The Abbotsford Pilots have been awarded the hosting rights for the 2014 Keystone Cup.
The Western Canadian junior B hockey championship tournament will run at MSA Arena in April of next year, and general manager Jack Goeson said he’s “extremely excited” his bid was selected.
“It is truly an honor and privilege for not only our organization but all our players, coaching staff, many longstanding volunteers, sponsors and our great loyal fans,” Goeson said.
By virtue of their hosting duties, the Pilots will be guaranteed a berth in the six-team tourney, and they’ll be joined by provincial champions from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Northwest Ontario.
Representatives from B.C. have won the Keystone Cup three of the past four years, including a victory by the Pilots in 2012. It was the first Western Canadian title in franchise history. The Pilots also participated in the Keystone tourney in 1999, finishing third in Airdrie, Alta.
Hosting the Keystone, Goeson said, is “probably the only thing I haven’t done in (junior B) hockey.” Over the past 25 years, the Pilots have played host to the Cyclone Taylor Cup provincial championship five times, as well as the Pacific Junior Hockey League’s all-star game and prospects showcase.
“We’re lucky because we have so many good volunteers,” he said. “It’s a chance for them to experience it (the Keystone Cup) as well.”
With a berth to the Western Canadians in the bag already, Goeson acknowledged it should give his team an edge as they recruit new players this summer.
“But we’ll approach the season the same way – we want to finish first and win,” he said. “That’s our mindset.
“There’s the possibility of getting some good recruits out of this – you’ve got to put together a good, balanced team. But we proved even last year – we had a lot of local kids and a good-skating club. You just have to have guys who work hard and play as a team.
“We have a good nucleus of players coming back – a lot of that is there. But you’ve always got to keep retooling and making it better.”