Photo credit: Chaisson Creative
By Scott Onyschak
For North Vancouver’s Brandon Buhr, this hockey season has been a bit of a roller coaster, but he is confident he is exactly where he needs to be.
After wrapping up his second season in the BCHL with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs last year, where he averaged over a point per game in consecutive years, Buhr started the 2022-23 campaign playing NCAA Division I hockey with Clarkson University. But, after 10 games with the Golden Knights, he realized he needed more time to develop. In December, he ultimately chose to return to Alberni for one more year to finish out his junior career.
The 20-year-old felt he needed to improve his defensive game before making the jump to NCAA and he knew the right place to work on that aspect of his game.
“I knew the coaching [in Alberni] is great,” he said. “The culture that they have every year is great. The captain Chase Klassen is a great leader. That all played a role in me returning from Clarkson.”
The timing for Buhr, as well as the Bulldogs, could not have been better.
With the team struggling to find its game early in the season, a year after they finished atop the Coastal Conference standings, Buhr played his first game back with the team on Dec. 14, right before the Christmas break. That’s around the time the team really took off, eventually winning 10 straight games starting in late December and getting things back on track.
Needless to say, Bulldogs head coach and general manager Joe Martin was thrilled to have Buhr back with the team.
“Anybody can see the difference Brandon makes on the ice, but off the ice is where he makes the biggest impact,” said Martin. “He’s a great teammate. He’s well liked and it just eases tension really fast.”
After returning to the BCHL, Buhr put up 47 points in 46 regular season games and earned a commitment to Union College for the 2023-24 season. The decision to return to the BCHL seems to have been the right choice.
“When I went to Clarkson, I wasn’t prepared for the defensive aspect of the game as much,” said Buhr. “Now I feel like I’ve developed that part of my game a lot more. I’ll be able to make an impact right away. No matter where I play in the lineup.”
Buhr will be playing for head coach Josh Hauge at Union. Hauge was one of the assistant coaches who recruited Buhr to Clarkson back in 2020. Martin sees this as a perfect fit for his star player to succeed at the next level.
“Having the coach that recruited him will be huge,” he said. “Josh and Brandon speak very in similar terms. The support he’ll get from him is where it all starts.”
Before heading to Union, the goal is for Buhr to finish his BCHL career with a championship. He’s helped the team to the league final with 21 points in 15 games, fourth most among all players this postseason and just one back of teammate Dakota MacIntosh for the team lead.
“The playoff style fits my game better,” said Buhr. “It’s more physical. It benefits me because of my size and ability to protect pucks and finish checks.”
Coach Martin also noted how Brandon’s durability helps him in the postseason as well.
“A lot of players wear down in the long season,” he said. “He’s a bigger body and can handle multiple physical games back-to-back. His skill doesn’t go away.”
In the past, Buhr has played for some good teams in Alberni, but he feels even more confident with this group.
“We know that we’re a good team,” he said. “Every game we go out there and give our best effort. We don’t fear anybody.”
He also noted how special it would be to bring a title to the city.
“It would mean a lot, especially just for this town in general. Since I’ve been here, you can tell that the community loves this team.”
To end his time in the BCHL by winning a championship would cap off three great years in the league, but whether it happens or not, this season has been a success for Buhr and has prepared him to make the step up to the NCAA next season. This time, he’s made sure he’s ready.