Surrey’s Caleb Reimer in Edmonton Oil Kings colours. The junior hockey team is among five Alberta-based WHL squads planning to play games starting Feb. 26. (Photo: oilkings.ca)

Surrey’s Caleb Reimer in Edmonton Oil Kings colours. The junior hockey team is among five Alberta-based WHL squads planning to play games starting Feb. 26. (Photo: oilkings.ca)

HOCKEY

Quarantined for now, B.C. hockey prospect ‘fortunate’ to play WHL games in Alberta soon

Edmonton Oil Kings draft pick Caleb Reimer has skated with Delta Hockey Academy team this winter

** This story has been updated

Although he’s endured a kind of prison sentence in the basement of his Surrey home, Caleb Reimer can be considered one of the lucky ones.

The six-foot-three centre is quarantined for a week in preparation for his trip to Edmonton and the delayed start of the Western Hockey League (WHL) season.

Health authorities in Alberta have allowed the province’s five WHL teams to start their Central Division season on Feb. 26, following many months of COVID-caused shutdown.

Reimer is headed to Oil Kings training camp nearly two years after the franchise made him the first Surrey-area player selected in WHL Bantam Draft in the spring of 2019, in the first round, 18th overall.

But first, the league-mandated quarantine period for him and other players.

“I’m not allowed to leave my basement,” Reimer, 16, said Monday (Feb. 1). “I’ve got my bed here and my PlayStation, and that’s it.

“My Mom knocks on the door every couple hours with snacks or lunch, some food,” he added with a laugh. “I have five days left, because I leave on Sunday (Feb. 7). It hasn’t been bad, actually, just pretty funny. I’m trying to keep busy.”

(Story continues below video)

Upon arrival in Edmonton, Reimer and the others will undergo COVID-19 testing followed by an additional quarantine period. At the earliest, pre-season on-ice training will start Feb. 12 for the Oil Kings, Red Deer Rebels, Lethbridge Hurricanes, Medicine Hat Tigers and Calgary Hitmen.

Alberta’s WHL teams will play a 24-game schedule, with games against just one opponent per week and a five-day break before playing another team. All games will be played on weekends, with home-and-home games only and no fans allowed in arenas.

No such return-to-play plan is in place for WHL teams in some other regions, including those in B.C.

“It’s amazing, and we’re very fortunate,” said Reimer, who previously played minor hockey in Cloverdale. “The other divisions haven’t been given the green light, so it’s fortunate to be in the Central Division, and I’m super excited to get playing games again, even though it’s about a month until those (games) happen.”

On Friday (Feb. 5), the WHL said teams in the U.S. Division will begin their 2020-21 season on March 19, in line with updated COVID-19 protocols in Washington State. The move allows Everett Silvertips, Portland Winterhawks, Seattle Thunderbirds, Spokane Chiefs and Tri-City Americans to play division-only games.

Since September, Reimer has skated with Delta Hockey Academy’s U18 Prep squad alongside some other WHL-bound players. They include North Deltan Easton Kovacs, a defenseman and fellow 2004-born player who also quarantined at home for his shot to play for Lethbridge Hurricanes.

Their DHA team has been in practice-only mode since they played a handful of games last fall, when COVID protocols allowed for such on-ice action.

“The whole academy and the coaches, they’ve kept it interesting for the players with different focuses for practices and some game-oriented drills,” Reimer said. “It’s still competitive but not the same as playing against another team, going on road trips and coming up with game plans, all that. It’s been different but it’s also been good, they’ve done a good job there.”

At camp in Edmonton, Reimer will be joined by fellow Surrey-raised player Carson Latimer, who in December of 2019 scored on his very shift in the WHL, just a few seconds after hitting the ice in his first game with the Oil Kings.

• READ MORE: ‘Best feeling in life’ for Surrey hockey player who scored on first shift in WHL.

