Spruce Kings continue to wheel and deal

The pieces of the puzzle of a new season continue to fall into place for the Prince George Spruce Kings.

The Spruce Kings team completed two trades this week to move a pair of 20-year-olds who did not figure in the B.C. Hockey League team’s plans for 2020-21.

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On Wednesday the Kings picked up 2002-born forward Austin Spiridakis from the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in a deal that sent 2000-born forward Quintin Loon-Stewardson and future considerations to the Bulldogs.

Spiridakis, an 18-year-old native of St. Albert, Alta., is a five-foot-10, 180-pound veteran of two BCHL seasons with Alberni Valley and is committed to Quinnipiac University starting in 2021. In 42 games last season with the Bulldogs he scored 12 goals and had seven assists. In 56 games in 2018-19 he put up six goals and five assists.

Loon-Stewardson was the player-to-be-named later in a deal the Kings made in December which sent forward Jaxon Steele to the Battlefords North Stars of the SJHL. After the trade was made, forward Brett Gammer decided not to report to the Kings and instead went to Liberty University in Virginia, where his brother was playing. The North Stars agreed to send Loon-Stewardson to Prince George after the season was completed.

“I knew when I got Quintin I was going to be moving him, just because I wasn’t going to have 20-year-old room on the roster) with what I had planned,” said Kings general manager Mike Hawes. “Austin is a really good player, he was highly sought-after recruit when he came into the league as a 16-year-old. Any time you’re committed to a quality program like Quinnipiac it tells me you’re a pretty good player. He’s a very skilled player who’s young but has experience in the league”

BCHL teams are limited to a maximum of six 20-year-olds.

The previous day, the Kings announced they’d sent 2000-born forward Tom Richter to the Cowichan Valley Capitals in a trade for futures. The 20-year-old son of former NHL goalie Mike Richter scored two goals and had eight assists in 56 games with the Kings last season. He’s committed to Union College in 2021.

“Tom is a great person and teammate and just got caught up in a numbers game and being a 20-year-old player and an import player,” said Hawes. “He’s a great kid , from a great family and they were great through the whole process . I worked closely with them as we tried to find him a place in our league to play. They wanted to stay in the BCHL and loved their time in P.G. and they were very appreciative.”

Coming off a disappointing 18-32-3-5 season, Hawes has been in the off-season making trades and acquiring new players. The 2018-19 league champions still have a few holes to fill before the already-confirmed roster players gather for training at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena on Sept. 1.

“I still need to add a couple d-men to the roster and move out some other 20-year-old guys we won’t have room for and we’re proceeding like we’re going to have a season,”  said Hawes.

The BCHL has revised its target season start date due to the ongoing pandemic. He league originally planned for Sept. 18 for the first games of the 54-game schedule but that has since been pushed back to early October, pending approval from the provincial health office.

“Arenas are starting to open and some in the Lower Mainland that have opened so our players who live there have been fortunate to get (arena icetime),” said Hawes. “Some of our recruits in the U.S., the ice still isn’t in there so it certainly has been a struggle for the guys to get ice. It’s been a trying year for that, for sure.

“In this day and age, players maybe take a couple weeks (away from the rink at the end of the season) and get back at it, so it’s certainly been a different summer for the kids.”

The COVID-19 crisis disrupted tickets sales for the Spruce Kings’ show home lottery, closing point-of-sale ticket buying in mid-March, but the club extended the draw deadline by a month and people responded by snapping up all 11,000 tickets. Profits from ticket sales provide more than half the operating budget of the community-owned team and this year’s sellout takes much off the financial pressure of running the team.

“The way the city responded was amazing,” said Hawes. “We were very concerned we would have trouble reaching our goal but people in Prince George and the area really took to buying online and that led to the sellout. We probably sold a couple thousand tickets in the last 30 days of the sales.”

 

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