Tier III Junior Hockey In Vancouver

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Tier III junior hockey in Vancouver

The Portland Winterhawks have a rabid junior-hockey fan base in Clark County, but there’s now a local option for those seeking hockey action in Vancouver.

Mountain View Ice Arena in east Vancouver is home to the Vancouver Victory, a Tier III junior hockey team that is midway through their 2011-12 season. The Victory, formerly the River City Jaguars, were purchased by longtime youth-hockey advocate Andrew Vilcauskas and moved from Beaverton to Vancouver.

The Victory’s mission is simple: to provide a program where emerging hockey talent can improve skills while also offering low-cost sports entertainment to local hockey fans.

"Labor of love"

Though his title — owner — implies there’s a profit motive, Vilcauskas says running the Victory is hardly going to make him rich.

"I don’t anticipate taking any salary for many years, if ever. This is a labor of love for me," Vilcauskas said. "I have coached and played hockey for 20 years, and owning this team is just an extension of that."

Oh, Vilcauskas has dreams. The Victory are business partners with the Vancouver Volcanoes, the local semiprofessional International Basketball League team. Both franchises hope a day will come when a new arena of 4,000 to 6,000 seats will house the Victory and Volcanoes.

"It’s probably not reality, but you can dream," Vilcauskas said.

In the meantime, the Victory are Clark County’s alternative to the Winterhawks. The latter has junior hockey players who are among North America’s best from ages 16 to 20 and on the radar of the National Hockey League. The Victory, who compete in the seven-team North Pacific Hockey League, takes players with less grandiose hockey aspirations, from wanting to move up a level in junior hockey to someday playing college hockey.

"All of our players are looking to get from point A to point B, and you can’t do that without the visibility that we provide," Victory vice president Clay Bonds said.

Vilcauskas says the Victory have speed comparable to a Western Hockey League team such as the Winterhawks, but lack the size and skill of elite junior hockey players.

"We have the fastest team in our league, for sure," Victory coach Dave Petrino said. "We generate a lot of goals. We have some issues with our defensive posture, but we’re working hard to rectify that."

Team roster

The Victory’s 24-man roster includes 16 local players, including Hockinson brothers Avik, Joe and Elijah Bordak, and Petrino’s sons, Jack and Sam. Avik Bordak is the league’s leading scorer with 28 goals this season. Vancouver’s remaining roster is filled out with players from Alaska, California and Illinois.

Players from outside the area usually live with local families called "billets." The visiting player lives with a billet family during the season, from mid-August to March. Players still in high school are enrolled in local schools, often Mountain View. All of the Victory’s out-of-town players this season are high school graduates.

The Victory practices four days a week at Mountain View Ice Arena and usually plays games on weekends. Through 29 games, the Victory is in third place with a record of 14-13-2. The team has 10 remaining home games, including 7 p.m. Saturday (January 7) and 1 p.m. Sunday (January 8) against Seattle.

Tickets for home games are $9 for adults, $6 for children ages 7-18 and free for those under age 7. Nearly 1,000 turned out for the Victory’s season opener in October against Southern Oregon, but the norm is closer to 300-400 spectators, Bonds said.

Hockey is, of course, the centerpiece of a home game, but the Victory provides plenty of promotions and side action. There is a "Kid’s Zone," which include face painting and sign making, and postgame autograph sessions. There is a Victory mascot, and team sponsors often do special events for children.

Said Bond: "We try to put on a production that is similar, if not better, than the Winterhawks."

Nick Daschel

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