Matt Miller has always known what he wants to do with his career.
The Maple Ridge, B.C. native became involved in the coaching world of hockey at 13-years-old as a video coach with the Penticton Vees, and is now, at 20, the youngest coach in the BCHL as an assistant coach with the West Kelowna Warriors.
“I don’t get any slack (as a young coach),” said Miller.”I work as hard as I can and I do whatever I can to help our team.”
In a city where the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets dominate most of the hockey attention, the West Kelowna Warriors games still draw in decent sized crowds on weekdays and roaring crowds for weekend games. Warriors’ games may have a smaller venue than the Rockets, but Miller said they offer just as much to their fans — if not more.
“(The team) is good for the community, and the community is more involved with the team. I think the BCHL is a better league in general than the WHL,” said Terry Carlson, an avid Warriors fan, who attends most games. “The skating is better, as well as the skill level. I predict that in the next two years or so, this West Kelowna building will be more full than (Prospera Place). With more coverage, this league will just get better and better.”
Though the BCHL and WHL are different junior hockey leagues, Miller agrees that the BCHL is one of the best leagues in the Canadian Junior Hockey League. The CJHL has 10 total leagues which feature 132 different teams — playing in the BCHL means playing against some of the best players and the best coaches in North America (there are five teams that play in the U.S.A).
“Every night, you can lose against any team,” said Miller. “With coaching, I just take it one step at a time. Getting prepared every night against a different team is the biggest challenge. But that’s the difficulty that comes with playing in the BCHL, which really is one of the best leagues in the country.”
The Warriors have been the centre of adversity since their new owner purchased them at the beginning of the season which led to drama Miller says the team tries to ignore.
“Our guys focus on playing the game. They take out all of the outside noise and focus on the game. Our head coach Geoff (Grimwood) has done a really good job to keep the drama away from the players.”
BCHL players can go on to play in various professional leagues including the NHL and universities. At the 2018 NHL draft, a record seven BCHL players were drafted by NHL teams, with the highest picked player going at No. 48. BCHL players are also scouted for university clubs and a few examples are West Kelowna Warriors’ players Willie Reim and Bennett Norlin who have committed to the U.S Air Force Academy hockey program.
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