The Kelowna Rockets are about to drop the puck on their 2019-20 season on Saturday night against the Spokane Chiefs.
This is going to be one of the most important seasons in the franchise’s long history, because it will see them play host to the Memorial Cup.
Global Okanagan will follow along with your favourite franchise every step of the way on the March to the Mem Cup next May.
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Global Okanagan will have all the game highlights, home or away, and each week we’ll bring you up-to-date with the Rocket Report, which will feature player profiles, game previews and everything Rockets-related.
In 2004, Kelowna hosted the Memorial Cup, winning the four-team tournament after defeating Gatineau 2-1 in the championship game.
However, the trouble with doing something once is that people always expect you can and will do it again.
But repeating the magic of 2004 is going to be tough for Kelowna, and it’s hard to predict exactly how well the team will do.
One thing for sure: You don’t need a barometer to know the pressure to perform is high.
“We’ll get into 20 games here right now, and we will know what we need to add and delete,” said Rockets president and GM Bruce Hamilton.
“But were excited and optimistic where we are at right now.”
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The big question on many fans’ minds this year is who will be the No. 1 goalie?
Roman Basran could see another term as the Mayor of Prospera Place, but Foote is being careful not to over-pressure his goalie.
“I don’t know if we have to put a lot of emphasis on that right now,,” Foote said of Basran being the No. 1 goalie of a Memorial Cup host team.
“We just want to let him to go out and play and not be stressed out about things.”
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Last season, the Rockets were the third worst team in terms of goals scored.
This season, they’ll look to a former Seattle Thunderbird and second-round San Jose draft pick to rediscover his scoring touch.
Dillon Hamaliuk is entering his fourth WHL season. Last season, in just 31 games, he had 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points.
The 6-foot-3 winger missed the last half of the season with an undisclosed lower-body injury.
In 2017-18, he had 15 goals and 24 assists for 39 points in 72 games.
“I’m sure I can yeah I know I haven’t played in a while but I had that touch when I was in Seattle and I think I can bring that here,” said Hamaliuk, who recently attended San Jose’s training camp.
Prior to the Rockets’ home opener, the team will kick off the season by hosting a tailgate party across the street at the Rotary Arts Centre, where there will be a beer garden, food trucks and live music. Fans can also relive the 2004 Memorial Cup championship game on a big screen TV.