By Cleve Dheensaw
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007
VICTORIA, British Columbia – Spencer Carbery was 14 years old and the Greater Victoria city golf champion for his age group, not too mention a rep hockey star at Racquet Club, after beginning playing in Saanich. He had a decision to make. He said he made the right one, which led to a university education in the U.S. and pro hockey.
Carbery and his Bakersfield Condors play the Victoria Salmon Kings Friday and Saturday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre to complete their three-game ECHL set.
Because pro hockey is all-consuming, the former Uplands member Carbery has seen his handicap slip lately from four to 10. But golf still runs near and dear in the Carbery clan as dad Bryan Carbery is head coach of the UVic Vikes team.
“In the end, I loved the team aspect of hockey more than I did the individual aspect of golf,” said the 25-year-old sophomore pro Spencer Carbery.
“I love the speed and quick decision-making involved in hockey and the physical nature of it. I found golf to be more a mental game requiring patience,” added the Claremont grad, who works summers in the stores/supplies department at Swartz Bay for B.C. Ferries.
And you can’t smoke anybody out on the course, as much as you want to sometimes. In hockey, it’s bombs away. The most they usually give you is two minutes.
“Being a teaching [golf] pro, my dad helped me a lot when I was younger on the course,” said Carbery.
“And now we talk all the time about hockey and he’s really good with the mental stuff and you can apply that to any sport. I still go on the Internet to see how the UVic golf team is doing.”
Carbery played Junior B for the Peninsula Panthers. He blossomed to score 31 goals in the BCHL for the Cowichan Valley Capitals in 2000-01 before being dealt to Penticton for then hot-shot T.J. Caig in what amounted to a blockbuster trade at the BCHL level. Carbery led Penticton to the 2002 BCHL Interior Conference final and landed a U.S. NCAA athletic scholarship to the University of Alaska-Anchorage before finding a home at tiny St. Norbert College in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and graduating with a degree in business administration. You get no prize for guessing his favourite NFL team.
“We got to go to all the Packers games and met Brett Favre and Bart Starr — Brett is a huge hockey fan — and it was a unique and wonderful experience playing at St. Norbert,” said Carbery, who led the Green Knights to two NCAA Division-III championship games.
There are different routes in hockey. While Carbery’s Bakersfield teammate and rookie-pro Mark Derlago scored a WHL-leading 46 goals last season in junior, Carbery’s path wasn’t so defined. It’s a long way from NCAA Division-III to pro hockey but the Victorian displayed tenacity and will in getting there, beginning last season by scoring 16 goals and recording 44 points and 157 penalty minutes in the Central Hockey League with the historic Tulsa Oilers.
Carbery has taken it to the next level in the ECHL — he has a goal and three points for the Condors in six games — and is one step from the AHL.
“It’s bigger, stronger, faster in pro hockey, especially the ECHL, with a lot of really skilled guys,” noted the six-foot-two left-winger.
Carbery realizes you are always on audition in the ECHL, as witnessed by the fact AHL Manitoba Moose GM Craig Heisinger was on hand and intently taking notes from the press box during Wednesday’s 3-2 Salmon Kings victory over the Condors.
“You can’t take any nights off in this league,” said Carbery. “If you do, you’re going to get beat. The goal is to get to the AHL from here and I know the ball is in my court and I need to play well in the ‘E’ to get that opportunity.”
It’s interesting when locally raised or former Island junior players come through Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre with other ECHL teams, such as last weekend and Sean Owens, Adam Cracknell and former Salsa junior star Curtis Fraser with the Las Vegas Wranglers.
“It’s good to be home . . . I’ll have a cheering section of about 30 family and friends rooting for me Friday and Saturday,” said Carbery.