White Rock Whalers photo                                 Players take a breather on the bench during the White Rock Whalers prospect camp earlier this month.

White Rock Whalers photo Players take a breather on the bench during the White Rock Whalers prospect camp earlier this month.

White Rock Whalers coach ‘welcomes the challenge’ of building new team

Jason Rogers excited to build roster for city’s junior ‘B’ expansion team

The White Rock Whalers’ pod is starting to form.

The Pacific Junior Hockey League’s newest team has had a head coach since late May when former Surrey Eagles assistant Jason Rogers was hired for the post, and now the roster has started to fill out, too.

Earlier this month, the team acquired Surrey native Erik Bocale, a defenceman, from the Kootenay Junior Hockey League’s Beaver Valley Nighthawks, and after a June 9-10 prospects camp, the expansion junior ‘B’ squad has identified four more players for the coming season, Rogers told Peace Arch News.

Rogers said announcements on those roster additions would come within the next few days, though one has already been made official – on Sunday, 16-year-old Semiahmoo Hockey product Cameron Newson was added to the fold.

Both players – as well as those yet-to-be-announced – have Rogers excited for the coming season, though he admits there are plenty of hurdles left to clear this summer before the puck can be dropped in the fall. For starters, because the Whalers – who are owned by South Surrey’s Ronnie Paterson – were not officially granted a franchise until the first week of May, they find themselves behind their competitors when it comes to recruiting and scouting prospective talent.

That, combined with the fact that the Whalers are starting with a blank roster, means Rogers has plenty of work to do.

“Identifying players for this yer, obviously we don’t have the same luxury that the other teams already in existence had – they held prospects camps dating all the way back to last year,” he explained.

“But it’s very exciting for me, and I welcome the challenge.”

Bocale, Rogers said, should bring some veteran leadership to the new team.

“He’s a local guy and he has quite a bit of experience, both in the (PJHL) and the Kootenays,” Rogers said. “”we’re excited to have him on board.”

Official announcements regarding the rest of the Whalers’ coaching staff are also expected soon, Rogers noted.

When the PJHL announced White Rock’s expansion team, Paterson told PAN he was motivated to form a team in order to keep local players closer to home.

And while the team’s earliest acquisitions, Bocale and Newson, both fit that bill, Rogers said he will cast a net as far as he can in order to put a competitive team on the ice.

Junior ‘B’ hockey – both locally and in other parts of the province – has in recent years started to shake its past reputation as a league based on toughness and fighting, and Rogers agreed, saying that old brand of hockey has become a thing of the past, and his team will be molded with speed and skill in mind.

“Skating is the name of the game in 2018,” he said.

“Team toughness can come in many forms – we certainly don’t want to be pushed around, especially in our own rink, but that doesn’t mean it’s about identifying bigger bodies. At this point, we need to find players who can skate and who have high hockey IQ.

“We want to be quick, we want to be structured and we want to be disciplined. I think those three things… will make it difficult for teams to play against us.”

Rogers said he anticipates having a mix of ages on his roster. PJHL teams can carry two 16 year old players – with Newson being one for White Rock – and the first-year coach said he hopes to entice players in their “bridge years,” meaning they are just aging out of midget or major-midget programs, but perhaps not yet ready to make the jump to junior ‘A’.

Fighting for those players in a Lower Mainland market that includes established, successful programs like the Richmond Sockeyes – Paterson’s old franchise – and the Abbotsford Pilots, however, can be difficult, Rogers admitted.

“There are some teams that have been around a long time, and… we’re all kind of fighting for the same players,” he said. “But we’re doing our best to get out there and network and identify players.”

Whether recruiting players or simply marketing the team to the community, Rogers said the team’s history in the city will be a benefit moving forward. The original Whalers played out of Centennial Arena from 1985-‘89, and won a provincial title in ‘88.

In the weeks since the new team was announced, a handful of original Whalers have expressed their support online, and even posted a few photos of the team from its mid-’80s run.

“I think when you put Ron Paterson’s stamp on something, it will draw a lot of attention, and when you have the history – brief but successful – you get a lot of talk and interest,” Rogers said.

“It’s exciting and we don’t want to lose sight of that history – we want to build on that relationship with the original franchise. There’s history there – including the banner that I think still hangs in Centennial Arena.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey Fire Service at a garage fire in the 14400-block of 82A Ave on March 22, 2021. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
‘Perfect storm’ of variants, increasing COVID cases are concerning for Surrey fire chief

Between police and fire, Larry Thomas said there are 8 confirmed cases, 18 others isolating

Emergency crews on scene after a small plane crashed in a grassy area on the northeast side of Boundary Bay Airport Saturday morning (April 10). A freelancer said the plane caught fire and one person was transported to hospital by BC Emergency Health Services. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Small plane crashes at Delta’s Boundary Bay Airport

Plane appears to have suffered ‘significant’ damage, says freelancer

Signage on a South Surrey sidewalk reminds pedestrians to respect social-distancing guidelines. (Photo: Tracy Holmes)
Surrey records 4,400 COVID-19 cases in March

New cases almost doubled between February, March

The Rotary Club of South Surrey is planning to host another shredding event on April 17, 2021.(Contributed file photo)
South Surrey Rotarians to host shredding event

April 17 fundraiser to offer secure shredding by donation

Surrey Fire Service is on scene of a fire in the 12300-block of 72A Avenue Saturday morning (April 10). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Surrey crews on scene of house fire

It happened in the 12300-block of 72A Avenue

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

Emergency crews on scene after a small plane crashed in a grassy area on the northeast side of Boundary Bay Airport Saturday morning (April 10). A freelancer said the plane caught fire and one person was transported to hospital by BC Emergency Health Services. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
1 taken to hospital after plane crash at Metro Vancouver airport

Plane appears to have suffered ‘significant’ damage, says freelancer

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Most Read