The Peninsula News Review will be regularly profiling players on the Peninsula Panthers Junior B hockey team over the 2016/17 season.
Seasons with Panthers: three
Hometown: Victoria, B.C.
This season is Peninsula Panthers’ veteran Josh Poland’s final year of Junior B hockey and he’s starting off with the same team he began his career with back when he was 15 years old.
Poland’s first experience at this level of hockey was with the Panthers back in 2012. He said he had an opportunity to play against the Victoria Cougars — and remembers very clearly scoring his first goal. He scored on a goalie who has since moved on to higher levels of hockey in B.C. but he shrugged that off.
Poland said he’s happy to be back with the Panthers for his final season, calling the club one of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League’s best organizations.
Poland came up in hockey, starting at age five, through the minor hockey program at the Victoria Racquet Club. While he was able to see some Junior B ice time as a younger player, he said he finished his minor hockey career at age 17 and was taken by the Saanich Braves for his first full season in the VIJHL.
With the Braves in 2013/14, Poland played 41 games, scored 11 goals and added six assists. The following season he was traded to the Panthers, playing in 37 games and tallying up the same goals and assists as his rookie season. Poland appeared in 40 games last year, scoring 10 goals and racking up eight assists.
“This year? My goal like anyone else, is to win,” he said. “But you also have to want to have fun and a competitive season.”
This year’s Panthers’ squad has undergone plenty of change. A handful of veteran players have either aged out of the league or have gone on to higher levels of hockey both in Greater Victoria or further afield. That means Poland is part of the team’s old guard, welcoming in a collection of rookies from minor hockey programs.
“We have an exciting team,” he said. “It’s not going to be your average VIJHL team that is loaded with veteran platers, it’s going to be a good mix.”
He added last month’s exhibition games gave the newcomers “an eye-opener” on what to expect at this level.
Overall, he said the players are looking to be competitive, grow as individuals — and win.
Helping them follow that path is new coach Brad Tippett. He’s behind the bench after a brief delay in his transition to the Saanich Peninsula from Regina.
Poland said when they heard about their new coach, the guys were excited about being able to tap into his experience.
“Our last coach was a great guy,” he added, “and now this is a chance for a clean slate, for some players to get a new picture of themselves.”
The Panthers opened their season over the long weekend. They faced the Saanich Braves Fri., Sept. 2 in their home opener — Poland’s former team. (Due to the long weekend, results are not available here.)
For Poland, those games against Saanich are always interesting.
“It’s always circled on my calendar when we play them,” he explained. “There are players there I always like beating.”
Poland is expected to be part of the Panthers’ leadership crew on the ice this season. He said a group of players will likely rotate through as captain or assistant captain.
“Everybody’s going to bring something to the ice.”
The Panthers’ next games are Fri., Sept. 9 at Panorama Rec., hosting the Comox Valley Glacier Kings. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
On Sat., Sept. 10 they are on the road to visit the Kerry Park Islanders.