Victoria product Hoekstra has Grizzlies primed for season opener

Entering his third BCHL season, Michael Hoekstra has taken on a leadership role with the Grizzlies. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Cleve Dheensaw / Times Colonist
OCTOBER 7, 2021 09:43 PM

Swing a puck bag in The Q ­Centre during Victoria Grizzlies practice and you’re likely to hit an interesting player. It could be forward Jack Gorton, son of former New York Rangers GM Jeff Gorton, forward Jackson Morehouse, son of Pittsburgh Penguins president and CEO David Morehouse, or 17-year-old defenceman Justin Gibson from Pittsburgh, brother of Anaheim Ducks No. 1 goaltender John Gibson. Or maybe scoring star Ellis Rickwood or 16-year-old highly-touted Nanaimo-product Matthew Wood, already being projected for the 2023 NHL draft.

Third-year winger Michael Hoekstra skates quietly through all the intriguing storylines in understated fashion as the ­Grizzlies prepare to open the 2021-22 B.C. Hockey League season tonight at The Q Centre against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. As a defensive forward, Hoekstra is not the flashiest of players. But his value to the team is underscored by the fact he has been named a Grizzlies assistant captain, along with the Quebec duo of Isack Bandu and Andrew Amousse, with ­Rickwood serving as captain.

Hoekstra, Bandu and Amousse broke into the team together in 2019-20 and share that bond in wearing the ‘A’.

“We have been together on the team for three years now and are close and we sort of use each other as role models as assistant captains,” said the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Hoekstra.

But while Bandu is headed next year to the Northern Michigan University Wildcats, a team with a solid pedigree of 21 NHL alumni, and Amousse to American International College, which last season won its conference, Hoekstra is still in search of an NCAA Div. 1 scholarship. However, while Bandu and Amousse are 20-year-olds, Hoekstra is 19 with a year of junior eligibility remaining after this season.

“An NCAA scholarship is definitely what I am striving for,” he said.

With Rickwood committed to NCAA’s Clarkson University, that leaves Hoekstra as the heir presumptive as Grizzlies captain for next season. But it’s about the here and now this season he is most concerned about.

“It was tough mentally last season through the pandemic, but we were appreciative to at least get the bubble season because so many athletes in other leagues or sports didn’t get to play at all,” said Hoekstra, who had a goal and six points in 47 games as a rookie and four assists in 14 games in last season’s pandemic-reduced bubble season.

A thing that sets Hoekstra apart is that he is a hometown product, who played in the Saanich Minor Hockey Association, on a Grizzlies team mostly of imports. “It’s been great to be able to live at home with my family during my junior career because they have been so supportive,” said Hoekstra, “I love showing my teammates from off-Island around the city.”

It was another hometown Grizzlies product, former ­captain Marty Westhaver in Hoekstra’s rookie season, who the latter says most ­influenced him in the organization. ­Westhaver, who took the captain’s mantle from current Colorado Avalanche NHLer Alex Newhook and is now playing NCAA hockey at Long Island University in New York, is the player who Hoekstra says he will pattern his leadership on.

Many pundits are picking the Grizzlies to lead the Island Division, which also includes the Bulldogs, Cowichan Valley Capitals, Nanaimo Clippers and Powell River Kings.

“Our team jelled well through training camp and we have high expectations,” said Hoekstra.

The Clippers are in Powell River in tonight’s other Island Division opener.

© 2021 Copyright Times Colonist