The Prince George Cougars start a shortened 24-game season this weekend in Kamloops.

The Prince George Spruce Kings begin a mini-20 game season a week from Saturday on April 3rd in Chilliwack.

The Vancouver Canucks have just 19 left on their abbreviated 56-game season.

What does all this mean?

That is a matter of interpretation.

Let’s start with the Cougars.

The coaching staff and players are competitive by nature just like all junior and pro teams.

Sure, who wouldn’t want to go 24-0?

Will they? Of course, not.

They also are not going to go 0-24.

Does it really matter what the final record is?

They are not playing any games in front of PG fans, they are not on a television network and there is no Memorial Cup or even inter-divisional playoffs at the end of the line.

With this in mind, skill development, in particular with younger players, should be the top priority.

10 of 26 Cougars in the Kamloops bubble are rookies.

Even if the 2020-21 WHL season was “normal” the Cougars are not yet built for a championship.

With many highly touted top bantam picks on the verge of being the core of the team, the Cougars, on paper, should be competitive in 2021-22 and ready to make a significant leap in the standings in 22-23.

While veterans like Taylor Gauthier, captain Jack Sander, and alternate captain Connor Bowie don’t have much time left in major junior and want to win now, there has to be a fine balance so that ice time in key situations, like the power play and a tie game in the 3rd period, is distributed accordingly.

If the Cougars go 14-8-2, they will feel better once they leave the bubble in May rather than ending up 8-14-2.

Of course, the object is to win but because of the unique situation not necessarily at all costs.

Now for the Spruce Kings, in some ways, their situation will feel more like an “exhibition”.

They only get 10 games each against the Chilliwack Chiefs and Merritt Centennials with no playoffs to follow.

This reminds me of the old Peace Cariboo days when the Spruce Kings season for geographical reasons was loaded up against Quesnel and Williams Lake.

The Cougars are at least getting two more opponents (Kamloops, Kelowna, Vancouver, and Victoria) and if things go well can brag about having success in their division.

Chilliwack comes from the Coastal Division and Merritt from the Interior and there is a very little rivalry that has been built up.

Oddly, the Spruce Kings are still the last team to win the Fred Page Cup BCHL title (2019) even though they were eliminated in the playoffs in the first round last year.

They need to look at the 20 games as an assessment of talent and who their future key players will be this fall and the following one.

As for the (16-18-3) Canucks, they are not a Stanley Cup contender.

In fact, they would be nowhere close to a playoff spot (sitting 2 points behind Montreal for the last North Division berth although the (14-8-9) Habs have a whopping six games in hand) without the sensational play of Thatcher Demko.

The Canucks need depth scoring and help on the back end before they can even be considered as an elite team.

However, Demko’s performance in the net gives the team hope even though he struggled a bit this week against the Winnipeg Jets.

It appears Vancouver has found its starter for years to come.

The 25-year-old Demko has been better than the guy he replaced, remember Jakob Markstrom?

The Cougars, Spruce Kings, and Canucks want to win every game but they don’t “need” to win so taking advantage of the peculiar circumstances should be at the top of the list.

The pressure and day-to-day grind of a full complete season hopefully will resume this fall.

Beating COVID-19 is the only victory that is now required.

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The voice of the PG Cougars, Fraser Rogers, will call his first game in over a year on Saturday. In this week’s Cat Scan podcast I talk with Fraser about the many aspects of the team (on and off the ice) and life in the “bubble”.


FROM THE QUOTE RACK:

The NHL has fired referee Tim Peel after he was caught on a hot mic admitting to calling a bogus penalty during a game this week. I guess we can say that Peel slipped up.

*Contributor Marc Ragovin

NHL fired referee Tim Peel for being captured on a hot mic saying he wanted to get a “bleeping” penalty against Nashville early, apparently as a make-up call. So was Peel fired for wrongdoing?  Or because the league can’t tolerate anyone saying the quiet part out loud?

*Comedy writer Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California www.leftcoastsportsbabe.com

As a result of a miserable showing in the NCAA Tournament so far, they should rename the Big Ten the Big Tenpins.

*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California

Gov. Greg Abbott has lifted all COVID-19 restrictions in the Lone Star State, meaning the Texas Rangers’ home opener might be a sellout. The rules there are now so lenient that even catcher’s masks aren’t mandatory.

*Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times http://www.seattletimes.com/author/dwight-perry/

Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who came close to being Pope, was a talented 17-year-old hockey player when an injury led him to the priesthood. Word is he’s wicked on the power pray.

*Canadian comedy writer RJ Currie www.Sportsdeke.com

IN CASE, YOU MISSED IT

Were the Vancouver Canucks robbed in their 5-1 loss to Winnipeg on Wednesday? After all, Andrew Copp scored four goals.

Hartley Miller is the news and sports supervisor and morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT and Country 97.
He also is the 94.3 the Goat radio colour commentator for P.G. Cougars home games.
His column appears Fridays on myprincegeorgenow.com.
Send along a quote, note, or anecdote to hmiller@thegoatrocks.ca