It’s been more than 1,460 days since the Prince Albert Raiders loaded up the bus to take on the Western Hockey League’s BC Division, and there is excitement on the Raider roster for this first BC road since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The trip will provide several players on the Raider roster a chance to play in front of family and friends for the first time in their WHL careers.
Niall Crocker was drafted by Prince Albert in the first round of the WHL Prospects draft in 2019.
He says he is looking forward to getting to play in BC especially because the 2020-2021 season was held during the peak of the pandemic.
“I haven’t been out west yet with the bubble season. Last year, we never got the opportunity to go out. I’m obviously stoked. I got a lot of family in Vancouver, and I know a lot of my family will be coming to the Okanagan as well. So, I’m just really fun to play in front of them.”
Crocker is from Delta, BC located approximately 40 kilometers away from the Langley Events Centre, home of the Vancouver Giants.
He says he is looking forward to showcasing his talents in front of family and friends where he spent so much time watching games as a kid.
“My parents try to come out here as much as possible, but, this year has been busy for them. Growing up as a kid, I would always go to Giants games and it was always cool. I think it’ll be really cool to be playing in Langley Event Center. I haven’t been there yet. A lot of my uncles and aunts haven’t seen me play in the Western Hockey League, so yeah, I’m just excited for that.”
Crocker will not be the only Delta product returning home. Raider defenceman Easton Kovacs is also looking forward to playing in front of friends and family.
“I’m really excited to see lots of family up in the stands and playing some of those rinks that I was familiar with as a child,” he says. “It’ll be really fun.”
The trip will provide the Raiders an opportunity to gel as a team with so many hours spent on the bus and in hotel rooms.
Kovacs says he thinks it will be a great experience for the Raider roster.
“I know it’s going to be awesome. Lots of lots of time on the bus, and lots of time in hotel rooms along with the guys. So, I think I think it’ll be a great experience for all of us. We get to see some places and some guys haven’t and stuff. But yeah, no, for sure it’ll be, it’ll be a great experience for all of us.”
The Raiders will play all five games in the span of seven days with the first game being in Prince George on Jan. 28. They close out the trip on Feb. 4 in Kelowna.
“It’s obviously going to be physically tiring as well as mentally tiring,” Crocker says. “We’ve been on those on those bus rides to Brandon and Winnipeg. I know it’s a little bit longer, but it’s still kind of the same message. You got to go get your recoveries in and got to eat well, you got to drink well, you’ve got to get your sleep on the bus. Our younger guys are doing really well this year with that, so it shouldn’t be too hard for them. But it’s even new for me. I’ve talked to our older guys and I can take advice from them. It’s all new for us. But it should be good.”
The last time Prince Albert showcased their talents across British Columbia, it was January of 2019, and the Raiders were in the middle of their championship season. Prince Albert finished the five game road trip with a record of 3-1-1, with victories over Prince George, Kamloops and Victoria. The lone regulation loss on the trip came against the Vancouver Giants who the Raiders would match up with in that year’s WHL Final.
The road trip begins on Saturday in Prince George as the Raiders take on the Cougars. Puck drops at 8pm Saskatchewan time.