There’s been no shortage of documentation when it comes to the changes surrounding the Kimberley Dynamiters this off-season.
From head coach Jerry Bancks retiring to general manager Mike Reid stepping aside and taking over the Midget AA program in Cranbrook, the hockey operations department will see a serious overhaul before the next puck drops this fall.
While the team enters a new era off the ice, there’s set to be serious changes in the dressing room and on the ice as well.
Heading up the list of departing players are a pair of local products, as 20-year-old captain Jason Richter — a native of Cranbrook — heads for the University of Jamestown Jimmies ACHA Div. I hockey program and 20-year-old forward Jared Marchi — a native of Kimberley — ages out after five full seasons with the club.
“It’s obviously really sad,” Richter said. “It’s really tough to leave here, but I’m excited to move on and I know a lot of the other guys are excited to move on, too.
“It’s been super special. I’m super thankful for being able to play here. As a 16-year-old, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen and when it turned out I had an opportunity to play here, I took full advantage of it right away.
“There’s countless special moments for sure, but the biggest one has to be winning the KIJHL final last year. That was incredible with that group of guys. I still talk to every single one of them. I’ll be friends with those guys for the rest of my life.”
Joining Richter south of the border in North Dakota is a host of 20-year-olds, including forward Eric Buckley, defenceman Justin Meier and goaltender Tyson Brouwer.
“It’s sad seeing that I won’t put that jersey on again,” Brouwer said. “But how can you not be proud of what we achieved? I’ll remember these times for the rest of my life. It’s tough to bottle, but I can’t say enough about the group — we battled to the very end.
“[Kimberley] is a second home, I can see myself living here after I’m done. I’ve met so many great people — billets, board members, fans. It’s a caring community. They care about you. It’s a great place to be, a great place to live. I’m born in Lethbridge but this is my home.”
The trio aren’t the only ones headed for an American college as 20-year-old Keenan Haase takes his West Coast stylings to New England College (NCAA Div. III) on the East Coast.
Back north of the border, 21-year-old defenceman and Playoff MVP Jordan Busch has enrolled at Concordia University of Edmonton, set to join the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association hockey program.
We’re not done yet.
Pesky 19-year-old forward Brodie Buhler announced he was retiring from hockey at the conclusion of the post-season after he was knocked out of action with another serious knee injury.
Rookie forward Korbyn Chabot, a 16-year-old native of Cranbrook, is a Tri-City Americans prospect, having been selected in the ninth round (182nd overall) at the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft. He could very well follow in the footsteps of former Dynamiter Jordan Roy, 17, who just completed his rookie season in the WHL after one year in the KIJHL as a 16-year-old.
Rugged two-way defenceman George Bertoia, who just turned 18 on April 19, committed his services to the Drumheller Dragons of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL). Standing 6-foot-2 and weighing in at 190 pounds, the hulking native of Taber, Alta., should have no trouble making the jump to Junior A in the fall.
That makes for 10 players off the 23-man roster headed for new stomping grounds in the fall, with a number of others with potential to draw Junior A interest as the off-season wears on.
Forward Sawyer Hunt saw an extended audition with the AJHL’s Canmore Eagles at the beginning of the 2015-16 campaign and could grab attention from Junior A clubs once again after a strong playoff performance saw him post 16 points in 19 games.
Defenceman Tyler Van Steinburg elevated his play to another level during the post-season and at 18 could find his way into the Junior A ranks. Older brother Trevor Van Steinburg, 19, has a smooth stride and tireless work ethic, assets that likely put him on the radar of Junior A clubs in the region.
Both Franco Colapaolo and Graham Dugdale brought Junior A experience to Kimberley this past season and rookie goaltender Mitch Traichevich joined the Dynamiters after a long look with the AJHL Dragons.
All of this amounts to widespread question marks when it comes to what bodies will fill Dynamiters sweaters come 2016-17.
With all that considered, the 2016-17 season will truly mark a new era in Kimberley Dynamiters as some of the best and brightest players in the club’s Junior B history move on to the next chapter in their lives.
Captain Richter departs as the franchise’s all-time leading goal scorer, with 104 tallies to his credit over 180 regular season games. The 5-foot-8 forward claimed the 2015 KIJHL scoring championship with 39 goals and 70 points in 52 games, earning him recognition as Eddie Mountain Division MVP for 2014-15 .
Marchi, the hometown kid, rides into the sunset as the all-time point-getter in franchise history, having collected 214 over a 228-game career.
“It’s pretty neat what he’s accomplished, he’s a tremendous hockey player,” Bancks said of Marchi. “I’ve known him for a long time and he will be a success in life, he’s just got to sort out where he wants to go.
“He’s the ultimate Kimberley kid. I’ve got a lot of respect for Jared and appreciate all the effort that he put into all his years with me in the school program. He’s a great role model. There’s a legacy in the school program that he was a big part of training as hard as he does.
“He can take credit for a lot of the hockey culture in Kimberley.”
Buckley was productive during his tour, registering 181 points through 184 regular season games.
“It was a pretty good four years,” Buckley said. “It’s kind of become a second home for me up in Kimberley there. It’s definitely not the end for me in Kimberley in my life.
“There was a total 180 [degree change] from my rookie year to my last year. It’s hard to say. Everything changed — the whole outlook on the season. We got swept my first year in the first round and it was almost expected. Now, the expectation is to win and win all the time and every game. The winning mentality is there now [because of Bancks].”
Buckley was recognized as the Most Popular Player as voted upon by the fans and was also honoured as the team’s leading scorer for 2015-16.
Busch ranks as the most productive defenceman in franchise history, with 127 points to his credit over 146 regular season games. He was recognized for his efforts as Eddie Mountain Division Defenceman of the Year in consecutive seasons (2014-15 and 2015-16).
“Jordan Busch found himself here, I believe,” Bancks said. “I think he had been kicked around a little bit by the world of hockey and when he arrived here he was probably a little bit disappointed to not make Junior A. But he’s gifted. He’s a gifted defenceman and he sees the ice and makes subtle little plays.
“He’s a gifted player and he learned to play with so much poise and confidence. He was clearly, in my opinion, the best defenceman in the league.”
Brouwer is the winningest goaltender in franchise history, with 66 victories racked up in the win column. He was named Eddie Mountain Division Goaltender of the Year for 2015-16.
“When I think of being a Kimberley Dynamiter, I think of Jason Richter, Jared Marchi, Jerry Bancks, that entire group,” Brouwer said. “That’s really what it’s about. You’re a team, but when I think back a couple years from now, when I think of the Kimberley Dynamiters, I’ll remember that group, everything we achieved, all the good times we had.”
There’s absolutely no questioning the past two seasons have been two of the most remarkable and exciting in the Dynamiters’ KIJHL history. What comes next is nothing short of intriguing as the core group that brought the 2015 KIJHL championship, 2015 Cyclone Taylor Cup silver medal and 2016 KIJHL regular season crown to Kimberley departs for its next adventure.
“I love all these guys,” Richter said. “There’s nothing like a bond between hockey players, especially junior hockey players. We get to do everything together and I’m definitely going to miss being able to come to the rink every day and hang out with these guys.”