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News / Sports / Clark County Sports

New junior hockey team opens first season in Vancouver

By Paul Danzer, Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter
Published: September 16, 2015, 10:54pm

They’ve come from Europe and Canada and the East Coast looking to bolster their hockey careers. In the process, members of the Vancouver Rangers hope to establish a connection with Clark County.

The Rangers are the latest junior hockey team for players ages 16-20 to call Mountain View Ice Arena home. They play their first Western States Hockey League games at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday against the visiting Tahoe Icemen.

Backed by owners with experience in the National Hockey League, one of the team’s challenges is to win support from a hockey community that saw recent Northern Pacific Hockey League teams struggle to compete — and last season fold early in the schedule.

The Western States Hockey League is different from the Northern Pacific Hockey League in several significant ways. The WSHL is affiliated with the Amateur Athletic Union, not USA Hockey. Unlike most junior hockey leagues, this one allows teams to roster an unlimited number of 20-year-old players.

The Vancouver team is owned by Greg and Spencer Jamison. Greg Jamison is a former president of the National Hockey League’s San Jose Sharks. Spencer, his son, worked in a variety of jobs for the Sharks. Spencer Jamison is the president of the Vancouver Rangers. The Jamisons also own the Tahoe team that the Rangers face on Friday and Saturday.

The coach and general manager is Dave Daniello from Rockland, Maine. He has coached youth hockey for about 15 years and worked as an advisor to youth players looking for teams. This is his first junior hockey head coaching job. Currently without a paid assistant coach, he also must run the club’s day-to-day business.

“Everything is going well,” he said, noting that he has a variety of details on his plate. “The stuff on the ice will take care of itself.”

The players recruited by Daniello and former assistant coach Chad Olson — who parted ways with the club prior to the start of training camp four weeks ago — come from around the globe. The 28-player roster includes eight from Europe, one from Australia and five Canadians. Among the Americans are players from Maine, Boston, New York, Texas, Wisconsin and Colorado. Two of the Rangers are from Portland: forward Paul Frys and defenseman Chris Alberts.

To play for the Rangers, players pay $8,000 apiece for the season. They are here hoping to move beyond junior hockey.

Defenseman Simon Uppman from Sweden and forward Joel Lehtonen from Finland knew several of their current teammates from previous teams and see this as an opportunity to continue playing the sport they love in a competitive league.

Defensman Mathieu Gerber, 20, is too old to play junior hockey in his native Switzerland. “This is a great opportunity for me. I want to play in college,” he said.

In a twist, goalie Aaron Daniello will be playing for his father in his final season of junior hockey, after spending the past four seasons away from the family’s Maine home. Aaron Daniello, in fact, was recruited to play for Vancouver before his father was hired to coach the team.

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Though they are new to the WSHL and to Vancouver, both Deniellos expressed optimism and excitement about the chance to build a team from the ground up.

Dave Daniello said he is optimistic that his team has the speed and skill to compete with most of the teams in the Northwest Division of the WSHL.

“I wouldn’t say we’re the most physical team, but we’ve got a lot of players with good skill, speed and with good hands,” said Kyle Stevens, a forward from Boston.

Vancouver Rangers at a glance
Who: A new team in the Western States Hockey League, a 29-team league for players 20 and younger.
Schedule: The team plays 25 home games in a season that runs into early March.
Home opener: 7:30 p.m. Friday vs. The Tahoe Icemen.
Where: Mountain View Ice Arena, 14313 S.E. Mill Plain in Vancouver.
Tickets: $10 for adults, $7 for students. Season tickets are $200, $150 for students.
On the Web: www.vancouverrangers.com.

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Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter