An unlikely tale in Cranbrook Bucks history is writing its final chapter this season.
Jaden Fodchuk, one of the last remaining Bucks skaters from the team’s inaugural BCHL foray during the 2021 pod season in Penticton, is into his final season of junior hockey.
Fodchuk’s journey to the BCHL seemed improbable at one point, having played Tier 3 hockey as late into his development as the U15 level. He says persistence and perseverance led him to the BCHL.
Having grown up outside of Sechelt as a member of the shíshálh Nation, hockey was a main passion through his youth. He spent his formative years honing his craft with Sunshine Coast Minor Hockey before catching the eye of the Vancouver NW Hawks BCEHL U18 program, where his game began to excel.
“Growing up on the coast, playing hockey was challenging for a lot of people,” Fodchuk says. “To make that jump, you have to leave. That’s what I wanted to do.”
He says the Cranbrook Bucks began to take notice of his success with the Hawks after parts of two seasons with the program, then opportunity came calling.
“Ryan [Donald] called me, said there was talks and maybe I might get called up,” says Fodchuk.
During the early stages of the pandemic, the BCHL held a makeshift 2021 season in a pod format. This would prove to be the brand new Cranbrook Bucks franchise’s first dose of regular season action as the league’s newest team, they were a part of the Penticton pod along with the Penticton Vees and Trail Smoke Eaters for a brief, twenty game season.
The expansion team began to get several bites from the injury bug, and Fodchuk would end up joining the club as an affiliate player for the final four games of Cranbrook’s initial BCHL season.
He says it was an interesting experience.
“It was the last seven games of the pod season, I was in class and I got a text asking ‘do you want to play for the last four games?’ I was like ‘yeah, I’ll be there’,” he explains. “I had to quarantine for two weeks, then take a COVID-19 test and drive to Penticton. I was super happy I got to join that [team], it was just such a cool experience. It was just seven days of hockey and I loved it.”
The Sunshine Coast forward made his way to Cranbrook in fall 2021 for training camp, but didn’t make the final roster and spent the first chunk of the 2021-22 season with the KIJHL’s Princeton Posse. However, opportunity came calling once again.
“I tried out for the Bucks, unfortunately I didn’t make it, so I went down to the KIJHL” says Fodchuk. “I was leading in points when I left, and then I got called up halfway through the season. A couple of days later, he [Ryan Donald] pulled me into his office and asked if I wanted to play, and I’ve been here ever since.”
Fodchuk is into his final year of junior hockey. While his playing days at this level are reaching its sunset, another opportunity close to home may keep him involved in hockey at the junior level. This as a new PJHL franchise is set to launch in Gibsons, BC for the 2024-25 season – a stone’s throw east of Sechelt, and the Cranbrook Bucks veteran says he envisions himself playing a role with the new franchise behind the bench.
“I definitely think about that,” says Fodchuk. “My close friend is the assistant coach for the team that’s going there. I know the coach and GM there, he helped my game. [I’ll] definitely try to get out there and help.”
Now in his fourth year with the Bucks, Fodchuk and Jarrod Smith are the only two players on the 2023-24 roster who suited up with the team in spring 2021. His departure from junior hockey when the season ends will mark the end of an era in the young history of the Cranbrook Bucks, but he knows there is still work to be done during the final few months of his BCHL career.
“I haven’t really thought about the future,” he says. “I’m just happy to play another junior year, and just try to get to get to our goals which is to win a championship.”
As of publication, Fodchuk stands at 94 games played through his BCHL career and will become the next Cranbrook Buck to reach the 100 games played plateau as long as he stays healthy.
Not bad for a kid from Sechelt who was playing Tier 3 hockey as of his 15th birthday!