White Rock alternate captain Francis "Butch" La Roue alongside alternate captain Chris Fortems, captain Tyler Price and alternate captain Matt Burry | Photo courtesy of Alistair Burns, White Rock Whalers
Tyler Price honoured to wear ‘C’ for second year
WHITE ROCK – The Whalers have a bounty of experienced leaders to draw upon – a group of young men who weathered a lost season together.
Last year, the 2020-2021 Pacific Junior ‘B’ season prematurely ended in November 2020 due to the pandemic. Now, captain Tyler Price and alternate captains “Butch” La Roue, Matt Burry, and Chris Fortems, take nothing for granted this season.
For Price, the long-term rink closures made him realize how “lucky we are to play hockey and that we have to enjoy every second.”
“I truly believe the guys in our room will make it a year to remember,” he added.
Captain Price: Second season at helm
Tyler Price has been the rock of the Pod’s defensive corps. A seasoned defenceman, he grew up in a hockey family and first laced up at four.
He joined the Whalers with a few weeks left in the 2019-2020 regular season. “I wasn’t sure what to expect…[going] right into the play-offs after having played less than 10 regular season games,” Price remembered.
His maturation process was on full display a few months later when he first wore the ‘C’ during the pandemic season. At the age of 20, this is his final chance for PJHL glory.
“I’m not the loudest guy in the room so I definitely tend to try to lead by example,” Price explained about his leadership style.
He pointed out that the Whalers – after a break of more than 500 days between regular season games – are hungry for a lengthy playoff run. And through two months of regular season play, there has been a focused mindset for Price and his teammates: to pressure opposition teams through a fast-paced forecheck.
Head coach Jason Rogers (left) and captain Tyler Price try out their new 'Movember' moustaches in 2020. The Whalers have collected thousands of dollars for this men's health fundraiser.
“Butch” La Roue: A vocal leader
Rugged defenceman Francis “Butch” La Roue spent the off-season playing our other national sport: lacrosse. “It’s definitely a great way to keep in shape,” he said.
La Roue grew up in Centennial Arena – his home rink during childhood. He has followed in his father’s footsteps, as his dad also played on the back end.
Like Price, La Roue’s in his fourth year. He was “very honoured to wear a letter” for White Rock and has enjoyed being a role model for the rookies.
In terms of off-ice guidance, La Roue’s fiery nature makes him a vocal leader. “I’m one of the louder players in the room,” he remarked.
After hockey, Butch quipped that his dream jobs will be: a professional golfer, an airline pilot for celebrities, and a Formula 1 driver.
Whaler defenceman "Butch" La Roue looks for an open man. Earlier this year, La Roue became an alternate captain and switched his number to 22. | Photo courtesy of Jody Harris Photography.
Chris Fortems: Steady sniper
With the departure of Zac Sherwin to the Langley Rivermen, Chris Fortems was named the Pod’s third alternate captain in mid-October.
In his third season in White Rock, Fortems, a speedy winger, has relied on his tremendous skating to pressure opposing defencemen for turnovers.
Also known for his quick release on the powerplay, he has been Mr. Dependable when it comes to lighting the lamp. At press time, he led the Whalers with 13 points – five goals and eight assists.
During his rookie campaign in 2019-2020, Fortems had a whale of a year. He recorded an impressive 48 regular season points. That total tied him for first in points collected by a first-year player and he finished 12th overall in league scoring.
He also picked up two awards at the annual team banquet: Top Scorer and Rookie of the Year.
Alternate captain number 19 Chris Fortems. | Photo courtesy of Jody Harris Photography, PJHL.
Chris Fortems (left) and captain Tyler Price honour veterans by selling Remembrance poppies. Fortems is now an alternate captain.
Matt Burry: ‘Long trek’ back to Centennial
On the road is where many young boys first dream of winning the Stanley Cup. When the rinks closed during the pandemic, Matt Burry returned to his roots: roller blades.
No stranger to roller hockey, Burry won a silver medal with Team B.C. in the U-17 Ball Hockey Nationals in 2018.
“Been a long trek back to playing games again,” he said of the interminable off-season. “If you truly love the game of hockey, you will do everything in your power to continue to play.”
The centreman also set up a 21st-century solution to his lack of ice time – artificial ice tiles – and adroitly discovered that hours outside provided an upside: now, he’s a nimbler skater for the Pod.
At press time, he was the 10th-best scorer in the league with five goals and five assists for 12 points so far.
“This is my last shot,” Burry said. “I don't want to have any regrets and want to leave all I have on the ice after every shift.”
Two seasons ago, “Burr” was named the team’s Top Scholastic Player; last year, he took home the Alumni Award.
A self-described “quiet guy who kept to himself” as a rookie, Burry has matured to gain the respect of his teammates.
He follows Price’s advice and leads by example – a team-first approach. The Whaler crest on the front of the sweater comes first before the name on the back, he explained.
Burry summed up the thoughts of the Pod’s leadership group: “I’m excited to be back at Centennial Arena every Saturday night!”
Whaler centreman Matt Burry joins the starting line-up. During the pandemic, he played countless hours of road hockey to stay sharp. | Photo courtesy of Jody Harris Photography.