Instead of resting on its laurels, the Richmond Ravens Female Ice Hockey Association decided to expand its portfolio and provide the ultimate destination for up-and-coming players.
The organization was coming off a terrific 201112 campaign that was recognized by being named B.C. Hockey's Minor Hockey Association of the Year.
It was around the same time the Ravens were collecting their hardware that word came down one of the two Lower Mainland franchises in the six-year-old B.C. Female Midget AAA Hockey League was looking for a new home. The Vancouver Fusion were based out of the Tri-Cities area but were being run by the team's coaches and management. When a number of volunteers from this group wanted to move on, the club's future was suddenly in question.
As a member of the Ravens' executive and having daughters in the elite league, Glenn Budden knew exactly where the franchise should be re-located.
"I told our board there was an opportunity here," recalled Budden, now the team's GM. "The coaches and management had left and they were basically the backbone of the team. When you see the amount of female hockey players in the Lower Mainland, with the numbers growing, there has to be two teams and somebody has to take this on.
"The Ravens are all about providing every opportunity for their players to succeed so it seemed like a perfect fit."
It took a little convincing but the Ravens executive agreed to the move. The Fusion were re-born as the Pacific Ravens and the franchise gained immediate credibility when ice time for home games was secured at the Richmond Olympic Oval.
The Ravens currently sit in second place in the five team league with a 5-5-2 record. The other Lower Mainland franchise is the defending champion Fraser Valley Phantom. They are joined by the Prince George Cougars, Kootenay Wildcats and Thompson/Okanagan Rockets. The hope is to add a sixth team from Vancouver Island. In the meantime, the Ravens roster has three Island players who commute to the mainland for practices and games.
That type of commitment suggests just how serious the approach to this league is.
The objective is to prepare these players for university hockey by giving them the ultimate environment to develop as well as extensive exposure.
The cost for such a program doesn't come cheap. Raven players paid $7,000 this season which includes travel, accommodations and meals for all out-of-town league games, as well as trips to Saskatchewan and Calgary for a pair of high-profile tournaments that will be well-attended by university scouts. The coaching is all done by volunteers.
The Ravens roster currently features two players from Richmond and the rest coming from as far away as Chilliwack and Whistler.
"You don't always draw the best players," said Budden, whose eldest daughter played for the Fusion and now is playing university hockey in Ontario. "Some don't have the marks or the aspirations to play at the next level. Of course, cost is a factor too.
"The biggest draw is the kids getting to play this level at home. They are all committed (to elite hockey) and that's the biggest thing. They come here knowing their parents have paid a lot of money. They come to play for every game and practice."
The players are doing their part to help out at the grassroots level of girls hockey in Richmond as well.
After their practice on Saturday morning, several Ravens will stay behind to do mentoring sessions with Tyke and Atom age players.
"We want the young kids to see this level of hockey and what this team is all about," added Budden. "Ideally we would like to fill most of the (roster) spots with Richmond girls one day.
"Now we can say in Richmond we offer girls hockey from tyke right up to the Midget 'AAA' level."
For more information on the Pacific Ravens visit www.pacificravens.com.