KAMLOOPS — This is the second day of the round robin at the Kamloops International Bantam Hockey Tournament.
One of today's games had the Thompson Blazers playing the Yukon Rivermen.
Based out of Whitehorse, the Yukon team faces some unique challenges playing in a league that is otherwise situated entirely in B.C. from East Kootenay to the south to Prince George in the North.
This game against the Yukon was a chance for the Blazers to greatly improve their chances of a first place finish in their KIBIHT pool.
It also served as a league game in the B.C. Hockey Okanagan Mainline bantam league.
"Logistics — it's a little more challenging in the north to get down to play games, and conversely to have teams come north to play us," says Yukon co-coach Scott Palfreyman.
North to south to play league games isn't the only logistical challenge that faces the Yukon team.
Eleven of the players on the Rivermen are from Whitehorse — another eight from Yellowknife — a distance of more than 2,500 kilometres by highway, 1,100 or about about an hour and a half flying time.
So it's actually meant two teams in practice to form one team for games.
"It's a bit of a challenge, so we have coaches in both locations... we're trying to maintain practice structures similar in both locations so that the players understand the systems that we're trying to use as a team as a whole," says Palfreyman. "There's a few camps at the beginning of the year that we had all the players come together in practice."
The only time Whitehorse and Yellowknife get to practice together — otherwise it's just games like this one that serves a double purpose at KIBIHT. The Thompson Blazers made the trip to Whitehorse last season, and were originally scheduled to travel to the Yukon for games this month.
At a cost of about $15,000 to make a trip like that — the double barrel blast at KIBIHT, tournament and league, has worked for both teams.
"It's nice for us, being a big cost saver," says Thompson Blazers coach Kyle Allen. "We miss out on a trip where it's a good experience for the kids to go and see a part of the country they're probably never going to get to go to again. In the end the cost to save is nice for us."
"We've got a couple of great title sponsors," says Yukon coach Palfreyman. "And Air North in terms of logistics, they've been super accomodating in terms of flights and giving us pretty reasonable prices and even accomodating flight schedules. We're headed to (Prince George) in a couple of weeks and they're actually making a stop on a regularly scheduled flight to drop us off and pick us up."
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