We had a nephew play junior hockey and I know how important it is to families — that’s who the broadcasts go to, the families to catch a glimpse or make sure they’re OK.”
Berry can’t say enough about the community and fan support.
“It’s one of the best-attended Junior B franchises in B.C.,” he said, noting the team averaged 925 fans in an arena that seats 1,000 during the regular season.
“When you talk to the players, that’s one of the reasons they are here.”
With such fan support and incredible coaching, Berry feels the team will continue to attract first-rate players.
“It’s a testament to the organization, from top to bottom, that they get it — this is about the fans and the young men following their dream, on the ice and behind the bench,” he said.
“It’s a great organization. I’m so excited to be part of it.”