Victoria Royals home opener Oct. 2 will end long wait on Blanshard

So, where were we when so rudely interrupted?

It will be 581 days between Western Hockey League regular-season games at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre when the Victoria Royals open Oct. 2.

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The Royals’ 2021-22 season home curtain-raiser, announced Friday, will fittingly be against the Vancouver Giants. The Royals defeated the Giants 4-1 on March 1, 2020, in the last game played at the Memorial Centre before the pandemic wiped out the remainder of the 2019-20 WHL regular season and also the playoffs. The abbreviated 2021 WHL B.C. Division season was conducted in the double bubble of Kelowna and Kamloops.

“I’m sure there is going to be a huge roar in the crowd when the team takes ice,” said Royals GM and head coach Dan Price.

“That’s what we live for – the roar of crowd. And it’s going to be deafening that night, for sure.”

It will be a home first for the the 12 rookies who played in the 2021 bubble. The veteran Royals roster that last played on Blanshard Street in March of 2020 has been replaced by a youthful roster in the midst of a major rebuild and the youngest in the WHL.

“It will be the next generation of Royals, which we introduced in the hub this year, in Kelowna and Kamloops,” noted Price.

It was a rough introduction to the league for the rookies as the Royals finished last among the 22 WHL teams. The Royals brass is banking on that experience, while short, being vital as this group looks ahead.

The WHL this week announced it will play a full 68-game schedule per team from Oct. 1 to April 3 with fans anticipated to be allowed to full capacity by that time. The WHL pre-season schedule will be announced Monday and the Western Conference regular-season schedule on Wednesday. The playoffs will begin April 8.

ICE CHIPS: The Royals traded 18-year-old defenceman Carson Golder to the Edmonton Oil Kings for a ninth-round pick in the 2022 WHL U-15 draft. Golder, who did not play for the Royals in the 2021 bubble season, had two assists in 50 games in the 2019-20 WHL season for Victoria. He played 11 games for the Trail Smoke Eaters of the BCHL in 2020-21 with a goal and an assist.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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