Growing up, Alberni Valley Bulldogs forward Josh Van Unen and his family moved around the province a little bit, so he got to experience minor hockey in a few different areas. After stops in Prince George and Merritt, the Van Unens setup shop in Kamloops and that’s where Josh really started to get some traction in his early days of playing hockey.
Van Unen played within the Kamloops Minor Hockey Association during his Peewee and Bantam years and that is when a particular coach really started to instill confidence in him.
“I had one coach for three years when I was in Peewee and Bantam, his name is Kyle Allan, he really trusted me and put a lot of faith in me,” said Van Unen. “He really helped me grow.”
From there, it was on to Shawnigan Lake School Prep for his U18 years where his game continued to blossom playing against stronger competition and learning under the tutelage of head coach Kevin Cooper, who Van Unen also credits for helping grow his game.
During his final year at Shawnigan, Van Unen got the call two separate times to join the Merritt Centennials as an affiliate and get into his first BCHL action. What made the call-up even more special was that Van Unen’s two older twin brothers Rylan and Mike were both members of the Cents, which led to one of Josh’s career highlights so far.
“That was one of my favourite hockey memories, getting to play with them,” said Josh. “It’s something we always talked about in our house, getting to play together. It was definitely a really cool experience.”
Rylan and Mike are two years older than Josh, so all three Van Unen boys had never played together in a competitive game before that season, but that does not mean they haven’t been going to battle for years off the ice.
“There was definitely a lot of competitiveness between us throughout the household,” said Josh. “We would always be out shooting pucks and pushing each other to be better. They would also watch my games and give me little pointers that would help out a lot. I’m pretty grateful to have them.”
After playing his first full season in the BCHL last year in Merritt, Van Unen was acquired by Alberni Valley this offseason. Through three games, skating alongside Brandon Buhr and Stephen Castagna, the 19-year-old currently leads the league in scoring with seven points and is tied for the most assists with six.
“I’m playing with two really great players and we’re clicking right now as a line,” said Van Unen. “I feel like all three of us have just been waiting for a while to get back playing, and now that’s happening, so we’re just going off that excitement.”
Josh’s brothers Rylan and Mike have both graduated from the BCHL and are now playing NCAA Division I hockey together again at Northern Michigan University.
Josh would like to follow in their footsteps and come out of his BCHL experience with a Division I scholarship in hand and is using this abbreviated season as a chance to accomplish that goal.
“[A scholarship] is something I’m really looking forward to hopefully getting,” said Van Unen. “Especially just getting to play these games and with all the work that went on behind the scenes to make them happen. Hopefully I can get something here.”
Judging by his early-season form, he appears to be well on his way.