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Junior hockey: Season-opening weekend for WHL, BCHL, KIJHL

The Kelowna Rockets will open their WHL 2022-23 season at home on Saturday, as they host the Portland Winterhawks. Steve Dunsmoor / Kelowna Rockets

Looking for something to do this weekend? If watching live sports is in your wheelhouse, taking in a junior hockey game is one option.

The Western Hockey League, B.C. Hockey League and Kootenay International Junior Hockey League will all be hosting their season-opening games this Friday and Saturday.

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WESTERN HOCKEY LEAGUE

The Kelowna Rockets will start their 2022-23 season on Saturday, when they host the Portland Winterhawks at Prospera Place.

That game will be Kelowna’s lone contest of the weekend, as their next games aren’t until Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, when they travel to Prince George for a doubleheader against the Cougars.

For Portland, Saturday’s game will be their second in two nights, as they open on the road in Kamloops against the Blazers, who will host the 2023 Memorial Cup next spring.

During pre-season play, Kelowna went 3-1-1, while Kamloops went 1-4. Portland was 0-3-2-0.

However, before reading the tea leaves, pre-season records in junior hockey are sometimes meaningless, as teams can be heavily impacted by how many players are away attending NHL training camps.

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Saturday’s game will also be the third time that Kelowna has hosted Portland in its season opener. The last time was 20 years ago, though, on Sept. 20, 2002, with the Winterhawks winning 3-2.

In that game, former Rocket defenceman Richie Regehr earned an assist on the game-winning goal, at 14:34 of the second period, as Portland rallied from a 2-1 deficit to defeat Kelowna.

That season, with Duncan Keith and Shea Weber on defence, Kelowna went on to have a fantastic season, as the Rockets posted a record of 51-14-1-0 and 109 points en route to winning its first WHL championship.

Looking ahead, one of the bigger games on Kelowna’s home schedule will be Tuesday, Nov. 29, when the Rockets host Connor Bedard and the Regina Pats.

Bedard, a five-foot-nine centre from North Vancouver, is projected to be the No. 1 pick in next year’s NHL draft.

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Friday’s games (all times PT)

  • Red Deer at Edmonton, 6 p.m.
  • Saskatoon at Prince Albert, 6 p.m.
  • Moose Jaw at Regina, 6 p.m.
  • Calgary at Swift Current, 6 p.m.
  • Portland at Kamloops, 7 p.m.
  • Tri-City at Prince George, 7 p.m.
  • Spokane at Victoria, 7:05 p.m.
  • Seattle at Vancouver, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday’s games

  • Winnipeg at Brandon, 5 p.m.
  • Swift Current at Calgary, 6 p.m.
  • Lethbridge at Medicine Hat, 6 p.m.
  • Regina at Moose Jaw, 6 p.m.
  • Tri-City at Prince George, 6 p.m.
  • Edmonton at Red Deer, 6 p.m.
  • Prince Albert at Saskatoon, 6 p.m.
  • Spokane at Victoria, 6:05 p.m.
  • Vancouver at Everett, 6:05 p.m.
  • Portland at Kelowna, 7:05 p.m.
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B.C. HOCKEY LEAGUE

This weekend, the region’s four BCHL teams will be in action on Friday night.

The defending league champion Penticton Vees will open at home as they host the Trail Smoke Eaters.

The West Kelowna Warriors will open on the road, as they visit Duncan on Vancouver Island to take on the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

The region’s last two teams will square off against each other, with the Vernon Vipers visiting the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

On Saturday, all four teams will hit the ice again, with Penticton hosting Cranbrook, West Kelowna in Victoria and Salmon Arm visiting Vernon.

Read more: Junior hockey: Penticton Vees win BCHL championship, sweep Nanaimo Clippers

Friday’s games

  • Prince George at Coquitlam, 7 p.m.
  • West Kelowna at Cowichan Valley, 7 p.m.
  • Cranbrook at Merritt, 7 p.m.
  • Trail at Penticton, 7 p.m.
  • Nanaimo at Powell River, 7 p.m.
  • Vernon at Salmon Arm, 7 p.m.
  • Alberni Valley at Victoria, 7 p.m.
  • Wenatchee at Surrey, 7 p.m.
  • Chilliwack at Langley, 7:15 p.m.

Saturday’s games

  • Nanaimo at Powell River, 5 p.m.
  • Cranbrook at Penticton, 6 p.m.
  • Salmon Arm at Vernon, 6 p.m.
  • Alberni Valley at Cowichan Valley, 7 p.m.
  • Trail at Merritt, 7 p.m.
  • West Kelowna at Victoria, 7 p.m.
  • Prince George at Langley, 7:15 p.m.
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KOOTENAY INTERNATIONAL JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE

Friday’s games

  • Kimberley at Columbia Valley, 6:30 p.m.
  • Fernie at Golden, 6:30 p.m.
  • North Okanagan at Grand Forks, 7 p.m.
  • Princeton at Nelson, 7 p.m.
  • 100 Mile House at Revelstoke, 7 p.m.
  • Chase at Sicamous, 7 p.m.
  • Castlegar at Creston Valley, 7:30 p.m.
  • Kelowna at Summerland, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday’s games

  • Creston Valley at Kimberley, 6 p.m.
  • Columbia Valley at Fernie, 6:30 p.m.
  • Revelstoke at Golden, 6:30 p.m.
  • Osoyoos at Beaver Valley, 7 p.m.
  • Princeton at Castlegar, 7 p.m.
  • Nelson at Grand Forks, 7 p.m.
  • Summerland at Kelowna, 7 p.m.
  • Kamloops at Chase, 7 p.m.
  • 100 Mile House at Sicamous, 7 p.m.
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