Kelowna product Porter Dawson got to live his dream of playing for the West Kelowna Warriors.
The former Kelowna Chief suited up for the B.C. Hockey League club during its Pod season, after being contacted in December. The 20-year-old was not expecting to play hockey this season, but played 20 games, scoring three goals and had 13 points.
“It was a great experience,” says Dawson, adding the adjustment was tough at the start. “It was faster and kids knew the game a little better at that level.”
He performed better when Warriors head coach Simon Ferguson made the decision to put Dawson on a line with Carter Wilkie and Zach Brooks. After going pointless in the opening three games, Dawson only went that many games without a point once more playing with that pair.
“That’s kind of what started my spree of points. We did really well together,” says Dawson.
Dawson, who played for the Okanagan Rockets U18AAA program before joining the Chiefs, had a five-game stint as an affiliate with the Warriors last season that helped, as he was familiar with the coaching staff. During this season, Dawson saw improvements in his game, including being more patient with the puck and creating fewer turnovers from not forcing plays. He protected the puck better and made the right play, even if it meant simply getting the puck deep into the offensive zone.
A factor that helped Dawson feel good about his play was that he added 10 to 15 pounds to his 5-9, 160 pound frame.
“I felt a little more strength in my game. I didn’t really have to worry about being pushed around as much,” he says. “I like the way how I was able to still make plays at that level, which I didn’t even know if I believed in myself to do until Simon gave me a chance putting me with some of the top players on the team.”
Dawson’s lone season in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League in 2019-20, played a big part in helping him take the step to the BCHL. He added that playing junior hockey at a young age is huge and he wishes he had joined the Chiefs a season earlier.
The uncertainty of his playing future made his final game with the Warriors this season more significant.
“My last game there with them, I was kind of emotional because I knew it definitely could be my last game of hockey that I ever play,” says Dawson, who thanked his former Chiefs coach Ken Law for everything he did, including helping him get the opportunity with the Warriors.
The main feedback Dawson received from the Warriors coaching staff was to get stronger over the summer should he decide he wants to play his final season of junior. Dawson is looking at pursuing a degree in business and taking a real estate course as he would like to get started with his life outside of hockey.