VANCOUVER — The Portland Winterhawks have a loyal legion of fans from Clark County. The Vancouver Rangers are hoping to tap into the local loyalty for junior hockey and grow that fan base by giving them a home option.
The second-year Rangers kicked off their Western States Hockey League season earlier in October with a pair of home games at Mountain View Ice Arena on Mill Plain Blvd. in Vancouver. A Tier II junior hockey club with players from throughout North America and a few from other countries, Rangers’ coach/co-owner Dave Daniello says his team plays about one level below the Winterhawks, with a clear mission.
“It’s a pay-for-play league, if you will. Our job is to get them to college and develop them,” Daniello said.
Most of the Rangers, who range from ages 16 to 20, pay about $9,000, plus living expenses, to participate with the club during the seven-month season. They play a 52-game schedule, including 24 home games at Mountain View Ice Arena, and four games during a one-week showcase tournament in Las Vegas.
One distinct difference between the Rangers and Winterhawks is that players from the WSHL retain their NCAA college eligibility, since they are not being paid a stipend to play.
Daniello said five players from last year’s inaugural Rangers squad went on to play at higher levels; two play in college, while three landed on professional clubs in Finland, Sweden and France.
“For a first year, I thought we did pretty well,” Daniello said.
Daniello’s stake in the Rangers is significant. He moved his family from Maine more than a year ago to start the Rangers junior hockey club. A long-time junior hockey coach who evolved into a player consultant, Daniello was presented an opportunity by what was then the club owners to operate the team.
Daniello is now one of four co-owners, along with Jerry Adamowicz of Vancouver, Jon Neill of Camas and a fourth partner from Texas. Daniello runs the day-to-day operations, as well as coaches the team.
The Western States Hockey League includes 28 teams, from Bellingham to El Paso, Tex, to as far east as Springfield, Mo. The Rangers play their games in the Northwest Division, against teams from Butte, Mont., Bellingham, Seattle, Medford, Ore., Lake Tahoe and McCall, Idaho. Daniello said the WSHL was interested in placing a team in Vancouver because it fit geographically in the middle of the Northwest Division.
Daniello says it costs between $200,000 and $300,000 to run a WSHL club each season. The team has a 55-passenger bus, travels approximately every other weekend for a pair of road games, and flies to the Vegas tournament in December, where last year more than 100 college coaches and pro scouts watched.
Some of the top players on Vancouver’s roster are Paul Frys, a forward from Portland who had 70 points for the Rangers last season; Aaron Daniello, a goalkeeper and Dave’s son; and Jacob Rushlow, a defenseman from Michigan.
Also currently on the Rangers’ roster for an indefinite period is goalkeeper Ethan Middendorf, a Winterhawks’ draft pick who was that team’s third goalie. Daniello said the Winterhawks loaned Middendorf to the Rangers while on a long road trip in order to give him some playing time.
Tickets for Rangers home games are $10, and $5 for children 12 and under. Daniello says they have crowds ranging from 200 to 600 fans.
“The atmosphere is pretty electric. We have aluminum bleachers, and they stomp on the bleachers. It really gets loud in there,” Daniello said.
Vancouver Rangers 2016-17 home schedule
|Oct. 14||Whitefish Wolverines||7:00 p.m.|
|Oct. 14||Whitefish Wolverines||7:00 p.m.|
|Oct. 15||Whitefish Wolverines||7:30 p.m.|
|Oct. 16||Whitefish Wolverines||2 p.m.|
|Oct. 28||Southern Oregon Spartans||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 29||Southern Oregon Spartans||7:30 p.m.|
|Oct. 30||Southern Oregon Spartans||2 p.m.|
|Nov. 11||Tahoe Icemen||7 p.m.|
|Nov. 12||Tahoe Icemen||7:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 13||Tahoe Icemen||2 p.m.|
|Dec. 9||Bellingham Blazers||7 p.m.|
|Dec. 10||Bellingham Blazers||7:30 p.m.|
|Dec. 11||Bellingham Blazers||2 p.m.|
|Jan. 6||Butte Cobras||7 p.m.|
|Jan. 7||Butte Cobras||7:30 p.m.|
|Jan. 8||Butte Cobras||2 p.m.|
|Jan. 19||Seattle Totems||8 p.m.|
|Feb. 3||Tahoe Icemen||7 p.m.|
|Feb. 4||Tahoe Icemen||7:30 p.m.|
|Feb. 5||Tahoe Icemen||2 p.m.|
|March 3||Idaho Jr. Steelheads||7 p.m.|
|March 4||Idaho Jr. Steelheads||7:30 p.m.|
|March 5||Idaho Jr. Steelheads||2:30 p.m.|