The quickest route from Christopher Lake, Sask. to the South Cariboo Rec Centre is about 1,406 kilometres, or 14 hours and 24 minutes.
Earlier this fall, 18-year-old Jackson Kowblick made the trip here for a chance to play his first full season with a junior B hockey club.
“One of my dad’s friends is good friends with Dale [Hladun – the head coach and general manager of the 100 Mile House Wranglers] and mentioned me. Dale came and watched me one day and gave me a call and told me if I wanted I could come play here. I came to play here.”
Since making the decision, spurning the advances of another Kootenay International Junior Hockey club, Kowblick has been one of the leading forces of the Wranglers, scoring eight goals and four assists. The forward describes himself as a player who pushes the opposition’s limits.
“I’m kind of the guy who gets in your face and just doesn’t leave and just keeps poking, poking, poking until you burst and take it on me and I capitalize,” he said, also describing himself as a team player.
His hockey journey from Christopher Lake, a small village 45 minutes from Prince Albert, to 100 Mile House began when he was five.
Like most Canadians, his father was a hockey player.
“I always liked it and just kept going with it. Thought it was fun hanging out with all my friends and it brought me here.”
According to the 2016 Canadian census, Christopher Lake only has a population of 289. So it makes sense Kowblick would play most of his minor and midget hockey in Prince Albert. He ended up playing two games for the Prince Albert Titans, a Junior B team in the Prairie Junior Hockey League last year, notching two assists. But instead of sticking around, he’s in 100 Mile House.
“I like it. I like the stadium and I like how everybody supports the hockey team. Everybody comes out and watches. It gets me excited,” said Kowblick, noting the difference between Prince Albert’s hockey scene. “There’s more than one hockey team and you’re not really the big team in Prince Albert. You’re just the side team (Prince Albert has a WHL franchise).”
Kowblick said he feels like his first season with the Wranglers has been going well, mentioning the roster is coming together and working hard. Showing maturity, he highlights that the team could work better on handling penalties but overall seems optimistic about the team’s chances this year.
“I think that we could take it all this year if we stick together and keep playing the way we are.”
The Wranglers will also be hosting the Cyclone Taylor Cup this year, the Junior B championship for British Columbia. Kowblick said everyone in the dressing room is equal parts excited and nervous due to being the home team and wanting to really win it. Again, he said the team has a good chance of doing just that.