By Cleve Dheensaw
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2005
VICTORIA, British Columbia – B.J. Boxma spent the weekend in Cranbrook reliving past glories at the annual Kootenay Ice reunion. Victoria Salmon Kings fans can only hope Boxma fashions those same kinds of memories in the B.C. capital.
The goaltender who played in two Memorial Cup national major-junior championship tournaments — backstopping the Ice to the 2002 title — will be relied on for the kinds of saves Frank Doyle of Idaho and Yutaka Fukufuji of Bakersfield made last season in the ECHL West Division against the Salmon Kings and which earned them contracts with the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings, respectively.
It’s a pro career path not lost on Boxma.
“I’m excited to get my feet back in the door and the AHL would be the next goal,” said Boxma, in an interview Sunday from Cranbrook. “Victoria not being affiliated (with an NHL team) means any team can call me up.”
At least that’s some sort of consolation for playing on one of the few ECHL squads not affiliated with an NHL club.
“But that will only happen if I play well. I have to do well this season for the Salmon Kings.”
Boxma addressed concerns that while he has a reputation of coming up with the crucial saves when the games are the biggest — he has three national championship rings over the past four seasons with the Ice, Canadian college champion Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton and CIS champion University of Alberta — the consistency hasn’t always been there earlier in those seasons.
“Even in minor hockey, our teams won the (Alberta) provincials almost every year and I definitely do tend to play better under more pressure in the big games . . . and I always seem at my best in the bigger rinks with the bigger crowds and also late in the season and in the playoffs,” said Boxma.
“I’m not saying I’m inconsistent but I have tended to get better later in the seasons. I’m trying to change that this season in Victoria (be stronger wire-to-wire).”
It is encouraging that Boxma has only endured one losing season since starting in the nets as a youngster. That was in his first stab at pro hockey two seasons ago with the Long Beach Ice Dogs, now an ECHL rival. But those other three seasons of the past four have produced enough championships for Boxma to call himself the Lord of the Rings.
Because of his five seasons in the WHL, Boxma is guaranteed five years of post-secondary education paid by the junior league. He burned two of them at Grant MacEwan and the U of A. While he was decisive in the nets, helping backstop the Griffins and Golden Bears to national titles, he wasn’t so sure about an academic path that was leading toward a teaching career.
And at 24, it’s now or never for pro hockey. Boxma didn’t want to look back with any regrets about not pursuing his chance. With the time right to step back and re-assess his academic goals, the Salmon Kings represented the right opportunity in the right league at the right time.
Boxma describes himself an amalgam of several styles — butterfly, stand-up and reflex: “I just want to stop the puck and I do whatever it takes.”
Boxma is an avid fisherman. But having spent most of his life on the prairies and Kootenays, his only ocean fishing experiences were on vacation as a kid in Victoria and Mexico. And now he will play for a team named the Salmon Kings and be in proximity to hit the big ocean waves when not on the ice.
He also finds it “kind of ironic” that Dan Blackburn, his former junior goaltending partner at Kootenay, was in a Salmon Kings uniform last season in his attempt to return to the New York Rangers.
“It’s all fitting in,” said Boxma, with a kind of expectant chuckle.
Maybe it is, in some cosmic way.