The 2021-22 hockey season was, for the Princeton Posse, defined by COVID, flooding, and unprecedented injuries.
General Manager Mark McNaughton told the Spotlight he shared this message with his team: “I hope you guys don’t ever have to go through anything like this again.”
The Posse finished the regular season in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League with a 15 win, 24 loss and three overtime loss record.
The team took fourth place in the newly-renamed Bill Ohlhausen Division, squeezing out the North Okanagan Knights for a playoff berth, and was eliminated in a five game series by the Kelowna Chiefs.
But that’s not the whole story.
McNaughton said COVID played havoc with the squad, first because it made it difficult to secure billet families and then because of the toll the virus took on players and staff.
“Half the team and staff were affected by it. Not only were we affected by it, but that led to some COVID delays. Also our players that we would normally call up were affected by it.”
On at least one occasion a game had to postponed as the Posse could not field a roster.
And then there was Nov. 14, when flood waters ravaged Princeton and again interrupted the season.
McNaughton said he was inspired by the way team members stepped up to volunteer and assist flood victims.
“By some miracle this year we had no billets in the flood zone and that was a blessing for our organization for sure. We had the team out that first evening until about 2 a.m. as it was happening…They put in their hours and were back at it first thing in the morning.”
Players moved mud, helped with initial clean up, and assisted the Baptist Church as it organized the emergency response of food, furniture and necessities.
“Myself and the board were really proud to see them step up in that way, for their home away from home. Really right up until they left two weeks ago there were still players who were helping move appliances and doing drywall runs to the hardware store. They really took it on all year long. They’ve done their best for the organization and we know they went above and beyond.”
McNaughton noted that Posse rivals also came forward with aid. Teams from Kelowna, 100 Mile House and Revelstoke were among those that made contributions and donations to the Town of Princeton.
“I think any time people that you compete with on a regular basis are willing to step up and help you out it’s always a fantastic feeling. It’s bigger than just beating each other up on the ice and I think it’s something that our league did a really fantastic job of.”
McNaughton audibly sighed when asked about how injuries impacted the season.
“Injuries are something you expect with athletes and you expect them especially in the game of hockey, but that hit a new level.”
The Posse’s starting goalie was out for 10 weeks, suffering from a broken wrist that occurred when a practice shot went through his glove.
“We had two broken wrists, a broken hand, broken ribs, a broken collar bone and these aren’t two week injuries. There’s a fracture here and a sprained ankle there and a couple of guys got concussions and they just struggled to get back.”
The general manager said staff is already starting on scouting and recruitment for this fall, and he’s hoping for a better year.
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