Saturday’s CIHL game between the Prince Rupert Rampage and the Terrace River Kings will be pivotal on the ice and in the standings. The Rampage are trying to fend off the Kitimat Ice Demons for third-place in the West division, while Terrace is trying to stake their claim for first. But it’s the pre-game ceremony that fans won’t want to miss.
Members of the Prince Rupert Kings will be taking the (carpeted) ice once the Rampage and River Kings are through with warmups at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 9 at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre before the 7 p.m. start time for the match.
The Kings’ hockey club could arguably be called a dynasty for its time when the team played between 1972 to 1984 and they’ll get a chance once again to bond as a squad when they meet up Saturday night for the 2016 reunion night, planned by organizers Ed Evans, Reggie Huskins and Jules Robinson.
“It’s going to be good. Some of these guys I haven’t seen for 20-25 years. We went through an era where we were very close – a really close-knit team and community … so I’m looking forward to having some of the guys back and it should be a great evening,” said Richard Wright, a forward who played with the Kings for over a decade.
“I got to play with probably some of the best guys that ever played hockey in Rupert. I played on a line with Dave Pickett and Craig Ferguson – both those guys came out of Toronto back when we were recruiting players. And then local guys that played – Dennis Langdale and Gordie Stevens, we were a pretty formidable line – three fairly skilled and rugged guys, so we played a few seasons together.”
The Kings played in the Pacific Northwest Hockey League (PNWHL), a now-defunct association that had some of the best hockey played not only in B.C. but in North America.
Often, semi-pro to professional calibre players suited up in the PNWHL for Rupert, but also for their opponents such as Kitimat, the Quesnel Kangaroos, the Burnaby Lakers and the Prince George Mohawks, all of whom played in the (northern championship tournament) Coy Cup and even the Canadian Championship, the Hardy Cup.
The Kings themselves won the PNWHL title, the Fowler Cup and played in the Coy Cup. The skill level that the Kings consistently played at was phenomenal. The Prince Rupert Kings attracted players from all over the country – from NHL-calibre studs to local, but equally as talented stars – a modern equivalent being the American Hockey League (AHL). Players such as Rick Roemer came from Nova Scotia and Pickett and Ferguson from Toronto.
“In that era we played 40 regular season games, plus pre-season and playoffs and then we practiced twice a week. There was a lot of competition to stay on the team, so if you missed practice, you probably weren’t going to be playing because there was a lot of skilled players,” said Wright.
Joe Ciotoli, another Prince Rupert-based Kings member is also looking forward to the influx of past players that Rupert will experience on Saturday, including a social after the Rampage game.
“It’s going to be neat,” said Ciotoli.
“We’ll see if we can make up for lost time [at the social].”
Ciotoli played with the Kings on a defensive line with Moe Kmyta.
“He would lure them towards me and I would do the hitting. It was pretty good, we were both big guys and I played left [side] and shot left,” Ciotoli added.
While the Kings played in a different era and level of hockey in the 70s and early 80s, the players still see comparisons with the current Rampage squad that take to the ice every few Saturdays to entertain the younger generation of North Coast-ers.
“It’s hard to compare. The kids these days are bigger, faster and stronger. We were fortunate enough to play in an era where there were lots of good hockey players available all across Canada … and it’s the same now. This year’s [Rampage] team especially has some young junior players back and local kids so it’s exciting to support them and enjoy their games,” said Wright.
The reunion ceremony will begin at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre at 6:30 p.m. Saturday night.