PHOTO: Tami Quan
This is the fourth and final instalment highlighting the graduating 20-year-old players from the Warriors roster, finishing with Warriors defenseman and captain Aiden Reeves
Growing up in the Northern Capital of Prince George, BC, all Aiden Reeves wanted to do was play for his hometown team in the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League.
“The day before the trade deadline, I got a call and it was amazing,” Reeves said about receiving the call to the WHL on January 9th, 2020, “It was a great moment that I got to share with my family and it had been my dream since I can first remember playing hockey was to play for the Cougars so it was a really cool year.”
The 2019/20 season was a busy one for the 6’3″, 190-pound blueliner, who split time between three teams throughout the season, playing in his final year of U18 hockey with the Cariboo Cougars while also spending time with the Prince George Spruce Kings and playing 7 games of Junior ‘A’ hockey as a 17-year-old before suiting up for the Western League team to conclude the campaign.
Despite the busy season, Reeves recalls that year as one of the best he has had in hockey, “Looking back on it now, that was one of the most fun years I’ve had of hockey,” Reeves recollects, “I was all over the place every weekend, playing with a different team and getting to go back to Prince George and getting to graduate with all of my friends there was really cool.”
That was also the first year that Reeves had made his return to the ice in his hometown following a few years of play in the Kelowna area with the Okanagan Rockets of the BC Elite Hockey League and playing at the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy (now known as RINK Hockey Academy).
A lesson for all players is battling adversity whenever it is thrown your way and Reeves is no exception to that. Following his call-up in January to the Cougars in 2020, the season after was a turbulent one. COVID-19 had a large hand in that, forcing hockey to go in various different directions to play which included a Pod Season for the WHL, much like what the BCHL had done for their season. Reeves did get into 17 games as he and his Cougars teammates played out of Kamloops with the Blazers, Kelowna Rockets, Vancouver Giants and Victoria Royals all sanctioned there, which brought a lot of learning lessons as well.
“It was a really, really weird year,” Reeves mentioned, “With the season being cut short, I learnt lots of lessons and getting scratched and what that’s about. Making an impact when you’re outside the lineup and finding any possible way to help the boys even if you are not on the ice and then waiting around a lot and wanting to get my first season in the WHL going.”
“I did take huge jumps off the ice, finding a way to work out through COVID before the pod came around in Kamloops and it was another weird part of the season with only 20 games,” Reeves continued, “It started and ended pretty quick but it was a good time, it was a big learning curve for me.”
Finally, after playing in 29 games with the Cougars, Reeves got to experience a “regular” regular season in 2021/22, suiting up in 33 games for the team “It was kind of odd because I was 19 years old and going into my third season but kind of going into my first at the same time,” said Reeves, “That year was really learning about things inside the game, I had been around the guys and the organization and I knew what their expectations were but I was learning how to play within the WHL and it was a lot of fun.”
Heading into his 20-year-old, Reeves had a big decision to make regarding where he was going to play in his final year of Junior hockey, “Around Christmas time during my 19-year-old season, I kind of started thinking about it,” Reeves said, “Your 20-year-old season is just around the corner so I had some thoughts on what to do. I reached out to Simon after our season came to an end in Portland and he was interested in bringing me in and after I heard that, I was super super excited.”
Before Reeves had even stepped foot on the ice for a game with the team, his leadership qualities were recognized as he was named as the team captain for his final season of Junior hockey, “It was an honour to wear the ‘C’ in an organization like West Kelowna,” said Reeves, “It was a huge beam of joy for myself and my family and I couldn’t wait to thrown on the jersey and get going.”
And then came what happened on October 29th, 2022. After playing in 81 games of Junior hockey, Reeves scored his first goal of his Junior career.
“It was kind of crazy, blacked out a little bit for sure,” Reeves remembers, “I was just so excited and I really have to thank Simon (Ferguson) for giving me the opportunity to come in and play such a big role on the team and have nothing but praise for him.”
There are going to be a lot of memories that Reeves will take from this season but the one biggest takeaway is the bond of him and his teammates, “Getting together with the guys for dinner, whether that is at my house or a restaurant or (Riley) Sharun’s house, at the end of the day our group was super special this year,” said Reeves, “Any time we were able to all get together away from the rink, we always had fun.”
When it came to a memory that popped into his head on the ice, a return home stuck out, “The PG road trip was pretty special for me,” said Reeves of the lone trip to Warriors made north this season, “When we went there for the doubleheader, all of my family was in the stands with my friends and teammates from last year and we had a good couple of games, played some really good hockey and just having my family there and having a big impact on the games was just a good feeling.”
Having watched games in West Kelowna, Reeves knew that the atmosphere and liveliness of the crowd was strong but was a different level when he hit the ice, “Coming to West Kelowna, it was one of the things I was looking forward to,” mentioned Reeves about the Warriors fanbase, “The first couple of games, you really learn just how special it is when you’re playing in the games. I think the West Kelowna fan base maybe favours my playing style a little bit more because they do love the hits, shot blocks and the penalty kills and I loved every single minute playing in front of the fans at RLP.”