Kelowna Rockets welcome East Division teams for the first time since 2018

Back to normal WHL sked

It's a signal from the Western Hockey League that things are starting to return to normal.

After two seasons in which teams played either within their own division or conference due to COVID restrictions and a need to cut down travel costs, the league will return to a traditional 68-game schedule for the 2022-2023 season.

For the Kelowna Rockets, that means visits by the six Eastern Division teams, presumably their traditional prairie road trip, and fewer meetings with division rivals.

The Rockets 34-game home schedule was released this week. Included are 18 games against division rivals and 16 against opponents from the eastern and US divisions.

As for their division, the Rockets will host the Kamloops Blazers and Vancouver Giants five times each and the Prince George Cougars and Victoria Royals four times.

And gone, at least this coming season, is the back-to-back home dates with the Portland Winterhawks that became the norm over the past several seasons.

A majority of games will be played over the weekend, with 24 of the 34 games slated for weekends or holidays, including a rare Sunday date in January. The remaining games will be played on Tuesday (four) and Wednesday (six).

Former first round draft pick Trevor Wong will make his return to Prospera Place when the Saskatoon Blades come to town Feb. 11.

The league champion Edmonton Oil Kings do not visit Kelowna this coming season.

The Rockets will open the home portion of their schedule Saturday, Sept. 24 against the Winterhawks, and close out the season Saturday, March 25 against Vancouver.

Kelowna Rocket forward Pavel Novak will begin cancer treatments next week

Rocket battling cancer

Kelowna Rockets forward Pavel Novak has a new fight on his hands, and it has nothing to do with hockey.

The 20-year old Minnesota Wild prospect announced earlier today he is stepping away from the game for the time being to focus on his health.

In a statement released by both the Wild and Rockets, Novak said his current health condition does not allow him to prepare for next season.

"I was diagnosed with an oncological disease a few days ago and will soon begin treatment," he said.

"The coming months will not be easy for me, but I firmly believe that everything will turn out well, and soon I will fly again on the ice with joy and passion."

Novak played two full seasons with the Rockets, and signed recently with the Wild who selected him in the fifth round of the 2020 NHL draft.

Rockets president and GM Bruce Hamilton says Novak is a special person who would more than likely have worn the C if he had returned for his overage season.

"I'll never forget when he moved here, he wanted to go into a home where English was spoken... he didn't want to move in with another European player," said Hamilton.

"He was all about adjusting to North American life because his goal was to play in the National Hockey League.

"He's just a special, special person, and that's not based on what has come out today."

Hamilton says the success rate of the treatment Novak will undergo has been very good, and Novak is very optimistic.

"Our prayers and thoughts are with him that it is going to work out.

"He's a very upbeat guy no matter what, and I think he'll go through the next few days of concerns..and begin treatments on Wednesday."

Kelowna Rockets kick off pre season schedule in Kamloops

Rockets return Sept. 9

While we wait for summer to finally arrive in the Okanagan, you'll be happy to know the Kelowna Rockets will hit the ice in less than three months.

The Rockets will begin training camp in late August or early September before kicking off their five game pre-season schedule Sept. 9.

The exhibition schedule will include three games at Prospera Place.

They'll kick off the pre season schedule Friday night, Sept. 9 in Kamloops, before hosting the same Blazers at Prospera Place the next night.

The Rockets will host Victoria Tuesday, Sept. 13 and Vancouver Friday the 16th, then close out the exhibition schedule against the Giants Sept. 17 at Cam Neely Arena in Maple Ridge.

The Western Hockey League regular season opens up Friday, Sept. 23.

The league will announce each team's home opener next Monday. The full schedule is expected to be released in early July.

Three members of the Kelowna Rockets have been invited to various Hockey Canada camps

3 Rockets going camping

The Kelowna Rockets will be well represented at pair of high-profile Hockey Canada camps this summer.

Centre Colton Dach is one of 44 players invited to the national junior team summer camp, while forward Andrew Cristall and defenceman Caden Price will take part in the national men's summer under-18 selection camp.

Forty-four players have also been invited to that camp.

Both will take place next month in Calgary.

Dach will be looking to impress coaches and management as part of the first step in the process to select Canada's team for the 2023 World Junior championships.

Cristall and Price will be vying for spots on the team that will compete in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup later this summer in Red Deer.

Rockets head coach Kris Mallette will serve as an assistant coach for that event.

Dach led the Rockets in scoring during his first season in Kelowna with 29 goals and 79 points after being acquired from Saskatoon in a deal for Trevor Wong.

Cristall, the Rockets and BC Division rookie of the year, posted 69 points in 61 games while Price, also in his rookie year, had two goals and 19 assists over 47 games while finishing a plus 24.

The Hlinka Gretzky squad will be named July 24 following a four day camp.

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