Photo credit: Prince George Citizen
Growing up in Kitimat, B.C., former Prince George Spruce King and Cowichan Valley Capital Skylar Pacheco is well-aware of the charms that come with living in a small town.
The defenceman who played over 200 BCHL games from 2011 to 2015, enjoyed his childhood there, especially from a hockey perspective.
“It’s a great place to grow up,” said Pacheco. “It’s a small town, so everyone kind of knows everyone. You’re able to ride your bike two minutes down the street to go play with your buddies. It’s a really tight-knit community, so I definitely enjoyed my childhood there. Most of my friends still live there, so it’s always nice to go back and visit everyone.
“Playing hockey, there was a lot of travel, but it made for a lot of fun times traveling with all your buddies and staying in hotels. I got to be really close with everybody there. It was challenging sometimes, but it was also good for my development. There weren’t as many kids around, so coaches could kind of focus more one-on-one.”
After his four-year career in the BCHL, Pacheco moved on to play at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., where he’s been for the past five seasons.
On a recent trip back home for the holidays, he noticed there was a buzz around town and around the rink. The town was eagerly anticipating the BCHL Road Show event supported by LNG Canada and the two regular-season games that are coming to town.
The Spruce Kings and the Langley Rivermen are set to play two games at Tamitik Arena in Kitimat on Feb. 15 and 16.
“I know my dad has definitely been looking forward to it,” said Pacheco. “I talked to a few different people around town and they all brought it up and mentioned how they were excited to watch. Everyone is just excited to get some hockey of that calibre in the town.”
As the most northern city in the BCHL and by far the closest to Kitimat, Pacheco says it makes it even more special that the Spruce Kings are involved in the game. He knows this from experience as he spent three of his four seasons with the team.
“There’s been four or five kids from Kitimat that have played for the Spruce Kings throughout the years and, with that being the closest team, I’d say if anyone in the community is a fan of a BCHL team, it would have to be the Spruce Kings.
“It was exciting when I first started playing there. My parents were out there quite a bit. Every other home game they were making the drive over. It seemed like every home game I had friends or family there. It was a fun time in my life and I just look back at it with really fond memories.”
Although he was across the country at Brock University, Pacheco has still kept tabs on his old team, especially during their long playoff runs the last two year. After losing in the championship series in 2018, the Spruce Kings broke through and won the franchise’s first-ever Fred Page Cup last season.
“When I was there, we always had pretty good teams, but we could never really make it over the hump in the playoffs,” he said. “The run that they made and when they won it all, I was definitely paying attention and watching all the way through. It was pretty cool to see. I’m just happy for that organization, the community and all the fans there. They have great fans and I know how much they care about the Spruce Kings. For all the volunteers and everyone who’s supported them throughout the year, it was pretty cool to see them finally win it all.”
For Pacheco, he’s close to wrapping up his final year at Brock and is set to graduate this summer. His ultimate goal is to continue playing hockey at a professional level, but he knows with his education, he has something valuable to fall back on.
“We’re just looking into everything at this point,” he said. “I’m looking at options in Europe, anything pro, just kind of listening to different place and weighing all my options.
“Coming out with a business degree, I’m looking at jobs right now as well. As it gets closer to graduation and as the summer goes on, we’ll see if I continue to play or if I try to transition into the business world.”
No matter what he decides or what transpires the rest of the hockey season, his thoughts will be back in his hometown of Kitimat on Family Day long weekend.
“I wish I could be there to watch,” he said. “But I know it’s going to be a great event. The people that I’ve talked to, everyone’s really excited. Hopefully the teams can put on a good show.”