BCHL era Merritt Centennials coach and players reflect on the 2023-2024 season.

With the Merritt Centennials transitioning into the KIJHL, former coach Brian Passmore and players Aidan Lindblad and Andrew Ballantyne reflect on their time with the Cents.

“It’s really emotional, it’s hard to describe,” said Passmore regarding his feelings about the transition. “I’m happy that the people of Merritt and the hockey fans of Merritt are great people and the community get to have a hockey team still, that’s important.”

“We really united, came together before that, when that got announced one week before playoffs, that was really tough,” continued Passmore. “We kind of bonded together and said we’re gonna go out together, fighting to the end, and it was tough to keep everyone on the tracks the last three weeks.”

Under Passmore’s leadership, he described the Cents’ playstyle as ‘aggressive’ and ‘gritty.’

“We had the one line with Michael Felsing and Jaxon Murray and Luke Pfoh that were really offensive, a lot of production from that line,” said Passmore. “Then I would describe the rest of us as just gritty, hardworking, feisty, aggressive style.”

“We played that open game where we’d like to score goals, but we also gave up a lot of goals too so it was a constant preaching of playing more defense, but definitely I liked the style the guys played with and they worked extremely hard every day at practice,” said Passmore.

Lindblad recalls his favourite memories with the Merritt Centennials. “There was one time last season where we beat West Kelowna, in overtime, in Merritt, and that was a pretty special game,” said Lindblad.

“And then obviously, playoffs this year, it was super cool seeing how many people were out supporting us and everyone kind of knew it was our last dance in the league for playoffs,” said Lindblad.

“Everyone was really behind us, in that whole kind of stretch, that whole three weeks stretch of us preparing for playoffs and finding other teams folding and then the actual playoff run itself, it was bittersweet time for sure but that was a pretty special time.”

Ballantyne recalls his favourite memory in February beating Trail and Salmon Arm.

“I think one of my favourite memories was our two week span in February where we swept Trail and swept Salmon Arm the next weekend,” recalled Ballantyne. “That was a big moment for our team and we all came together a lot then, it was fun, a couple good games, everyone’s hanging out during that time too. Everyone was getting closer, so that’s probably one of my favorite members.”

During the interviews with the Herald, Lindblad and Passmore revealed fun facts about the Cents that fans might not have been aware of.

“Some things that the fans and other people might not know is that we had a lot of guitar players on our team this year, I’ve been playing for probably six years now,” said Lindblad “So we had a lot of guys this year that want to learn how to play guitar so we went over to one of the billets’ houses,one or two nights a week and we’d have jam sessions and teach the guys how to play guitar and stuff, so that was pretty cool.”

Passmore revealed a fact even many of the Centennial players weren’t aware of. “We had the old cowbell in the dressing room that we rang before going out to the rink everyday and that represented (Ty) Pozzobon,” said Passmore. “He was a bull rider and he ended his life with mental health, and we had a game that supported that, but none of the players knew what ringing that bell meant when we went on to the ice, and it was to let the bull riders know that we had their backs.”