On Friday, Kootenay International Junior Hockey League alumni Campbell Arnold and Joe Martin of the Alberni Valley Bulldogs will do their best to win the B.C. Hockey League’s Fred Page Cup championship against the defending champion Penticton Vees.
Arnold is in his final season of junior hockey, which began with the Spokane Braves in 2018-19. The 21-year-old Nanaimo native went 12-15-0 in 31 games for the Braves and played in four playoff games before joining the Spokane Chiefs, who he had played with as an affiliate player for one game in 2017-18. Arnold spent the majority of his WHL career with the Chiefs before being dealt to the Victoria Royals.
Martin is the Bulldogs’ Head Coach-GM and he began his junior hockey coaching career with the Creston Valley Thunder Cats in 2007-08, where he earned 112 wins in 204 games over four seasons. In eight seasons as a Head Coach-GM in the BCHL with the Merritt Centennials and Bulldogs, Martin has 209 wins in 418 games. He has also been involved with Hockey Canada programs as a coach for the World Junior A Championship with Canada West.
Emanuel Sequeira, Director of Communications for the KIJHL, spoke with Arnold and Martin ahead of the Fred Page Cup Championship. The interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
KIJHL: What is the feeling of helping your team advance to the Fred Page Cup to play for the BCHL championship?
CA: It hasn’t really sunk in yet. To get to this spot with this group of guys is pretty special and they have played incredible in front of me. It’s been pretty unbelievable to play with this group.
KIJHL: What do you like about the way you are playing and how your teammates are playing in front of you?
CA: I’m pretty calm and not putting any pressure on myself. I’m riding the wave and enjoying my last junior stint here. The guys in front of me have been putting their best foot forward with the same goal in mind and that’s to win the championship. We have gelled together in this playoff run and it all came together at the perfect time.
KIJHL: What has it been like playing for the Bulldogs since joining the organization from the WHL?
CA: It’s been great. When you get released from a Western League team, it’s not an easy process to go through. Alberni made it pretty easy for me to transition in and it’s such a great group of guys. The coaching staff is unbelievable and the transition was pretty smooth. I’m very fortunate that Alberni Valley was the team that picked me up.
KIJHL: When did you feel as though you were playing like you are capable of giving the Bulldogs the best chance to win every time you played?
CA: I want to say I felt that before the playoffs, but I think now that I actually have been winning, it’s more giving the guys in front of me the confidence that I’m there for them and ready to be the backbone until Hobie’s (Hedquist) ready. I’m just enjoying every moment that I can.
KIJHL: What have you and your teammates enjoyed about this playoff run?
CA: Everything. In the first round there, we beat Victoria (in four games) and that was great. Surrey gave us a run that was good going through that adversity of losing in Surrey a couple times. Going to Game 7 like that is huge. That brought our motivation into Chilliwack to get it done and get to where we are now.
KIJHL: Having grown up on Vancouver Island, has it been cool playing close to home in Nanaimo?
CA: Yeah, it’s been pretty incredible. When I was going for Junior, I thought it was going to be really cool to be far away from home, but as I’ve kind of gotten older, it’s cool to play closer to home. Seeing all my family and friends come out and support me is pretty special. I’m very thankful.
KIJHL: Is there anything else you would like to add?
CA: I will give a shout out to the Spokane Braves and (former) coach Michael Bay there. I appreciate everything they gave me and just the KIJHL. It’s a great league and I know Spokane is coming back. They are going to be a force to be reckoned with. I’m calling it.
KIJHL: What is the feeling like to guide your team to its first Fred Page Cup in the organization’s history?
JM: To be honest, it’s kind of an underwhelming answer. It will probably be the summer time or maybe in years after that I think about that. Hopefully we can accomplish winning a trophy. In years after when you don’t get here, that’s when you will probably look back on it and say wow, what a special year that was. I’m just trying to keep our players healthy and playing the right way and motivated, which is fairly easy to do with the group I have.
KIJHL: What have you liked about your team’s playoff run in terms of how the group is performing?
JM: Our health for one as we haven’t had a ton of injuries. We’ve had some players that have had big moments, we’ve had the known commodities on our team rise and have great games, great series. The biggest thing that I like is that they are having fun. It’s a good group to be around and they hold each other accountable and are maturing before our eyes. I really just enjoy being around it and watching them get better.
KIJHL: What would you say are some of the things you have learned as a coach over the years that have been key to success this year?
JM: I’d say that I’ve learned a lot this year alone. The past couple of years have really tested me and our organization. We’re not the only ones. I’m learning to trust our group, they kind of watch how they grow in front of you and roll with it. Obviously you have to have some constraints as to what you are doing, what you are leading them towards and allowing for more growth from within and embracing that, motivating individuals. In the past you believe you know a player and maybe you are getting the most out of them. I believed I was very open with that. I didn’t know that I was still limiting them. There is a lot of individual growth if you find a way to cultivate it. This year our staff and leadership group have found a way to do that.
KIJHL: Talk about the play of Campbell Arnold and how he has been a key part of the team advancing to the Fred Page Cup.
JM: As of recently, he’s been in net for every game. He’s a huge reason for why we’re here. I’d say he was probably the MVP of the Surrey series winning in Game 7. He got thrown in after not playing a heck of a lot and he continued his play against Chilliwack. We didn’t know we would need him this much and I’m happy that he’s been doing his thing in net. The best thing about Campbell is he’s the ultimate teammate and our guys work extra hard for him. He’s a guy that’s all about the team. I love him for that and that is all you really want as a coach.
KIJHL: How did your time in the KIJHL coaching in Creston Valley help you progress as a coach?
JM: The experience that you get there, it’s still the same way now. You are supported by a good board. I was supported back then by Karl Mottl, he was the president, Steve Hall was the vice president and the Veitch’s were just getting involved. They are there to support you and rely on you to do a job. I like that you learn on your feet and make mistakes. You have success and grow as a coach, you fall as a coach. I think that’s a great learning league and I’m forever grateful that they gave me an opportunity 13 years ago.
KIJHL fans can watch the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in action against the Penticton Vees streaming on HockeyTV.
Here’s the schedule for the Fred Page Cup Championship series, as we face the @PentictonVees for the @BCHockeyLeague title. #BulldogsHockey #HockeyValley pic.twitter.com/WKCDoGrEvE
— AVBulldogs (@AVBulldogs) May 6, 2023