HOCKEY NOW: Red Bull tour starts in West Kelowna

With the atmosphere of international junior hockey still in the air post IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship and World Junior A Challenge, more worldly games are still to come.

Later this month, four teams from around the BCHL will match up against the U-20 hockey club Red Bull Salzburg from Austria.

It all gets started Jan. 18 when the team faces off in West Kelowna against the Warriors.

Red Bull Salzburg will then travel to Penticton to take on the Vees on Jan. 20 before playing the Vipers in Vernon on Jan. 25.

Salzburg wraps up its BCHL tour in the provincial capital on Jan.27, where they’ll play the Victoria Grizzlies.

Warriors Head coach Rylan Ferster said that as an exhibition game, the main goal is for his players to have fun while experiencing the international style of hockey.

“A lot of these guys (only) get to see the international stuff that’s on T.V., so to say that at one point in your career, however long or short (it) might be, that you got to play against a team from Austria, I think will be pretty neat,” Ferster said.

Ferster said that he thinks his players will get a lot out of playing against a team that plays a different style of hockey that likely differs from the grinding play of the BCHL.

Preparation for such a game won’t entail things such as going over video as regular season pre-game prep might entail.

“It’ll be nice for (the) kids to experience something different,” he said.

Ferster has coached the Warriors for the past five seasons, and this will be the first time he’s coached this team in this type of game.

Red Bull Salzburg is the first team in five seasons to come across the pond from Europe to play against BCHL teams. In 2009-10, the Malmo Redhawks from Sweden played games against the Nanaimo Clippers, Powell River Kings and the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.

The Red Bull Salzburg team consists of BCHL-aged players born between 1995 and 1999, most of whom are from Austria and Germany.

The team is coached by former Boston College player and Carolina Hurricanes draft pick J.D. Forrest and former Clarkson University defenceman and Bentley University assistant coach Matt Curley.

“We hope to give each team and their fans a great hockey game as our team is looking forward to the challenge,” said Curley.

“We very much look forward to hosting Red Bull Salzburg in January,” said BCHL commissioner John Grisdale. “This is a first-rate organization and I know the club they’re sending will provide a true test for our teams and great entertainment for our fans.”

BCHL Communications director Brent Mutis said that while it is difficult to fit these kinds of games into the middle of a 58-game regular season, it’s exciting for these four BCHL teams to host a new kind of opponent.

He echoed Ferster’s sentiment that for the players, it’s a chance to be exposed to others with different skill sets and teams with different styles of play.

The Warriors are the first of four teams to take a detour from their season — a season in which they are currently fighting for a playoff spot.

“We’re in the thick of a tight Interior Division again. We know it’s a battle every year. I think it’s one of the best divisions in junior hockey of course, and this year is no different than any other, so I’m assuming it’s going to go right down to the wire here,” he said, adding that teams will be jockeying for playoff spots to the end.

He added that he’s not concerned about possible injuries arising from this exhibition game.

“You just hope your kids have fun,” Ferster said. “Hopefully we can put a good show for them.”