“We’re pretty good friends, and played a lot of games together,” Reimer said of Latimer, a former DHA teammate and Semiamoo product who scored 12 points with Port Moody Panthers after signing with the PJHL team last August, at a time when the Oil Kings were in limbo. “He’s super nice, and it’ll be good to see him again.”

Big, and willing to play the power-forward game, Reimer has worked on his skating in recent seasons, and has also put on some weight.

“I’ve always been one of the tallest kids, but haven’t grown much since the start of summer,” Reimer noted. “I’m happy where I am. I’m starting to get a lot faster, more comfortable in my body – that’s been the biggest thing. I haven’t been very comfortable in my body the last couple of years because I was just shooting up (in height).”

Last July, Reimer was among 113 players invited to Hockey Canada’s virtual national under-17 development camp, along with North Delta’s Niall Crocker, a Prince Albert Raiders draft pick who has also skated with DHA’s U18 Prep team this winter.

While quarantining at home and waiting for their WHL season to start, Reimer and the other Oil Kings players have kept busy with daily online sessions.

“There’s four or five groups of us,” he reported. “Every morning, someone takes on the news, the weather, the sports, a little news section that’s been prepared with the group the night before, then a workout after that, mostly cardio and pushups, planks, lunges, that sort of thing. Later on at night, the guys get together on Zoom for sort of a team activity – playing video games or poker or just something to keep us busy.”

In a news release posted Jan. 28, WHL officials said they continue to work with government and health authorities in each provincial and state jurisdiction to establish a start date for the WHL’s East Division, B.C. Division and U.S. Division. “Approval from the health authorities is required in each jurisdiction for the balance of the WHL Divisions to return to play,” the league said.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

WHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Calls for potential overdoses in B.C. spiked in 2020, especially in the Okanagan - Shuswap. Pictured above is a BCEHS re-enactment of paramedics attending an overdose. (BCHES photo)
UBCO program increases drug checking availability in Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon

January 2021 data shows of 95 opioid samples tested across Interior Health, 93 contained fentanyl

Vernon Morning Star Boomer Talk columnist says while we must use caution while dealing with COVID-19, we must also take care of the mental health of those who must live either permanently or temporarily in our care. (Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal/AP file photo)
BOOMER TALK: Long term care is around the corner

Columnist recounts mother’s stay in local medical facility amid pandemic

Okanagan patients will benefit from the recent inclusion of the Medical Arts Health Research Group in a worldwide study with the National Institute of Health (NIH). The study will be a global collaboration for finding better treatments for COVID-19. (File photo)
Okanagan research group involved with finding better COVID treatments

Okanagan Medical Arts Health Research Group invited to collaborate in global study

A rainbow shining on Kelowna General Hospital on May 12, 2020 International Nurses Day. (Steve Wensley - Prime Light Media)
New COVID cases trending down in Interior Health

24 new cases reported Thursday, Feb. 25, death at Kelowna General Hospital

The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia’s (CFSEU-BC) Uniform Gang Enforcement Team (UGET) has arrested a man who was on the run for nearly a decade. (File photo)
9-year search for international drug trafficking suspect ends with arrest at YVR

Khamla Wong, charged in 2012, taken into custody Feb. 24 by BC-CFSEU

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Larch Place is the first building to be built in the BC Housing, Canadian Mental Health Association housing project at the corner of Third Street SW and Fifth Avenue SW. This view is from the Shuswap Street side where it sits behind the Graystone East building. (File photo)
Opening of doors at new housing development in Salmon Arm welcomed

BC Housing announces opening of 32 rental units, with 35 more expected in summer 2021

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Vancouver International Women in Film Festival kicks off March 5.
Women in Film Festival features two B.C. filmmakers

The 16th annual festival kicks off March 5, 2021

The booklet roots present day activism in the history of racist policies, arguing the history must be acknowledged in order to change. (CCPA)
New resource dives into 150 years of racist policy in B.C.

Racist history must be acknowledged in order to change, authors say

Most Read