Warriors fans

Linda Kroll and Darlene Heickel were excited to be back watching the West Kelowna Warriors after losing last year’s season to COVID-19.

Warriors defeat Prince George Spruce Kings 5-3 in season opener at Royal LePage Place

By Barb Aguiar

Westside Weekly

As the last strains of Pastor Don Richmond’s rendition of O Canada echoed through Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna Saturday night, the arena exploded with the clamour of the excited crowd as the West Kelowna Warriors took on the Prince George Spruce Kings in their first regular season home game played in front of fans since March 2020.

The Warriors chose their opening game for Firefighter Appreciation Night, an opportunity to honour the heroes in the community over the summer.

“They were the stars of the summer,” said Chris Laurie, president of the West Kelowna Warriors. “What they did for our community, especially on that one specific Sunday night in August when the community of Glenrosa was threatened. We were on pins and needles. Those guys are the true heroes.”

West Kelowna Assistant Fire Chief Lionel Bateman dropped the ceremonial puck.

The crowd cheered during the first intermission when following a video honouring the firefighters, Laurie presented West Kelowna Fire Rescue with a framed jersey autographed by the team ready to hang at the fire hall. The jersey bore the number 21 to signify the summer of 2021.

West Kelowna Fire Rescue members were also presented with a lapel pin for their uniforms.

Saturday’s opener drew an pandemic-capacity crowd of 750 people to Royal LePage Place.

Tyler Liebel, a member of West Kelowna Fire Rescue, was excited to bring his sons Mason and Beckham to Saturday’s game.

“All the fans are back in the rink and we’ve got quite a good team on the ice,” he said.

“It feels great to be back,” said Justin Smith, who was watching the game in his Warriors jersey. “It’s been a long time and I definitely missed it.”

Laurie said the players wanted the fans back badly.

“Last year was a difficult year, we got through it,” he said. “Now everybody's double vaccinated and it’s a safe environment and it's a lot of fun.”

The Warriors beat the Spruce Kings 5-3, the first time the team has won their home opener since 2017.

After a road trip to Cranbrook this coming weekend, the Warriors return to Royal LePage Place Oct. 29 to play the Powell River Kings. For more information and tickets, go online to westkelownawarriors.ca.