Vancouver hockey team prepares for season

Training camp opens at Mountain View Ice Arena on Friday

By Paul Danzer, Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter



After an offseason of change, Vancouver’s junior hockey team begins to build a roster for the 2011-12 season with a three-day training camp that begins Friday at Mountain View Ice Arena.

Renamed the Vancouver Victory, the Northern Pacific Hockey League franchise expects 37 players ages 15-20 to participate in the training camp.

In addition to off-ice training and on-ice practices, the training camp includes scrimmage games open to the public at 6:30-7:45 p.m. Friday, 8-9:15 a.m. Saturday and 12:30-2 p.m. Sunday.

The training camp comes at the end of a summer of turmoil for the team, including disputes about the ownership of the franchise.

The Northern Pacific Hockey League is a Tier III Junior League under USA Hockey. Its players are ages 15-20, and pay to play in the league. Most of the Victory players will come from western North America. The regular season starts in late September.

Northern Pacific Hockey League commissioner and president Gord Whitaker confirmed on Thursday that Andy Vilcauskas has been approved by the league’s board of directors as the new majority owner of the team formerly known as the River City Jaguars. John McBride, a founding member of the NORPAC league, will continue as a minority owner and consultant for the franchise.

“We’ve put a lot of sweat, time, money and effort into this,” Vilcauskas said. “We’ve got a lot of momentum going into this camp,” Vilcauskas said.

Control of the franchise has been in dispute since a proposed partnership between Vilcauskas and John Cosgrave fell apart. Earlier this summer, the Victory announced a staff that included different coaches and a different general manager than those currently running the team.

Cosgrave said that his lawyer, David Aman, has on his behalf filed a lawsuit against Vilcauskas and McBride. Cosgrave declined to discuss details of the lawsuit or circumstances surrounding the ownership dispute.

Vilcauskas said the legal dispute will not impact the operation of the Victory, or his commitment to the franchise.

Vilcauskas, who lives in Vancouver, is an inventor and entrepreneur and a partner in several businesses with Bryan Hunter. Hunter owns the Vancouver Volcanoes International Basketball League franchise.

“Everything is good to go,” said Whitaker, the NORPAC commissioner, noting that the team has its coaching staff and management team in place.

The head coach is John Nogatch, a Seattle native who played four years of college hockey. Assistant coach Anthony Libonati played youth hockey in the Portland Junior Hawks organization. He played junior hockey in the NORPAC and two other leagues.

Robin Reese, a veteran youth hockey coach whose son Jason played five seasons in the Western Hockey League, is the Victory general manager and player development director. Clay Bonds is the club’s vice president.

The changes in Vancouver aren’t the only ones in the NORPAC since last season. Several franchises left the league to form a new league, while the NORPAC reorganized into an eight-team league with teams in Washington, Oregon, Montana and Wyoming.

The NORPAC is one of 14 junior leagues for ages 15-20 sanctioned by USA hockey, and one of the 12 at the third tier.

Vilcauskas said he declined an opportunity to own a franchise in Vancouver when the NORPAC formed in the year 2000. He said he came up with the Victory nickname at that time.