Are you ready for some football?
It’s coming soon to Masich Place Stadium.
The Prince George Kodiaks host their inaugural spring camp May 27-29 and the field is about to become a hub of activity, with more than 100 players expected for the Friday and Saturday (May 25-28) sessions. The players will go through drills and conditioning activities for the first two days, then will separate into two teams for a Sunday (May 29) afternoon scrimmage that starts at 1 p.m.
The Kodiaks are the 19th franchise in the Canadian Junior Football League and they are joining the B.C. Junior Football Conference this season as an expansion franchise to form a seven-team league that starts with three games on Saturday, July 23.
Led by head coach and director of football operations Keon Raymond, a two-time Grey Cup champion defensive back with the Calgary Stampeders, the Kodiaks open on the road in Chilliwack against the Valley Huskers.
The push to bring junior football to Prince George has been gathering momentum for 3 ½ years. Ever since the league awarded the franchise in March 2021, the committee in charge of running the community-owned not-for-profit team has been working non-stop to get the necessary financing in place to get the Kodiaks off and running.
The team launched its Kodiaks Kickoff 50-50 draw a few weeks ago, which has a guaranteed minimum payoff of $100,000. If ticket sales max out, the winner will receive a cool $1 million. The draw will be made at the Kodiaks home-opener on Saturday, Aug. 6 at Masich Place Stadium.
The team’s second annual golf tournament, May 26 at Prince George Golf and Curling Club, is sold out.
The Kodiaks have purchased 100 sets of equipment and jerseys for the players at a cost of more than $250,000, which will be covered by fundraising and local sponsorships. Each player is required to pay a $1,000 registration fee, which helps over team costs. An assistance program will be place for players facing financial hardships who are unable to pay the team fee.
A general scholarship fund will help Kodiaks players cover the cost of post-secondary tuition. Briere said a fundraising effort to collect money for scholarships is planned for the Sept. 23-24 homecoming weekend. Kodiaks president Craig Briere said 50-60 per cent of the players are enrolled or are considering post-secondary programs this fall.
“Football’s a vehicle for education, to develop young men, and that’s what we’re all about,” said Briere.
The age of eligibility for junior football in Canada is 17-22. Players at the young end of the age spectrum must be graduating high school this year or have already graduated to be eligible to play in the 2022 season. Between 80 and 100 players will be on the Kodiaks roster and 40-50 of the players will be local products who played high school football in the five-team Northern Football Conference.
“We’ve got some players who have transferred from other CJFL teams such as the Winnipeg Rifles,” said Briere, head coach of the Duchess Park Condors high school team. “We’ve recruited from across Canada and we’ve got players from Winnipeg, we’ve got six Grade 12 players coming from Yorkton, Saskatchewan and kids coming from Alberta and British Columbia. In order to make a competitive team we’ve had to look all over Western Canada as we continue to work to develop our local talent.”
Housing for the out-of-town players is still being arranged. Some will be attending post-secondary programs at UNBC and the College of New Caledonia and will try to line up rooms in dormitories or rental housing. Some will live in billet homes.
“We’re looking at every housing option possible,” said Briere. “Prince George is a great community and when there’s a need people step up. We’re welcoming these young men to our community and we want them to play here, love Prince George and stay here. These are gong to be fine young men and we want them to stay.”
Players will report to training camp on July 10, with the first regular-season game set for July 23 in Chilliwack.
Masich Place Stadium has a grandstand seating capacity of 1,100 and Briere said the team anticipates all seats in the grandstand will eventually be sold out. The team will set up a VIP tent in one of the end zones and is looking at setting up a family section/standing room section close to the other end zone. Briere has asked the city about the availability of portable bleachers for the visiting team’s sideline to get more people into the stadium.
Season tickets are now on sale at $85 each.
Single-game tickets will cost $25, with some tickets priced as low as $10. If the additional bleachers are installed there will be family ticket packs for four people priced at $150 each.
“We want to make sure that everybody who wants to come and see a Kodiaks game is able to come,” said Briere.
Briere is still working out a liquor policy with city administration that would allow beer sales in all sections except the family zone. Briere expects there will be a high level of fan interest in the games and the pre-game activities.
“All of our games are Saturday at 7 p.m.,” said Briere. “The gates open at 4 and tailgating starts at 5. The parking lot along PGSS fields will be the tailgating parking lot.”
Kodiaks will play 10--game schedule
In their inaugural season the Kodiaks will play all but two of the seven BCJFC teams, starting with their first game July 23 in Chilliwack. The 10-game season includes five home games and five on the road. After their home-opener against the Kamloops Broncos on Aug. 6, the Kodiaks will travel to Chilliwack for a rematch with the Huskers Aug. 13 and will host Valley on Aug. 20. Prince George then visits the Okanagan Sun Aug. 27 in Kelowna.
After a Labour Day weekend bye, the Kodiaks are back on the field at Masich Stadium Sept. 10 to face the defending Canadian Bowl national-champion Langley Rams, then will take on Kamloops in a home-and-home set on consecutive weekends Sept. 17 in Kamloops and Sept. 24 in Prince George. The Kodiaks head back on the road Oct. 1 to play in Langley and will wrap up the regular season Oct. 5 in Prince George against Okanagan.
The top four teams in the BCJFC make the playoffs. The No. 1 and No. 2 seeded teams host semifinals Oct. 15 and the winners meet for the Cullen Cup Oct. 22, played at the home of highest remaining seed. The Cullen Cup champions will then head east to play the Ontario Football Conference champion Oct. 29 in the national semifinal. The Prairie Junior Football Conference champions receive a bye to the national final and will host the Canadian Bowl Nov. 12 against the Ontario-B.C. winner.
The Langley Rams defeated the London Beefeaters for the 2021 Canadian Bowl title in London, Ont., Dec. 4.