The National Junior A Championship can be a bittersweet journey for the players, coaches and management teams involved with the five participating organizations who made the trek to Brooks, Alberta over the past week.

This narrative can also be applied to some of the people who work behind the scenes and don’t quite get the recognition they deserve all while putting in the same kind of time and effort to make sure the players have what they need before they take the ice.

Prince George Spruce Kings trainer Rick Brown is one of those individuals who deserves a little bit of the credit when taking a look at the magical ride the Fred Page and Doyle Cup champs have been on up to this point.

Brown is slated to retire at the conclusion of the tournament after spending the last seven seasons as trainer of either the Spruce Kings (the last three seasons) and the Cariboo Cougars (four seasons with the BCMML club).

He admits the journey within the hockey ranks has been a fun ride to say the least.

“It’s been really fun helping the kids see their dreams come true and hanging out with some organized coaches seeing how the system works with hockey because I am a soccer player at heart and this has been a really great thing to be part of.”

After retiring from the Prince George Fire Department serving 30 years with them, Brown was retired and looking for his next challenge in life and got the opportunity through long time friend and Cariboo Cougars GM Trevor Sprague who asked him if he wanted to take up being a trainer.

Needless to say, it didn’t take much for Brown to jump at the chance.

“Trevor came up to me and said Rick, I have the perfect job for you, I said ok what is it? He told me he wanted me to be the trainer so he invited me over to the locker room and to meet all the boys. When I came over to meet the coaches and all of the players I actually walked all over the logo which I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to do and it was pretty funny.”

“It all started from there with lots of road trips, a lot of bonding with these up and coming hockey players and of course with my good friend Trevor Sprague.”

For as many highs as Brown his seen during his sojourn through the midget and Junior A ranks, he’s quick to point out it can be equally tough to see the kids in the dressing room when things don’t go the way they expect.

“I don’t know what it is with boys this age but it’s heartbreaking to see them sit around after knowing they have been traded or going to school and they’re leaving such a great organization and great kids and they just feel rotten about it and that’s the heartbreaking part about this job for me.”

The Richmond-area product has been a lifelong supporter of the Spruce Kings being a season-ticket holder watching all the action from the Rolling Mix Concrete Arena.

“I have always loved going to Spruce Kings games and when general manager Mike Hawes hired me I was tickled pink because I had put my name in and he told me ‘Rick we really want you and you have a really good way with the boys’ and when I got the job I just couldn’t believe it because it has been such a great honor to be part of it.”

Brown had a ringside seat during the magical 16-1 run the Spruce Kings enjoyed when claiming the BCHL franchise’s first Fred Page Cup since joining the league and then to cap it all off Prince George sent the RMCA into a frenzy when they defeated the host Brooks Bandits in six games to claim the first Doyle Cup in team history.

“It’s an honor being a part of all of this whole thing. All three years watching them get better and better and we saw the new coach (Adam Maglio) take over last year and I could see the difference right off the bat, I could see us being a very good team but I didn’t see this coming but the fans should be grateful to this guy for producing such a great team.”

“I am telling you, I just think this guy is wonderful,” added Brown.

The Spruce Kings look to book a spot in tomorrow’s final (2pm Pacific) when they take on the Oakville Blades tonight at 6pm from the Centennial Regional Arena.

MYPGNOW’s Brendan Pawliw is in Brooks, Alberta providing extensive coverage of the National Junior A Championship.