There’s a lot to be said for living at home while playing junior hockey.
Just ask the large contingent of Kelowna products who are currently on the roster of the B.C. Hockey League’s Westside Warriors.
For rookie winger Shawn Hochhausen, a 20-minute drive from his parents’ home in Kelowna to Royal LePage Place for games and practises is a luxury most junior A players simply don’t have.
“It’s awesome to play here and live at home,” said Hochhausen, 18, who played junior B last season in Nelson. “It helps a lot that we have a really good team, too. I wanted to make the move to junior A this year, and what better place to play than at home.”
Hochhausen is one of eight Central Okanagan products now with the Warriors, the most local players the club has had in any one season since moving to West Kelowna at the start of the 2006-07 campaign.
The other locally-bred players are forwards Travis Blanleil, Brett McKinnon, Max French (West Kelowna), Tyler Krause, Dru Morrison, Brett Mulcahy and defenseman Brayden Sherbinin.
Owner and president Mark Cheyne said while the Warriors are thrilled with the amount of local content on the club, it wasn’t a conscious decision by management to beef up the numbers.
“If they were good enough and their play warranted it, then that’s why they’re here,” said Cheyne. “But we didn’t sit down and say we want X-number of local kids. They’re here because they deserve to be. It’s nice to have that local flair on our team and that connection to minor hockey.
“It’s nice for us, their parents and families, too.”
The Warriors aren’t the only local junior team with plenty of local content. More than half of the junior B Kelowna Chiefs’ roster is made up of Kelowna kids.
Cheyne said the abundant supply of Kelowna-bred players for local clubs is a credit to the coaching and development programs now available in the Okanagan.
“It’s certainly gotten better since I moved here four years ago,” said Cheyne. “You have all the academies now, the hockey is in a lot of the schools, you have a real hockey atmosphere in Kelowna all year around that you don’t get in other places. Our minor hockey systems are doing a good job, too.
“Hopefully, we can continue to have good local players on our team in the future.”
Warriors battle cancer
The Warriors have launched their second annual Battle to Beat Cancer. Team captain Alex Grieve will donate $2 to cancer research for every goal the Warriors score in their first 30 home and away games this season. The Warriors team goal is $20,000. If you would like to pledge your support to this cause, stop by the Warriors office at 2760 Cameron Road in West Kelowna from Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.