red bull hockey

Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

December 7, 2015, Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Grizzlies announced on Monday that for the first time in many years, they will play an international exhibition game against the famed Red Bull Salzburg (Austria) Junior Development team on Wednesday, January 27, 2016 at The Q Centre in Colwwod. They also announced the signing of Victoria native Hayden Hopkins.

The Victoria Grizzlies will host the Red Bull Salzburg in an exhibition hockey game on Wednesday January 27th at the Q Centre in Victoria

The game, sponsored by the Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort and Spa, is the final game in a series of four exhibition games that the Austrian team will play against BCHL teams on their tour of the province, including other games against Penticton, West Kelowna and Vernon.

The Red Bull Salzburg club is one of the storied hockey programs in Europe and their Junior squad includes players born anywhere from 1995 to 1999. Most of the players are Austrian but there are some German-born players as well. 

“This will provide a unique opportunity for our franchise, from our players and coaches to our staff, to see one the the great European programs on our ice in Colwood.” said Grizzies team President John Wilson.  “This is also an additional game for hockey fans and Grizzlies fans, as well and one that will provide a different feel for them.”

The last time an international club came through the BCHL was in the 2009-10 season when the Malmo Redhawks of Sweden played in Powell River, Alberni Valley and Nanaimo. In 2008-09, the Sweden U18 side also played a series of exhibition games against BCHL teams.

Playing in the game for the Grizzlies will be two new recent additions to the team in forwards Jared Virtannen and Hayden Hopkins. Both players were on hand for the announcement and are two new cogs in the Grizzlies machine that they hope can carry them into the BCHL playoffs this season. Virtannen, who is the cousin of the Vancouver Canucks Jake Virtannen, was announced last week and has played in four games now, while Hopkins will join the team for his first game Tuesday night against Port Alberni.

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The Grizzlies Lance Black (second from left) and John Wilson (right) introduce new players Jard Virtannen (left) and Hayden Hopkins (second from right) to the media on Monday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

A Victoria Racquet Club product, Hopkins made his way up to the South Island Royals Major Midget squad before going on to play three-years in the Western Hockey League with Saskatoon, Prince George and the Vancouver Giants, suiting up for 53 games and scoring just three goals and seven assists. Hopkins, who describes himself as a “Brad Marchand type of player with more offensive skills” will hope to provide the Grizzlies with that offence and fill in as a top six forward in the mix.

To make way for thre Grizzlies game against Salzburg, the Westshore Wolves and Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Hockey League (VIJHL) have shifted their game from that night to the previous night, Tuesday, January 26th.

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Grizzlies President John Wilson announces the Red Bull Salzburg exhibition game:  “This will will provide a unique opportunity for our franchise, from our players and coaches to our staff, to see one the the great European programs on our home ice.” (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

This will be an excellent opportunity for hockey fans in the region to come out and get a taste of Victoria Grizzlies hockey, as well as see top European Junior stars in action. Tickets for the Red Bull Salzburg game go on sale Tuesday Dec. 8 at 5:00 pm and will be $20 each, with fans who purchase tickets in person at the upcoming Grizzlies games on Tuesday Dec. 8 (Alberni), Saturday, Dec. 12 (Wenatchee) and Sunday Dec. 12 (West Kelowna) able to secure their seats for $15 each a savings of $5 per ticket. This is sure to be a popular ticket, so be sure to get yours early before they sell out!