Barret Kropf is working hard to get his hockey team ready for a leap forward in competition.
Kropf, a former Estevan resident who played with his hometown Estevan Bruins, is the coach of the Trinity Western University (TWU) Spartans men’s hockey team. They are slated to make the jump to U-Sports – the top university sports league in the country, for the start of the 2020-21 season.
They’ve certainly done all they can in their current loop, the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL). They won the league title in 2017 and 2018, and were the top team in the league this season with a 19-4-0-1 record when the season was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s a league that includes programs such as Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria, who compete in U-Sports in other sports.
The Spartans have also been competitive when they have faced U-Sport teams such as the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in exhibition games.
“The BCIHL is a great league. It’s prepared us well as a team and as a program to help us find out where our weaknesses are in terms of player calibre and things we need to improve,” said Kropf, who has coached the Spartans since 2013.
There have been meetings and phone calls to ensure the team is ready for next season. And they want to have the right people with the right character and leadership skills.
“We want to make sure they’re guys that are going to add to our culture and help us improve,” said Kropf.
Only five players from this year’s team will be graduating. The Spartans will have 12 players in their fourth year or fifth year next season, meaning the Spartans won’t be icing a bunch of rookies their first year in their new league.
“They’ve got three or four years of university game play already under their belt, and they’re an experienced group of guys that know how to balance academics and their athletics.”
Competing for a playoff spot will be their goal for that first year.
Trinity Western athletics program first joined U-Sports in 1999, and the university has won a total of 12 national team championships since then, with those titles coming in soccer and volleyball.
Kropf looks forward to adding to the school’s success.
“We just waited our time and waited our time, making sure that we were ready when the door did open for application,” said Kropf.
He described it as applying for an expansion franchise, with a two-year process that included sending out delegates to evaluate facilities and interview people. They submitted their application and then had to wait for a vote.
They were accepted into U-Sports about a year ago.
“It was a pretty special time, because there’s been a lot of people who have really done a lot of heavy lifting to get our program ready for this opportunity.”
The Spartans will play in the Langley Events Centre, home of the Western Hockey League’s Vancouver Giants. TWU is scheduled to play their first game in U-Sports hockey in September.