With less than two months to the “tentative” start date for the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) season, Richmond Sockeyes’ new head coach is watching Dr. Bonnie Henry’s daily news conferences with a keener eye than most.
Since he took over in May, Bayne Koen – fresh from various coaching roles in Port Moody and Prince George and now full-time with the Delta Hockey Academy – has been seriously limited in what he can do with his roster on the ice.
With pandemic restrictions only allowing him to work in small groups, Koen is hoping the rules get relaxed enough for him to create more realistic game-type scenarios ahead of the first puck dropping Sept. 29.
The league announced last week a 44-game regular season schedule, with each team playing a single interlock game against the opposing conference as well as two games at the 2021 PJHL Winter Classic Showcase, scheduled for Jan 1-3, 2021 at Minoru Arena in Richmond.
“We’ve been skating since mid-June, all small group stuff, very limited. We’re at 18 people max out on the ice right now, two groups,” said Koen, who started his coaching career with the Sockeyes back in the early 2000s as assistant to Ron Johnson.
“I’m hoping in the next couple of weeks things can open up a bit more. I would love to have more open play and work on systems and special plays; but it’s a challenge for everybody.”
Koen noted the Sockeyes are a slight disadvantage at the moment, as Richmond is in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, which has an 18-player limit for the ice, while its Fraser Health region rivals are allowed 30 bodies out there.
“We’re all kind of watching the news to see what’s happening next,” he added.
“It’s a case of guessing what the next step will be and getting ready for it if you can. We have to be able to adapt on the fly at any time.”
Koen said he was more than happy to return to the Sockeyes, a program that he’s very familiar with and a dressing room that he’s realized is “very tight.”
“I can see the care factor is there; that goes a long way. A lot of these young men have grown up together,” said Koen.
“And we will need that, as you can’t take a night off in this league; you go to sleep one night and you pay the price.
“I want bring my experience and knowledge to the guys. I think I’m a players’ coach; if I demand certain things, I’d like to see them from the players.
“I know what the Sockeyes mean to the community and I’m excited about getting back into the program and helping to build the team.
“We’ve got put the right players in the right situations. I’ve been lucky enough to win it four times in this league and that’s something I can fall back on and make sure the players are always prepared.”