That a kid from Qualicum Beach has become such a key player for the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers shouldn’t come as a huge surprise given the close proximity, but the truth of the matter is Kyle Kramer is trail blazer in that regard.
Kramer, 19, is in his third season with the Clippers, and goes into the Christmas break sitting second in team scoring with 21 goals and 17 assists for 38 points in 33 games.
Contacted in Nanaimo, Mike Vandekamp, GM and head coach of the Nanaimo Clippers Hockey Club, had good things to say about his feisty forward.
“Great kid. He’s not the biggest guy out there but he plays a lot bigger than he is,” Mike said of the 5’10” 185 pound forward, adding “his number one asset is his work ethic. He’s just a hard working guy. He’s a strong, compact, physical player — most of his success comes from his tenacity and again, his work ethic.
“He’s tough on the puck … he’s physical, he’s aggressive-natured and he has a really good shot. He’s definitely known not only as one of our hardest working players but as one of the hardest working players in the league, and he brings a lot of intangibles to the table too,” said Vandekamp, 39 and his 17th season of coaching junior hockey. “Kyle brings a lot of life to the dressing room (and) we use him in all situations, on the penalty kill, on the power play — he’s basically out there in all key situations whether we’re up a goal, down a goal … he’s definitely one of our go-to guys.”
“The thing I’ve always found interesting in Kyle is that he’s a Qualicum boy but we joke that he plays like a kid from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, like a prairie boy … I never thought of Qualicum as being a hockey hotbed, but he’s got to be one of the better players to come out of there.”
An added bonus about having a kid from Oceanside in the lineup is that he puts people in the seats.
“For sure — it’s important for us as an organization to make sure we mow our own back yard before we go out looking somewhere else,” said Mike, adding that “when we can get a player from our own region that’s a contributor it’s a big plus.”
“We work in a open recruiting league,” he said, explaining that, “geographically we can’t protect a player which means they can play wherever they want, so for him to choose our program is a bonus.”
“Kyle’s incredible determination and work ethnic are such admirable qualities,” says Clippers’ media girl Jen Kennedy, who has strong ties to the Oceanside Generals Junior Hockey Club and has watched his progress both as a player and as a person.
Kramer was named the BCHL’s Player of the Week Nov. 6 after leading the Clips to two wins in three games and earning first star honours in each of the victories.
According to an earlier report out of Nanaimo, Kramer began the week with two goals and two assists in a win over Victoria, and finished up with a goal and three helpers in a comeback win over the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.
“He’s a fan favourite, no doubt about it … fans always relate to that guy that wears his heart on his sleeve. He gets under the oppnents’ skin with his style, so he finds himself in altercations on a regular basis.”
Vandekamp, who made the jump to Nanaimo to replace former coach Bill Bestwick, is coming off a four year tour with the Grand Prairie Storm of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
On and off the ice, he says, “Kyle’s a focused and grounded guy. He knows what he wants — he wants to go to college and be a college player, and I think he can reach that goal.”
Kramer has one more year of eligibility left with the Clippers;
“This is the best season he’s had so far numbers wise, I think the goal is to have a commitment from a Division 1 school before the end of the season then come back and play out his final year. I know he’s been talking to some schools (so) the process is under way.”
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Kramer said this week when The News finally caught up with him.
He confirmed he’s already set a career high in goals, and is also close to passing his total points from last year already.
The big reason for the upswing in his offence he said, “is that I’m playing with some really good line-mates, and they’re also giving me lots of opportunities. They’ve got me out there in all sorts of situations, so any time you can get that much ice obviously you have the chance to put up some numbers.”
Kramer concedes he’s always been more of a grinder than a goal scorer, and makes the point “I still play the same style, I’m just getting more opportunities and I’m cashing in more often.”
Kramer said he’s looking forward to some quality family time over the holiday season, and to resting his body for the final push before the playoffs.
“It’s a grinding schedule, so anytime you get a chance to get away from the rink for a few days it helps.”
The family moved here from Fernie, B.C. when he was about nine and he played his minor hockey here. He says he can’t recall ever not wanting to play for the Nanaimo Clippers, and points to the Oceanside Generals as a great starting point.
Kramer, who has an older brother and a younger sister, laced up for the hometown Generals in 2008/2009 season as a 16-year-old when the team won the VIJHL Island championship and went on to compete in the Cyclone Taylor Cup.
“That was a great experience,” he said, adding “I learned a lot that year and it was a great springboard for me.”
Kramer said he’s never felt the pull to play away from home, and has no plans on pulling up stakes in his final season of Jr. A.
“As a kid growing up and going to Nanaimo to the games you always dream, always hope one day you might get the chance to play for the Clippers … I like being near my family and friends.”
“He’s in a class all of his own,” Oceanside head coach and GM Dave Johnston answered when asked if any other local player has gone where he has.
Home grown forward Brett Corcoran he points out had success with the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters and continues to have success in college Saint Scholastica in Michigan.
“For me the best description of Kyle is he’s old school,” said Johnston, adding “he plays the game on a level of intensity that very few young players ever get to. Humble, grounded — he’s all of that and then some. He’s the type of young man, the type of hockey player, that really represents the sport and the league in a positive light.”
The Clippers’ next home game is Friday, Jan. 6 (7 p.m. start) against the Langley Rivermen.
The Clippers head into the Christmas break at 16-12-5 for 4th in the BCHL’s 8-team Coastal Conference and riding a modest two game win streak.
“Consistency, that’s what we’re looking for. We’ve only got six players that played on the team last year so we’re certainly a new group there are only four teams in our conference that make the playoffs, so that’s our goal.”