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Kraken Join VIJHL

Release the Kraken to join the league for next season. No, not that team and that league of which fans might be thinking. It’s the Lake Cowichan Kraken, the newest franchise in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.

On one level, it appears the VIJHL’s 10th franchise is going with a trendy pick in terms of nickname. But not quite. While it’s not as famous as Loch Ness in Scotland or Ogopogo in the Okanagan – a cartoon image of which adorns the jerseys of the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL — or Caddy in Cadboro Bay, there is a legend known to locals of a sea monster in Lake Cowichan dubbed Stin’Qua. Puget Sound, meanwhile, has Willatuk.

Armstrong doesn’t see the Seattle Kraken, who enter the NHL next season, having any problem with the use of the name. He notes the VIJHL already has the Peninsula Panthers, Saanich Predators and Kerry Park Islanders, which are also NHL team nicknames. Plus, Seattle chose the moniker despite it already being the name of a Caribbean dark rum. And, really, who can really claim exlusive rights to a mythical beast?

“The Lake Cowichan community is so enthusiastic about this and we’ve felt a lot of support,” said Armstrong.

The team will play in the venerable Cowichan Lake Sports Arena, which opened in 1969, and underwent a $7.6-million renovation in 2009

“This is an amazing opportunity to use the facility to its full potential,” said Armstrong.

The first head coach and GM in Kraken history, the VIJHL version, will be Peachland-native Ray Tremblay, who played three seasons in NCAA Div. III with the SUNY-Brockport Golden Eagles and minor pro with the Danville Dashers and Watertown Privateers of the Federal Hockey League. The 35-year-old was 26-18 as head coach of the Dashers in 2019-20 before the pandemic cut short the season. Tremblay knows the VIJHL Junior B level after having played from 2004 to 2007 in the Kootenay Junior B league with the Sicamous Eagles and Beaver Valley NiteHawks.

The Kraken will hold their first prospects camp over the summer in Lake Cowichan.

“We want to develop local talent,” said Armstrong.

The VIJHL alumni list includes current and former NHLers Jamie Benn, Jordie Benn, Adam Cracknell, Matt Irwin, Ryan O’Byrne, and numerous eventual WHL/BCHL juniors, NCAA collegians and AHL/ECHL pros.

The 2020-21 VIJHL season was cancelled March 9 after 13 games due to the provincial restrictions put in place during the pandemic. With the full reopening of sport in B.C. scheduled to begin in September, the league is anticipating a more normal season in 2021-22.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com