WATCH: The Victoria Royals have won the WHL regular season and hopes are high for the playoffs. Tess van Straaten reports.
Fan fever is gripping the B.C. Capital after the Victoria Royals make history, taking top honours in the Western Hockey League.
“It’s only been five years and we’ve been able to climb to the top of the heap,” says general manager Cam Hope.
The Royals beat the Kelowna Rockets to clinch the Western Hockey League regular season crown for the first time in franchise history.
“It’s gratifying, it’s gratifying after a long season for the guys to get the pennant,” Hope says. “It’s a really nice thing to achieve.”
It’s also the first time a Victoria hockey team has had this honour in 35 years — not since the Victoria Cougars took top spot and went on to win the WHL championships in 1981 — and loyal Royals fans couldn’t be happier…
“I’m pretty excited,” says Adam Watts, who goes to each game. ” This is a big win for the Royals. It’s their first time winning the Scotty Munroe trophy so I think it’s pretty exciting for the team and everyone in the city.”
Even Victoria mayor Lisa Helps — a former hockey player herself — is getting in on the fan fever.
“It’s really exciting,” Helps says, wearing a Victoria Royals jersey. “I feel very proud of our team. It’s wonderful and the arena is packed which it’s great to see so many people going on cheering out home team.”
The way Victoria has completely embraced and supported the team has resulted in a big boost in ticket sales. It comes at a time when many sports teams are struggling to get fans in the door.
“We’ve increased attendance here in Victoria each of the last couple of seasons,” says Hope. “It’s happening organically at a time when there’s a headwind to going to live sporting events. Attendance is flat or down in most leagues.”
Merchandise is also hot and with the Royals on a winning streak, some fans are already scoring season tickets for next year.
“We started with a few games a year, escalated to five or six games, this year I’ve bet you we’ve been here about a dozen times and decided to buy season’s tickets for next year,” says fan Derek Winnicki.
But the big goal now — winning the WHL championships and if everything goes well, maybe even the Memorial Cup.
“I think the chances are pretty strong,” Watts says hopefully. “I have a pretty good feeling that they’re going to go really far this year.”
The playoffs begin March 25th.