Beyond the Blue Line

By Stephanie Stevens

It is not how they stand in comfort and convenience, but how they stand in the face of challenges. 

While Martin Luther King Jr. was not speaking specifically to hockey, his words ring true as the Columbia Valley Rockies clear out their lockers this week and head their separate ways. 

The 2023-24 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) season is over for them after a final loss to the Fernie Ghostriders Saturday, March 16. 

But they skated farther than perhaps suspected at the start of the year, and made it nearly to the end of the second playoff round, pushing face on into the storm. 

”I’m very proud of what the boys accomplished … they gave us their best effort all season,” said head coach Tayler Sincennes. “It’s unfortunate that it ended but there were lots of lessons learned both for the players and myself. It was very cool to see the community come out and support us this year and I really appreciate that as well. All in all a very successful season for our group to look back on and be proud of.”

Tuesday March 12 saw Fernie successful in Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena, with Kyran Gromnisky (assists by Bryan Kim and Gage Sather) potting the lone goal in the 4-1 loss. 

The Rockies returned the favour in Fernie March 14, handing the Riders a neatly packaged 5-1 loss. 

Kim opened things up in the first (assists from Luke Hamilton and Carter Velker), followed in the second by an unassisted short-handed goal by Gromnisky and one more from Teo Fath (assists from Gromnisky and Kaelan Shelton). Third period action was opened up by new kid Caden Williams (assists from Ben Sharp and Jamieson Franz) and Sharp finished it off with a power play goal (assist from Carter Krause). 

In the final home game, Fath scored the lone goal, assisted by Shelton and Gromnisky – perhaps fittingly as it was the final Rockies game for the 20-year-old trio as they move on from the KIJHL. 

The last couple of weeks of play saw the team struggle with injuries and a few suspensions, but in the end, they proved their mettle and rose past it all.

“We were really happy with our season and how we battled through some adversity at times,” said associate coach Tucker Braund. “We were super happy winning the first round against Kimbo and we were right there with Fernie, but ultimately lost to an older veteran team. I think that experience will help our returners next year to see what it takes to go deep in this league and to win a championship.

“That’s what we are trying to do here, so obviously it sucks we lost out but at the same time it’s a huge learning opportunity for us all. We (the coaching staff) are really excited for next season and excited to have the guys who were 18 this year back as 19 year olds and we will be looking for our 20 year olds to really stand out as leaders and help us bring a KIJHL championship to the valley.”

Assistant coach Tanner Wit had similar sentiments about the year, as well as the character that the challenges brought out in the players.

“The team came out hard against Fernie and had to battle some tremendous adversity with watching one of their brothers go down early in the series,” he said. “Emotions aside, they made it a proper series. The work ethic and the emotional sacrifice was a tough ask for a young group and they did as well as we could’ve asked. Fernie was a match-up that we had in our plans for a while and I thought we did everything within our power to make sure the team made a push and they did just that. I am so proud of the group and so happy for the impact that they made this year. 

Wit also noted the support from the community and its fan base fueled the Rockies fire this season.


Rockies forward Kaelan Shelton.