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Kings making plans to play in Vernon this Friday

Highway closures, travel bans force BCHL to consider more game postponments

The B.C. Hockey League is in scramble mode, trying to deal with its latest crisis, which has disrupted the league schedules.

For the second straight weekend, the Prince George Spruce Kings might not be playing their scheduled games due to highway closures and bans in place on non-essential travel as a result of last week’s destructive rainstorm that swamped southwestern B.C.

The Spruce Kings were supposed to be hosting the Chilliwack Chiefs on Friday and the Nanaimo Clippers on Saturday, both at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena, but due to the unlikelihood either of those teams can travel, those games will likely be postponed and rescheduled for a later date.

If those postponement become official, pending league approval expected by Tuesday, the Kings and Vernon Vipers have agreed to play each other Friday in Vernon to make up for the postponements. The Vipers were due to host the Powell River Kings on Friday, which probably won’t happen due to the logistics of Powell River getting from the Sunshine Coast to the Okanagan.

The Kings-Vipers game was originally scheduled for March 2.

The Spruce Kings (9-6-0-0-0) rank fifth in the Interior Conference, while Vernon (4-6-3-2-0) is seventh in the conference.

“We know we can get to any of the teams in our division, and (the Vipers) had an open night on Friday so the game originally scheduled for March 2nd in Vernon will now be played this Friday, alternatively, so we at least have one game,” said Spruce Kings general manager Mike Hawes.

“All the players, fans, staff involved in the BCHL have been used to dealing with some adversity over the last couple years so it’s at a point now where you kind of roll with the punches and do the best you can with the situation and the circumstances and that’s what we’re going to do again.”

Last week the BCHL announced it was postponing eight games, including the Spruce Kings’ scheduled visits to Surrey last Friday and Merritt on Saturday. Two other games were added. Surrey played at Coquitlam on Friday, while on Saturday, Cranbrook played in Trail.

“I’m hoping the weather turns and they’re able to get a highway open and then we’ll be able to have very few games impacted and only have to reschedule four postponed games,” said Hawes.

The big question is what will happen with the Merritt Centennials, who were forced out of their homes Monday when the entire city of 7,000 was evacuated due to flooding.

“They’re in a very tough situation, obviously, with the community suffering and our heart goes out to them,” said Hawes. “They had the forest fires in the summer and now they’ve got the floods in the fall and I’m sure it’s extremely hard on everybody, I’m sure.”

Hawes said the time off has been helpful for his injured players. Right winger Linden Makow, who suffered a broken collarbone during the opening game of the season Oct. 8 in Merritt, is close to returning to action. Centre Ty Gagno, who suffered a concussion Nov. 12 in the Kings 3-2 loss to Vernon at Rolling Mix, is also available this weekend after missing one game. Defenceman Josh Wright has also recovered from a concussion he sustained in the Kings’ most recent game Nov. 13 against Coquitlam.