Island coaches make the cut

Minor hockey players select the team that will face off against Montreal Canadiens alumni

Chris Nilan will be  among the former NHLers to play Victoria coaches on Friday night.

Chris Nilan will be among the former NHLers to play Victoria coaches on Friday night.

A group of Oak Bay hockey players recently found themselves on the other side of the bench.

Three Oak Bay youngsters were among the handful of minor hockey players to select the group of local coaches who will suit up against the Montreal Canadiens alumni this week.

“It was pretty cool. We could see how they evaluate us when we’re trying out,” said Oak Bay’s Zach Charlesworth.

The 12-year-old was joined by fellow Oak Bay players Nic Beatty and Tyson Skinner on the group that selected the team of South Island coaches who will face off against the Canadiens alumni March 27 at the Archie Browning Arena in Esquimalt.

“Based on the tryouts and based on their enthusiasm, they are excited for the opportunity. I don’t think the nerves have set in for them, said Victoria Minor Hockey Association president Chris Atchison.

“I do know that some of the people who aren’t on that list are very disappointed that they’re not going to get the opportunity, but they recognize it’s all for charity and all for fun, but they’re disappointed.”

The proceeds from the game will be directed to the B.C Cancer Foundation, something Atchison said is the association’s way of recognizing the contributions of a coach and parent who died of cancer last year.

“We dedicated this entire season to Darin Alexander, who was just a wonderful asset to our association for a number of years,” said Atchison.

The Canadiens alumni squad will include former greats such as Steve Shutt, Setphane Richer and Gilbert Delorme.

With so many coaches keen for the chance to hit the ice with former NHLers, Atchison said he was pleased with how seriously the minor hockey players took the selection process.

“So often, there’s so much pressure put on these kids to make teams, we thought let’s put some pressure on these coaches to be evaluated by the kids to make a team,” he said.

“They went through many of the same debates, they went through many of the same conversations that I’ve seen many coaches and administrators go through when they are trying to determine who is going to make up a team.”

Charlesworth said the nine youths selecting the team rated the coaches out of five on skills such as skating, passing and shooting.

“We were definitely looking at skating,” said the centre with the Peewee A Victoria Ice Hawks. “Playing the Montreal Canadiens, they will have to skate to keep up with them.”

Those wanting to see if the coaches can keep up can purchase their tickets online at Victoria Minor Hockey’s website Tickets costs $20 and are also on sale at The Esquimalt Recreation Centre and Kirby’s Source for Sports.