Sooke hockey player Aaron Kasper recently had an up-close-and-personal grizzly encounter.
Kasper, a former Westshore Stinger, trained with the Victoria Grizzlies at their Bear Mountain Arena main camp right before the start of the season, and said it was unlike anything he’s experienced.
“Playing at that level it was a lot faster than I was used to, but it was good,” said the 18-year-old defenceman, who is playing for the Kerry Park junior B team in Cowichan Valley this year.
He said normally players are only invited to the main camp by first going through a prospects and then a juniors camp, but Kasper’s coach Brad Scafe had contacts with the Grizzlies who said they were in need of D men this year.
“There were five or six kids from my team there, our goalie made it pretty far,” said Kasper.
The camp was a tournament style with a playoff, with winners having a chance to place somewhere on the Grizzlies’ roster. Kasper’s team placed third.
An EMCS graduate, he was also a product of their hockey program that Kasper said was excellent. It primed him for hockey past the high school level like when he joined the Stingers in 2010, which he said “wasn’t really a winning team.” That is not an exaggeration — in the half season that he played for them, they recorded only one win against Campbell River.
Disillusioned, Kasper decided to step down a level and played for Sooke midget A hockey the latter half of the season, and ended up capturing silver with the club. After that, he had attended camps for a few junior B teams around the southern Island such as the Victoria Cougars and the Saanich Braves and decided on the Kerry Park Islanders.
“Our team is looking really, really good this year,” said Kasper. “The coaching is outstanding, and it’s a way better environment.”
This year his goal is to get back into the swing of higher-tier hockey and work on fundamentals to prepare him for a jump to junior A. Eventually, he even wants to take his skills abroad.
“I know a guy who just went to Amsterdam and played in Europe — I kind of want to do that because they have good leagues over there.”