Time for another one of those archived newspaper clippings about Spruce Kings alumni on the verge of going pro. The interesting thing about this one is that it actually covers two former players - Ryan Howse (2006-2007) and Mike Lalonde (1998-2001). These two players share a unique bond despite never wearing the Spruce Kings jersey at the same time. Steve Ewen of the Province discovered that connection in October of 2008.
|Alumni Ryan Howse had an interesting connection with the|
team before ever putting on the crown himself.
by Steve Ewen, The Province Newspaper
Long before he was a Chilliwack Bruins sniper, Ryan Howse had a gig in junior hockey. His family billeted players from the BCHL's Prince George Spruce Kings.
Principal among them was Mike Lalonde, 27, now a left winger with the ECHL's Stockton Thunder who lived with Howse's family for two years, the last in 2000-01.
"Ry was a riot and only wanted to play hockey outside or on PlayStation, but was very respectful," Lalonde remembers of Howse, 17. "I am sure he would have wanted to play in the driveway a lot more but his mom wouldn't let him ask me. Roxanne wouldn't let him bug me on game days but most times I was out there, playing goalie for him and his friends.
"I never knew he was what he was until after I finished school and he was a big deal in the Prince George minor hockey system. I always knew he loved the game, and I think he always will and will play pro someday if he keeps working."
Lalonde, a Chetwynd native, went on to play at Michigan State University. He still spends a couple of weeks every summer with Howse and his family, part of preparations for the hockey season.
And he checks out the WHL website regularly. He has to like what he's seeing this year from Howse, Chilliwack's first-ever draft pick, the third overall choice in the 2006 bantam draft after a 108-goal season.
Howse heads into tonight's visit from the Kelowna Rockets (Prospera Centre, 7 p.m., 88.1 FM) with five goals and one assist in six games. That comes after counting 10 goals and 17 points in 54 games as a rookie last season.
Six of those goals came in the final 21 games, when he started to get shifts on Chilliwack's top two lines.
"Coming in as a 16-year-old, you don't know what to expect," says Howse, who is listed at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds. "It was a shock to me not scoring, not touching the puck a lot.
"Towards the end of the year, I started playing with Oscar Moller and Mark Santorelli and Brandon Campos. You get the puck a lot with them. I got used to it and this year I felt so confident coming in because I had a great finish last year."
Howse won't play with Campos this year, who graduated from the WHL at the end of last season. He likely won't line up with Moller and Santorelli, either, since both are catching on with pro teams.
The good news in that? He'll get ice time galore, and, with this his NHL draft season, it's the ideal time to get that shot.
Lalonde will pay close attention to that NHL interest. He admits to thinking about the chance of playing with or against Howse in the pro ranks.
"Hopefully, he doesn't have to spend anytime in the ECHL," says Lalonde. "If we did get to play one another I am sure we would have a little brotherly rivalry and would want to beat one another. It would definitely be my pleasure to play against the little kid I used to play goalie for in the driveway."