HUMBOLDT — Luke Spadafora is thrilled to be finishing his junior hockey career in Humboldt – where it started.
Seventeen games into his rookie season, 2018-19, with the Broncos, the Calgary product was traded to the Melville Millionaires. He went on to win the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Rookie of the Year Award. Last fall Spadafora was swapped back to the Broncos. When asked what he felt when he learned about his first SJHL trade, Spadafora said it was “kind of an empty feeling.”
“Obviously, as a rookie, you don’t really know how to react, but I ended up just having to accept it and put my head down and go to work,” he said. “I did end up loving my time in Melville and am thankful for my time there, but I believe everything happens for a reason and when things weren’t working out in Melville my second year, I got the chance to come back to Humboldt and I couldn’t have been happier. I really feel comfortable here, and love everything about playing here in Humboldt. I can definitely call Humboldt my home away from home.”
As a 20-year-old Spadafora finds himself as a key cog on a highly regarded Broncos squad. The 6-6-foot-1, 182-pound forward had three goals and seven points through five games, as of Sunday. That placed him third on the team and made him one of five Broncos in the top 20 in SJHL scoring.
“Luke Spadafora has been great for us. ... Luke brings an offensive side of the game, but he’s also buying into the small details of blocking shots, getting pucks out on the defensive side of the puck,” Humboldt head coach Scott Barney said.
The Broncos bench boss also praised Spadafora’s leadership. He is one of the team’s assistant captains. Spadafora said it is a “huge honour” but stated that because the team is stocked with 19 and 20-year-olds, he thinks everyone is a leader. He does try to share his experience and help the younger players.
“Obviously, I was in their shoes at one point and being a rookie isn’t always easy especially with so many veteran players like us, but all our rookies have been great,” Spadafora said.
With many returning players, some veteran additions and talented rookies, the Broncos have gotten off to a 4-1-0-0 start, as of Sunday, and are looked at as a SJHL championship contender.
“We have a great team this year with lots of veteran leadership and all the pieces to accomplish our goal, which is to win a championship,” Spadafora said. “Not only do we have a great team on the ice, but we have an awesome group of guys off the ice. Everyone gets along, and I look forward to coming to the rink every day. I think we got something special with this group of guys.”
Barney was an assistant coach with the Broncos when the team traded Spadafora and the head man when the forward was brought back.
He said, “Obviously, we had to make the trade at the time that the organization thought was the best move. I knew Luke’s personality and the type of player he was. When he was made available, we jumped at it right away and it’s been a big reason for our success here in Humboldt. … We are really excited to have him here. We expect a big season from Luke all around.”
Spadafora said that in his first conversation with Barney after being traded back to Humboldt, he was informed his No. 33 – which he had gotten as a rookie for no specific reason – was available. It was not much later he learned that he could go back to his original billet home with Carla and Wes Clement.
“It was the first place I’ve lived in besides my home so to have awesome billets like them I was very lucky,” Spadafora said. “So, when I got traded, obviously leaving them was tough. They have three kids, Madden, Rowan, and Jaya so that also made it really hard. We kept in touch when I was in Melville and then when I found out I got traded back, Carla was one of the first people I texted. She said an opening in the house just became available, so I got to move back in with them, which was awesome. Can’t thank them enough for everything they do for me and it’s something I won’t ever forget. I will keep in touch with them for years as we created a great bond.”
His billet family is just one of the reasons Spadafora has been happy in Humboldt.
“I’ve enjoyed everything about it, from the hockey, to the guys I’ve got to play with, the coaches, billets, the fans, the community and everyone else involved. Truly a first-class organization to play for and couldn’t ask for a better place to spend the majority of my junior career.”
The Broncos last week
Saturday, Nov. 21 in Humboldt
Humboldt 3, Notre Dame 1
Broncos Scorers: Stephane Huard Jr., Jarrett Penner, Samuel Marburg
Hounds Scorer: Connor Nolan
Goalies: Tanner Marshall, Humboldt, 26 on 27; Raythan Robbins, Notre Dame, 52 on 55
Notes: Humboldt led 2-1 and 3-1 at the intermissions. All goals came at even strength. Huard Jr. and Penner each had two points on the night. Marburg scored his first SJHL goal in his third game with the team. The 18-year-old rookie forward joined the team recently from his hometown Junior B North Vancouver Wolf Pack.
The Humboldt Broncos acquired defenceman Reilly McKinnon last week from the Drayton Valley Thunder. The Broncos sent a player development fee to the Alberta Junior Hockey League team in the exchange.
The 19-year-old from Trail, B.C., who did not play on Saturday, was listed in the AJHL as 6-feet tall and 176 pounds. He played one game for Drayton Valley before the trade. Last season he had eight points, including two goals, in 46 games for the Thunder.
The busy Broncos (4-1-0-0, as of Sunday) have three games this weekend. They were slated to play the Notre Dame Hounds in Wilcox Monday after the Journal’s deadline. On Friday the Melville Millionaires (4-2-0-0) visit the Elgar Petersen Arena. The two teams meet again in Melville on Saturday. As of Sunday, the Millionaires boasted the league’s top two scorers in National Hockey League draft picks Reece Newkirk (four goals and 12 points in six games) and Jaydon Dureau (11 points with a league high seven goals in six games).
Broncos forward Logan Kurki was fourth in the SJHL with 10 points, including four goals, in five games. Teammate Tristan Shewchuk was third in the league with five goals in as many games.