When Merritt minor hockey product Briar McNaney suits up for the Kamloops Storm of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League this coming season, it will be just one more chapter in an already large book on his playing career.

Including the Storm, McNaney, 18, will have played for a total of five different teams in just the last three years alone. The others include the Thompson major midget Blazers in 2008 – 2009, the Columbia Valley Rockies and Fernie Ghostriders of the KIJHL from 2009 – 2011, and the Merritt Tracker Sports Tier 3 midgets for the final two months of last season.

McNaney was back in the Nicola Valley this past weekend, as the Storm entertained the Kelowna Chiefs in an exhibition game played at the Shulus arena on Saturday afternoon. Kamloops got a late third period to take the pre-season tilt 4-3.

While McNaney didn’t figure in on any of his team’s scoring Saturday, he did play well enough to catch the eye of new Storm head coach Geoff Smith.

“Briar looked good,” stated Smith, a 10-year NHL player with Ed- monton, Florida and the New York Rangers.

“He impressed me during training camp, and he impressed me today. He plays hard. He can score, and he can also take the body.”

McNaney, for his part, likes his new team, and the potential that they’ve shown in the early going.

“Things are going well, he said shortly after Saturday’s game. “I think that we’re going to have a strong team this year.”

McNaney likes Smith – who spent the last three seasons as an assistant with the Kamloops Blazers – and the rest of the Storm coaching staff. It includes former Vancouver Canuck Murray Baron, past Portland Winterhawk star Brad Priestley, and Brent Fritz who played NCAA hockey before finishing up his career in Europe.

“We have a lot of varied experience in our coaching group,” said Smith. “I think that it will be of tremendous benefit to the players.”

The Storm head coach added that he still has about 30 players in camp, but hopes to get that number down to 23-5 following his team’s final exhibition game in Revelstoke on Sunday.

McNaney scored once in his team’s 5-3 loss to the Grizzlies.

Once the real season begins, McNaney will be billeting in Kamloops with Richie Kohurst. The two worked as instructors together in August at Nick Kang’s hockey school in Merritt.

“I’ll be looking to work part-time, too, when I’m not playing hockey,” said McNaney. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to find something that fits in.”

This past summer, McNaney worked for the Conayt Friendship Centre in Merritt. He was a youth co-ordinator at the “Spirit of the Youth” teen centre located on Nicola Ave.

“It was a great job,” stated McNaney. “It was all about creating a safe and fun environment for First Nations’ young people in the community. On any given night, we probably had 20 or more youth at the centre.”

Last season, McNaney and his Merritt Tracker Sports midget team finished first in the Okanagan-Mainline league and went on to place fourth at the provincial championships in Cranbrook.


Several other Merritt hockey products might well be playing Junior B in the KIJHL this coming season.

Eric Schmidt, Brendan Colter and River Lafferty are all listed on the roster for the Princeton Posse.

In addition, Russell Sanderson, a goaltender on the Tracker team two years ago, and a Thompson major midget Blazer in 2010-2011, is definitely slated to play between the pipes for the newly re-formed Chase Heat.