Wearing a Hartford Whalers jersey from his own playing days, John Garrett (centre) shakes hands with White Rock Whaler Eric Bocale and Richmond Sockeye Matthew Brown after Saturday’s ceremonial puck drop at Centennial Arena. (Contributed photo)

‘Proud moment’ as White Rock Whalers hit the ice

Team owner Ronnie Paterson hopes organization can build on Game 1 excitement

Saturday was a special day for White Rock Whalers owner Ronnie Paterson, who watched – along with a few hundred of his closest friends – as the Pacific Junior Hockey League’s newest franchise hit the ice for its first regular-season game at Centennial Arena.

That the Whalers lost the game, 4-3 to the defending league champion Richmond Sockeyes, was secondary to the celebration itself – a celebration that included hundreds of fans, as well as some well-known dignitaries.

Among those on hand were Hockey Night in Canada play-by-play broadcaster Jim Hughson – a South Surrey resident who served Saturday evening as the pre-game MC – as well as former National Hockey League goaltender and current Canucks broadcaster John Garrett, who lives in Surrey. White Rock resident Mark Donnelly – well known to hockey fans for his rendition of O Canada prior to Canucks’ games – sung the anthem prior to puck drop.

• RELATED: Junior ‘B’ hockey team coming to White Rock

Current Canuck defenceman Troy Stecher – who is part of the Whalers’ ownership group, Paterson told Peace Arch News – was also on hand, as was White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin, and even some Whalers alumni who suited up for the junior ‘B’ team in the mid 1980s when the team played in the West Coast Hockey League, which served as a precursor to the PJHL.

“Opening night was very, very special – I think for us, and for the entire community,” Paterson said.

“We had lots of activity, lots of energy. It was a beyond-capacity crowd, with some live entertainment outside, and I think it all worked out really well.”

Paterson is a former co-owner of the Surrey Eagles of the BC Hockey League and, more recently, was a key figure in the ownership group of the Sockeyes before leaving to get the Whalers off the ground, and as such, has been present for many an opening night.

He admitted that Saturday had something of a different feel, however, because the team was brand new and built from scratch.

“All in all, it was a very special evening. It was a proud moment, I won’t deny that,” he said. “I think a lot of people were really looking forward to it.”

Among the highlights for Paterson, he told PAN, was Garrett – wearing a Hartford Whalers jersey from his own playing days – dropping the ceremonial puck.

“John is a guy I’ve met through the hockey community over the years, and I just reached out to him to see if he wanted to be involved and he said, ‘absolutely,’” Paterson explained. “He’s an original (Hartford) Whaler, so he loved the idea, loved the team name.”

Stecher’s involvement with the new team comes as a result of Paterson’s longtime relationship with his family.

“Troy grew up in Richmond, where I spent a lot of time as well and I’ve known the family for a long time,” he explained.

“Troy is a real student of the game and has always wanted to get involved in the business side of the sport… So when this idea of starting a team in White Rock emerged, I asked him if he wanted to be involved and he embraced the idea. He’s been an integral part of all this, and he’ll get more and more involved as time goes on.”

With an aim to carry Saturday’s momentum forward, Paterson said team brass has plenty of ideas for future home games – everything from “unique” promotions to a battle-of-the-bands night.

“There’s a good foundation here and a lot of excitement. We hope we can sustain it all year long.”

Just Posted

55-year-old man taken to hospital after fire at Surrey RV park

Firefighters find man suffering from smoke inhalation, burns to face and hands: battalion chief

Cloverdale nurse, Langley truck driver awarded for saving a police officer’s life

Angela Feltrin and Earl Hanes thanked by B.C. RCMP’s top cop

South Surrey parking ticket perplexes, frustrates

Theresa Delaney predicts more people will be wrongly ticketed

Coldest Night an event for warm hearts

Sources’ White Rock event one of 130 walkathons across Canada on Feb. 23

MK Delta Lands development another step closer to breaking ground

Delta needs Metro Vancouver’s okay before swapping hundreds of acres and adding it to Burns Bog

B.C. students win Great Waters Challenge video contest

Video, mural and song about saving the salmon claims the top prize

Eight cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver outbreak

Coastal Health official say the cases stem from the French-language Ecole Jules Verne Secondary

Ontario police field complaints over Amber Alert for missing girl, 11, found dead

Some said the Amber Alert issued late Thursday for Riya Rajkumar disrupted their sleep

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell accused of sexual touching

Accuser went to police, interviewed by Britian’s Daily Telegraph

B.C. couple attacked with acid, slashed with knife in Vietnam

Warning, graphic images: Man has burns on 80 per cent of his body, slashed with knife

Northern B.C. First Nation clan says ancient tools found at pipeline work site

Archeologists from the Smithsonian Institute estimate one of the stones found dates back up to 3500 years

Wilson-Raybould resignation stokes anger, frustration within veterans community

Liberals have had three veterans-affairs ministers — Kent Hehr, Seamus O’Regan and Wilson-Raybould

No Center of Gravity festival in Kelowna this summer: organizers

COG organizers said the hope is to return to the Okanagan in 2020

Most Read