SHE SHOOTS: Tanya Norman of the Comox Valley Vipers takes a shot on Powell River Kings’ captain Jack Long (in goal) during an exhibition floor hockey game on Sunday, January 19, at Brooks Secondary School. Vipers defeated the Kings 7-6 in a hard-fought contest that helped the Vipers prepare for Special Olympics National Games next month. Vanessa Bjerreskov photo
Powell River Kings played Comox Valley Vipers at Brooks Secondary School on Sunday, January 19, in an exhibition floor hockey game. Vipers defeated the Kings 7-6 in front of a crowd that supported both teams.
“We’ve been hosting these games for about four or five years now,” said Kings’ business manager Nadine Porchetta. “I am friends with [Special Olympics Powell River coordinator] Jackie Milsom, and a few years ago I asked her how the Kings could get involved. She put me in touch with their floor hockey coach Tarra Tipton, and we decided to host the Vipers for a game. Everyone had a great time and found the experience valuable, so we’ve made it an annual event.”
Vipers are preparing to attend Special Olympics National Games in Thunder Bay, Ontario, from February 24 to 28.
“We really find games with groups like the Kings to be good preparation for nationals,” said Vipers head coach Randy James. “We finished second four years ago in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, and we’re looking for a little bit of redemption in 2020. There are 16 teams from across the country competing, and we’re hoping to come home with a gold medal.”
Tanya Norman, Andrew Swindlehurst and Robert Lang from Powell River play with the Vipers, practising in town and then attending a team practice in Comox every second weekend.
“The Powell River players have been with the Vipers for about 16 years now,” said James. “It’s a big commitment, once you factor in the ferries it becomes an eight-hour day for a two-hour practice, but they are integral parts of our team.”
Play was fierce but fun during Sunday’s game, according to participants.
“The Vipers get ramped up for games like this,” said James. “It’s amazing to see their competitiveness increase in games versus practice.”
While floor hockey rules are different from those in ice hockey, the Kings adjust quickly to the differences, according to Porchetta.
“The teams chose to play an extra period, so they were obviously having a good time,” she said. “The players have been looking forward to this game; some returning players had asked why we hadn’t done it yet, and the new players who hadn’t played the Vipers before can’t wait to do it again next year.”
The Vipers felt the same, said James.
“Everybody’s been looking forward to this for several months,” he added. “We’re very grateful to the Kings and all our sponsors for supporting us.”
Porchetta said the Kings are looking forward to seeing the medals when the local Vipers players come home.
“We didn’t go easy on them, and that’s what they want to get them ready for nationals,” said Porchetta.
Vipers leave for the Special Olympics National Games on February 23 and will be in Thunder Bay for one day of practice and four days of competition. For more information, go to specialolympics2020.com/.
Kings return to on-ice action against Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Friday, January 24, at Hap Parker Arena, starting at 7 pm, followed by an afternoon home game against Langley Rivermen on Sunday, January 26, at 1:30 pm.