Look no further for a hometown hockey hero than Princeton’s Curtis Gould.
Gould is the assistant captain of the Posse, helping to lead the team through its best season ever, riding at the top of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) standings for most of the year.
“He’s one of the strongest, most consistent defenceman in our league,” said head coach Mark Readman of the 5-foot-10, 180 lb., 19-year-old.
“He carries a lot of weight on his shoulders. He carries a lot of pressure, but he carries it well,”
Gould laced his first pair of skates at the Princeton and District Arena about the same time most kids begin Kindergarten.
“As soon as I started, I just fell in love with the game,” he told the Spotlight. “I’ve done it pretty much every day since I remember.”
He’s spent most of his hockey career so far in Princeton, save for a one-year stint in Kelowna when he was 15, where he played for an elite minor midget team which won its league’s championship.
As the Posse’s only local player – with the rest coming from around B.C., Saskatchewan and Alberta – Gould’s highlight reel is less about shots and blocks than it is about community involvement and support.
“All our home games have just been phenomenal, just having such a nice crowd that supports us and we’ve been trying our best to give back.”
Especially, he recalls with satisfaction a successful Meals on Wheels weekend that raised more than $3,500 for the program, and another fundraising game that raised money for a Princeton woman awaiting a double-lung transplant. “That was probably my highlight because it was such a motivated night for our whole team and for me personally.”
Junior B hockey in Princeton is a full-time job, according to Gould, who is in his third year in the program, although he manages to keep up with his business courses at Thompson Rivers University.
The team meets every morning at 10 a.m. and practices every day usually around noon. Sometimes, he admitted, the players get Sunday off.
Game days always begin for Gould at Billy’s Restaurant for breakfast with teammates, where he invariably orders a club sandwich and is not embarrassed to say: “Yeah, that’s superstition.”
While Princeton fans and hockey followers across B.C. have expressed surprise at the team’s meteoric success in 2022-23 – 26 wins and five losses, with three overtime losses and three shootout losses; good enough to hold first over 18 other franchises – it hasn’t shocked the players.
“We have a good squad, and we knew it from day one of camp…We knew what we were capable of and we knew what we could accomplish,” Gould said.
He credits much of Princeton’s success to leadership in the form of Readman, who joined the Posse last season, general manager Mark McNaughton and assistant coach Liam Noble.
“I don’t think there is a secret sauce. I think it’s just the way Mark (Readman) knows how to keep us motivated and keep us going and he really holds us accountable for how we play. He wants us to work as hard as we can, working to the best of our ability.”
As the clock ticks down on the regular season, it’s hard to keep thoughts away from the playoffs and the genuine chance one of the smallest markets in the KIJHL can field a roster to challenge for the Teck Cup.
“As a group, we all want to go all the way. That’s kind of been our goal right from the start of this year,” Gould said.
“We are going to have to basically take it one round at a time.
“I don’t know if we have any fears, though.
“We are not afraid of anything, and we know what we have and what we can do.”
Win or lose, Gould maintains the finest parts of any game are the relationships that are formed along the way. “(Teammates) eventually turn into brothers and lifelong friends.”
Readman gets a strong sense of that, from his go-to defensive stronghold.
“Curtis does things the right way. He cares and he’s passionate.
“He wants to see the team succeed, not only just himself.”
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