PRINCE GEORGE – Next to hoisting hockey’s Holy Grail, donning the Maple Leaf and playing for your country has to be on the top of every young man’s wish list. For players that play at the major junior and junior levels, it is a dream that is within reach; although it only becomes a reality for a sparingly few. The saying “you have to be lucky to be good and good to be lucky,” rings true for one fortunate member of the Spruce Kings who was selected to represent Canada in an international hockey tournament in Saint Petersburg, Russia last spring.
While playing for the Prince George Spruce Kings in his rookie season in the BCHL, one seventeen year old was turning heads with his smooth style and abilities. Leading all other seventeen year olds on his team, Jeremy Roberts was one of the BCHL players short-listed by the Canadian Junior ‘A’ Hockey League (CJAHL) and Hockey Canada to play on their junior squad heading to Saint Petersburg, Russia. Luck smiled on Jeremy after the Spruce Kings were eliminated from the playoffs freeing up the forward to be officially selected to the late March evaluation camp in Toronto.
After making the team, Jeremy Roberts and the rest of Team Canada were ready to head to Russia to play in the “Big Prize of Saint Petersburg” international hockey tournament against teams from the Czech Republic, Sweden, Belarus, Finland, Slovakia, Russia and the host team. This was only the sixth appearance made by Canada since 1983 when Canada became the first non-European team to play in the tournament; Canada’s involvement with the tournament raised the profile of the championship and attendance levels also improved.
“It was a once in a lifetime experience,” says Jeremy Roberts of his first international hockey experience. “Getting the chance to wear a jersey with Canada on the front would be a big thing for anyone and I will never forget that. It was a good experience for me playing hockey with a bunch of guys from all over Canada; and seeing the different culture in Russia was eye opening.”
“It has widened my perspective a bit especially to international play,” continues Roberts. “Playing on the big ice surface against bigger and older guys was an experience. I hope other guys get to experience what I did.”
“I know it was a very enjoyable experience for Jeremy,” says Spruce Kings head coach and general manager, Ed Dempsey. “It gave him a chance not only to play with some high quality players, but to play against some world class athletes. Any time you get that experience its not only fun but it also really helps in your development as a player.”
In his second year with the Prince George Spruce Kings, Jeremy Roberts has found his niche on the line with Dylan Exton and Jordan Inglis. The Red Line, as they are known in practice, has combined for 104 points including 14 power play goals. They are usually given the job of checking the opposing team’s top lines and have met with success doing just that.
“Jeremy with Dylan (Exton) and Jordan (Inglis) have become a very solid shutdown line for us but at the same time we look to them to produce some offence,” continues Dempsey. “In Jeremy’s case he spends a lot of time killing penalties and a lot of time on the power play; he also plays big minutes five-on-five. He works hard and really tries to do the best he can on a daily basis to improve himself as a player and improve us as a team; he is a very important part of our team.”
Now playing as an eighteen year old, Jeremy has a very bright two years ahead of him playing junior ‘A’ hockey with the Prince George Spruce Kings, but isn’t willing to rush anything just yet. With a very understated and down-to-earth demeanour about him, Jeremy just wants to keep working hard and taking it one step at a time. For right now the first step is helping his team finish as high up in the standings as they can and having a successful playoff run right through to the RBC Royal Bank Cup.
“We are focusing on being the best we can be for the RBC (Royal Bank Cup),” says Roberts. “It’s one thing to get to go away and play for another team, but when you come back you have to focus and get back into the mindset of the team you are with and for us that is hosting the RBC Royal Bank Cup. We have really grown as a team this year; we have a lot of skill guys and a good chemistry with everybody.”
“It would be nice to get a scholarship this year or next, that’s the plan,” says Roberts when asked about what he sees for himself in the next year or two. “I don’t want to rush things though; I want to continue to play here until I know I am ready to move on. I still have a couple of years, I’m still young.”
“Jeremy has a bright future,” says Dempsey. “He’s a tremendous skater; he’s a strong kid and has a real good attitude. When you have those three big assets going for you, there’s always a chance to develop and move onto another higher level. I think in Jeremy’s case that is eventually going to happen for him.”
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