NANAIMO — University level hockey is back in the central island after a long absence.
The Malaspina Islanders played in the 1970's and 80's and starting in September the VIU Mariners will be one of the six clubs in the BC Intercollegiate Hockey League.
This weekend will be the first ever tryout camp for the Mariners, with sessions at Cliff McNabb Arena and NIC 2.
Inaugural Head Coach Steve Paul is expecting 25-30 players, noting those players must register for classes at VIU.
He says those looking to make the squad fall into two different categories.
"Ones that are 18 or 19-years-old and they're still playing junior hockey. They can come out and skate with some of the guys we've recruited already and see the tempo and what's in the future if they want to come and play at the collegiate level. The other style of player is anyone who may come out of the woodwork to take a crack at coming to main camp," Paul said.
Anyone interested can sign up for the camp when they get to the rink. Friday's session at Cliff McNabb Arena is at 6 p.m. and Saturday's tryout is at 1 p.m. at NIC 2.
Announcements on who will be part of the coaching staff and who the top recruits are will come later, but Paul said former Nanaimo Clipper Ryan Coghlan will be a key defenseman for the Mariners in their first season.
"We approached Ryan earlier to help us get this program going," Paul said. "He's been phenomal out there recruiting guys, talking to a lot of people, and pushing the program. He's been a key player in this and he's going to be a great leader for this team."
Once the season begins this fall VIU will play a 20-24 game schedule with home games on Friday and Saturday nights at the NIC.
Paul said they have their ice times worked out but the logistics of the team's dressing room are still a work in progress.
The BCIHL has been around since 2006 and Paul believes the mix of players from the junior level to the pro level will make the style of hockey enjoyable to watch.
"It's not young boys, it's men playing. It would be comparable to A,AA,or AAA men's hockey. It's very competitive, fast, and hard hitting."
When the Mariners start up in the fall they will play SFU, Trinity Western University, UVIC, Selkirk College, and Eastern Washington University.
On twitter: @danmarshall77