The Quesnel Kangaroos quest to repeat as Central Interior Hockey League (CIHL) champions has taken a long time, but is officially underway.
The team has held twice-a-week tryouts throughout September, anticipating the kickoff to the 2021/2022 season in Williams Lake on Oct. 16, and a home opener against a new team, the Nechako North Stars on Oct. 23.
Kangaroos president Tyler Coleman said players have been excited to get back on the ice.
“We’ve had really good attendance, both from last year’s group and from people that are hoping to showcase themselves this year, to see who may be able to make the team, and potentially have a spot,” he said. “Not having been able to skate in the last 18 months, it’s been nice to be able to look forward to have something to be a part of.”
The final Kangaroos roster should be set by the beginning of October.
No games were played in the CIHL since the COVID-19 pandemic. Quesnel won the league’s championship in 2019 and 2020, and was set to host the Coy Cup before the pandemic cancelled most sporting events.
“We’re two years running here as defending champions, so we’re hoping to make it a three-peat,” Coleman said. “Trying to build a dynasty here.”
New public health measures including a vaccine passport system allow sporting events to operate at 50 per cent capacity ass long as everyone in attendance shows proof of vaccination.
“Usually we’re sitting around (the capacity) for our games anyway, so it works out pretty well for us,” Coleman said. “The last meeting I had at the city said the number is sitting around that 750-800 number. That works out really well for us when it comes to being able to have fans in the building and make it viable to have a season.”
Only people with a vaccine passport will be allowed into the West Fraser Centre for Kangaroos games. Until Oct. 24, those in attendance only need to have received a single dose. After Oct. 24, fans must show proof of both vaccines.
Coleman said the vaccine was a big reason a CIHL season was happening.
“We just gotta make sure people continue to move forward getting vaccinated,” Coleman said. “Keeping that focus moving forward and having everyone with some form of protection provides them with the opportunity to living normal.”
The Nechako North Stars, made up of players from the Vanderhoof and Fort St. James area, will be replacing the Smithers Steelheads, who bowed out of the season, and plan to return next year.
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