Liam Sproule has returned from the Northern Alberta oil fields to complete the season with the Saanich Braves.

Liam Sproule has returned from the Northern Alberta oil fields to complete the season with the Saanich Braves.

Gritty ex-captain returns to Braves for playoffs

Despite working in Northern Alberta this season, Liam Sproule was kept kept on the roster just in case he decided to return

After a stint working in the oil industry of Fort McMurray, Alta., former captain Liam Sproule has returned to the Saanich Braves.

The veteran defenceman debuted in the Braves’ 3-2 loss to the Campbell River Storm on Friday and 2-1 win over the Kerry Park Islanders on Saturday. He’s been rostered for the remainder of the 2014-15 season. It’s the only junior team he’s ever known, having suited up in four seasons with the Braves since he was 17.

“I followed the team’s stats all year and wanted to come back to finish out my junior career,” said Sproule, now 20 years old.

Sproule plans on eventually returning to the 14- to 16-hour-a-day grind of the oil industry, where he did a variety of jobs. But for now, he just wanted to take time to play some hockey.

“A lot of the guys were talking to me about (coming back). I missed being around the guys, the team aspect, I love the game.”

Sproule’s physical game and experience will be a welcome attribute as the third-place Braves prepare to play the second-place Westshore Wolves in round one of the VIJHL playoffs.

“(Sproule’s) been a part of our program for three full seasons and knows our culture and how we operate so it’s a seamless addition at this point of the season,” said coach Brad Cook. “He will bring some nice depth to our back end and will add leadership into the playoffs to our young team.”

Sproule served as captain of the team at the end of the 2013-2014 campaign and was part of the 2012-13 team that lost to the Victoria Cougars in the VIJHL semifinals.

“I’ve been in the league a long time and I know what coach Cook likes from the players, which is to go to war for each other, give it your all,” Sproule said.

The snarly side of Sproule is no secret, as he’s amassed 401 minutes in penalties in 92 VIJHL games, with seven goals and 31 assists. Injuries have been a problem for Sproule. He was limited to 19 games last year and also was also unlucky with untimely injuries that earlier quashed his chances at Junior A career.

The Braves’ final regular season game is Friday, Feb. 13, as the Westshore Wolves visit Pearkes arena, a preview before the first round starts, likely Wednesday, Feb. 18.

Look for the regular Braves Beat in the Friday, Feb. 13 edition of the Saanich News.

– with files from Christian J. Stewart