The Brew Pub.
To visitors, the Jasper Brew Pub is a place to grab a beer, maybe smash a plate of nachos and take in the views of the Colin Range.
To many Jasperites, the Brew Pub is a favourite watering hole, a juicy gossip garden and a good spot to watch a sports game.
But ask local hockey players about the Brew Pub and you’ll get a different reaction. To members of the Jasper Hockey League, the words “Brew Pub” are synonymous with heartache, anger, frustration and regret.
Why all the hard feelings? Let’s see, why don’t you just ask Admiral Ackbar what his beef is with the Galactic Empire?
The Brew Pub, officially known as the Jasper Brewing Company Barley Kings, have had their way with the JHL for the last eight seasons or so (give or take a JFI Bone Stars and Royal Lepage Royals championship or two). Like the NFL’s New England Patriots, they manage to find a way to beat teams even when their opponents are younger, faster and more handsome (with apologies to Tom Brady and Alex Derksen). What’s more defeating than being beat by a Brew Pub team consisting of only seven players? That’s easy: Being beat by a Brew Pub team consisting of just six players, one of whom turns 60 this year. Just ask the hottest team in December, the JPL Hawks, whose eight-game win streak was halted after tangling with the likes of ex-NHLer Brian Young and company.
Young, who isn’t anymore, might be the Pub’s secret weapon. He’s not fast, his helmet is hideous, but he’ll catch every pass, he’s got a heavy shot and there are few JHLers outside of the Royals’ John Pelosi more terrifying to go into a corner against.
There’s plenty of firepower to go along with their intimidation factor, of course. The Barley King’s not-so-secret weapon (on account of all of his gloating) is the fast-skating, toe-dragging, stat-padding Sam Coyne, who potted eight goals in one night against the Outlaws. That’s one for every two years the Outlaws’ substitute goalie has been alive! Despite that epic pile-on, most will agree that if Coyne isn’t the best sniper in the league, then Reg Currie doesn’t have the best smack talk. Face-cage wearers, you’ve been warned. Imagine one game where Reg didn’t bust your chops for not wanting to get your chops busted!
More maddening than getting chirped while getting chipped is the fact that much of the B-Kings’ team are not even fixed to their respective positions. During one game Justin Melnyk will be a power-forward centre, the next he’s logging big minutes on D. Is that because he missed leg day at the gym? I’d ask the ageless captain, Royd Irwin, but I wouldn’t want an eye-full of tobacco juice.
Speaking of former ‘cats, this season the Brewpub picked up the Milan Lucic of the JHL, Brady Bangle. Was that because they were missing the intensity of the league’s second most fiery red head, Seth Carlyle? (Top honours goes to the Beavers’ Troy Mills). Or perhaps they simply needed to match a Bebop to Michael Chorneyko’s Rocksteady.
If we’re going full Ninja Turtle metaphor, we might as well admit that the Splinter of this group has to be player-coach-ref-commissioner, Chuck Barker, who is probably right now as you read this recruiting future Barley Kings from the Bearcats. Barker’s acute hockey sense is complimented by his competitive fire—a flame that burns white hot as soon as he laces up his skates, but which is snuffed the minute he leaves the rink. It’s hard not to admire that ability to go from hot to cold. I only wish the bruising on my wrist from Barker’s flirtatious stick work could do the same!
Is the Brew Pub the best team in the league? Probably. Certainly they have the winningest record by a country mile. In most rec leagues all over the country that would be the end of it. However, what makes the Barley Kings the Evil Empire of the JHL is not just their galactic domination, their lack of mercy, or the fear that they strike in the hearts of their rivals a week out from game-day. No, the most telling characteristic is their knack for showing up when it matters most. As though Darth Vader himself strapped on skates, traded his light sabre for a hockey stick and donned the purple and yellow, the Pub can make even the bravest rebel fighters choke.
The questions is: is there a weakness in the battle station? And can anyone exploit it?