Braves Beat: Jr. B about moving players to the next level

As the final stretch of the VIJHL season nears, it’s a great time to reflect on the paths of ex-Saanich Braves.

By Christian Stewart/ISN

As the final stretch of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season nears, it’s a great time to reflect on the paths of ex-Saanich Braves.

A great many VIJHL players used the league as a developmental stepping stone to the next level of their hockey careers, be it at the Junior A and major junior level, college and university, or pro.

The most notable example at the moment being Matt Irwin of the San Jose Sharks and Adam Cracknell of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who both donned the red, white and black of the Saanich Braves.

The VIJHL has gained a great reputation over the past 10 years as a superb developmental league for players and in that regard, the Braves are one of the top teams in the league at moving players to the next level.

This is thanks to co-owner/GM Norm Kelly and head coach Brad Cook, who take a proactive approach to use their connections in the hockey community to find players who will fit the Braves’ mandate.

Cook is known for his dedication to development and the sacrifices needed to win at the Jr. B level, having long ago said, “While winning championships is nice and what both players and coaches compete for. But I’d rather coach 10 years in this league and not win any (if it meant) I moved five or six players per year on to the next level. I would be satisfied with that kind of program success.

“When you have that success of moving guys on to the next level, ultimately that’s what we are here for. We are a stepping stone and a development league through and through and that’s what I try and live by. I will never hold a kid back, I want kids to be gone.”

However, it’s a perpetual double-edged sword as moving a player up usually means you lose a quality player from the current roster. Witness the case of Braves forward Nick Guerra, who both last year and this year, split time between the Braves and the Junior A Nanaimo Clippers of the BCHL and who recently departed the Braves as the team’s leading scorer to play full-time with the Clippers.

And Guerra’s not the only Brave on this year’s roster to have spent time at the Junior A level, including Hunter Atchison (Trail Smoke Eaters) and Connor Birmingham (Chilliwack Chiefs). In fact, Seamus Maguire recently returned to the Braves after spending all of last season and the first part of this season with the Junior A Flin Flon Bombers in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

As to former Braves enjoying success at the next level, one need not look too far back to see a long list of Braves now playing at the Junior A or college level.

Jake Daughtry (2013-2014) is now seeing regular ice time at the University of Central Oklahoma, and is skating along fellow Braves alumni Chad Roorda (2011-2013), Trevor Yee (2008-2010) and Gaven Hohl (2009-2010).

The 2012-2013 season was a particularly strong class of graduating Braves. Leading the charge was 2012-2013 captain and former VIJHL MVP Ty Jones, who is now at the University of Oklahoma. Sam Johnston and Justin Polischuck are in their second year with the Adrian College Bulldogs  (Michigan) in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA). Defenceman Brandon Parmar – older brother of current Braves forward Jordan – played a season for the University of Victoria in the B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey Association. Cole Golka went on to play Junior A with the LaRonge Ice Wolves (SJHL) and is now leading scorer with the Junior A Dryden Ice Dogs in Ontario’s Superior International Junior Hockey League.

Locally, Shawn McBride and Kevin Massy are key members of the Victoria Grizzlies in the BCHL, looking to secure college scholarships down the road.

McBride is also captain of this year’s Grizzlies squad.

Speaking of local, post-VIJHL life has been good for Braves graduates Jack Palmer and Wade Murphy. Palmer, who finished second to Jones in team scoring in 2011-2012 (and won the VIJHL Rookie of the Year award) went on to play two seasons for the Brandon Wheat Kings in the Western Hockey League (WHL) before being traded to the Victoria Royals where he is a dependable centre.

Murphy, who patrolled the ice at Pearkes arena in 2009-2010, went on to play for the Victoria Grizzlies and Penticton Vees in the BCHL, winning the RBC Jr. A national championship, and now skates for the storied University of North Dakota in the NCAA. In 2013, Murphy was selected 185th overall by the Nashville Predators in the NHL Entry Draft.

The Braves are in action Thursday against the Peninsula Panthers, 6 p.m. at Panorama, and are at home to the Nanaimo Buccaneers Friday, Jan. 2, with a 6:30 p.m. start at Pearkes Arena.

– Christian J. Stewart is a Saanich-based communications professional and contributing editor and photographer with Independent Sports News.

 

Just Posted

Canadians not afraid to take the plunge for the second time

Most will wait almost five years before remarrying

Famed Syrian artist displays paintings created while living in refugee camps

Farid Abdulbaki’s ‘Between Two Worlds’ exhibit will be displayed May 24-26 in Victoria

Mighty Garage Sale offers boost to Metchosin groups

Metchosin Community Association holds annual sale on May 25 and 26

Mad Hatter’s Ball offers laughs in support of Boys and Girls Club

Annual fundraising event features improv performances at McPherson Playhouse May 24

Carbon dioxide at highest levels for over 2.5 million years, expert warns of 100 years of disruption

CO2 levels rising rapidly, now higher than at any point in humanity’s history

VIDEO: Horseshoe pitching association appeals to Greater Victora youngsters

Youth horseshoe pitching club offers fun for all ages, says GVHPA

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Rescue crews suspend search for Okanagan kayaker missing for three days

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

B.C. ferry stops to let black bear swim past near Nanaimo

Queen of Oak Bay brakes for wildlife in Nanaimo’s Departure Bay

Mother dead, child in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Shuswap campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Canada’s parole officers say correctional system has reached breaking point

About half of Canada’s federal parole officers work inside penitentiaries and correctional institutions

Montreal researchers create audible hockey puck for visually impaired players

Three years ago, Gilles Ouellet came up with the idea for a puck that makes a continuous sound

Most Read