The Kimberley Dynamiters matchup against the Fernie Ghostriders on Tuesday, Dec. 28 was special not just in that it was the first Christmas Classic in two years, but because before the game the team’s all-time scorer Brock Palmer was honoured in a cermony retiring his #10 jersey.
“It’s awesome, I mean words can really explain it,” Palmer said. “It’s an awesome experience, an awesome organization, an awesome group of guys. It’s really great, I love it.”
Palmer is one of those talents rarely seen in a generation. Originally from Coaldale, Alta. and getting his start in hockey in Taber and Lethbridge, he started his three-year tenure with the Dynamiters off with a bang in 2017, getting named KIJHL Rookie of the Year as the club went on to win the league championships.
He didn’t slow down from there and in his 2018/19 season he earned the distinction of Eddie Mountain MVP and top scorer with 27 goals. In 2019-20 he had the most assists, goals and points in the KIJHL and was, somewhat obviously, named the league’s MVP once again. He had a stunning 50 goals that season and 48 assists.
In just three years with the Dynamiters, he surpassed what their previous high scorer Jared Marchi achieved in five. After his three shorts years with the team were spent, he had wracked up 102 goals and 135 assists for a total of 237 total points.
The team’s all-time leading scorer has almost amusingly humble beginnings with the team.
“It’s kind of funny, the coaches all still laugh about this, but we took one look at him and thought he wasn’t going to last more than a week because he was very small and skinny,” head coach, general manager Derek Stuart reflected. “But after the first practice we knew he would be a good player.”
Palmer’s dedication and drive quickly set him apart. In the two off seasons he had with the Dynamiters, he trained hard, packing on around 25 pounds of muscle in two years; which he needed to do in order to play his style of hockey.
When asked about his experience with the Dynamiters and how he achieved so much in such a little time, Palmer was quick to thank his organization, coaches and teammates, demonstrating his remarkable humilty and great attitude, which along with his exceptional talents, truly set him apart as a singular talent.
“Obviously I had great teams behind me to do that, great teammates who helped me a lot of the way,” Palmer said. “I loved every teammate I played with and it was a great experience with all of them.”
Stuart said that a player of that age with that much talent can almost be expected to have a degree of arrogance, but Palmer never did.
“He’s a fantastic kid and he has every reason to be arrogant and cocky and he’s not whatsoever, so he’s confident, but there’s a big difference between some kids that are arrogant, and he’s not whatsoever,” Stuart said. “He’s a very nice young man and he was a guy that for us was refreshing, being that good you can kind of expect that arrogance, and not to have it was very impressive.”
Palmer is now taking Geo Science at Vancouver Island University and playing for the VIU Mariners. He said his time with the Dynamiters helped him out a lot as he progresses with the sport.
Palmer said that his 50th goal of his final year with the team was probably his greatest highlight.
“My 50th goal was really special to me,” he said. “I actually got hurt right as I scored the goal and wasn’t able to play the rest of the game and that was my last game of the regular season. So that was a really special moment for me, I got to take it all in as I was in the dressing room.”
Following the jersey retirement ceremony, it was time for the game — the first Christmas Classic in two years, due to the impacts of Covid, and the team’s first game after the holiday break.
Despite some rustiness, particularly in the penalty kill department, the Dynamiters played well to a crowd of nearly 800 fans and came away with a 6-4 win.
“We haven’t played that Christmas Classic for two years now and it was a quick reminder that with ten days off, it’s pretty sloppy and the systems aren’t quite where they were at Christmas, but the effort was there, the determination was there and the work ethic was fantastic,” Stuart said.
“I just think the penalty kill, for example, was very poor and I think that’s just a matter of being off hockey for ten days.”
Jack Karpyshyn was the star of the game for Kimberley, picking up two assists and a goal. Cam Reid continued to be a force on the ice since his return from the Cranbrook Bucks and picked up his second goal of the season.
Fernie didn’t go down easy and put a lot of shots on net, particularly in the last period making for a tough game for goalie Trystan Self, but his 22 saves helped get his team to victory.
“It was a harder game, lots of power play and penalty kill minutes but the boys came out at the end and we got the win and we’re going to get it tomorrow,” Self said.
Though Covid prevented full capacity at the Civic Centre, the 754 fans made a lot of noise, particularly the gallery of Dynamiters alumni who came to the game to support Palmer, and make life a little more interesting for Fernie’s goalie.
Self will likely get hit with the same treatment as the Dynamiters play the second game of the Christmas Classic on Fernie’s ice on Wednesday, Dec. 29.
“In terms of tonight it’s definitely a hostile environment it’s a very small rink with little time to make plays so I think the team that makes the least amount of mistakes and just really wants to win is probably going to come out on top,” Stuart said.