By Andrew MENDLER: Bonnyville Nouvelle
After three seasons, 129 regular season games, 20 playoffs games and 49 points, longtime Bonnyville Pontiacs forward Brady Bakke’s junior hockey career has come to a close.
Bakke, the longest tenured Pontiac on the 2014-15 roster, saw his junior career come to an abrupt end on April 5 when Bonnyville was knocked out of the AJHL playoffs at the hands of the (eventual league champion) Spruce Grove Saints.
“It is pretty crazy. You never think (your junior career) is going to go by as fast as it does and when it is finally done you (wonder about the future),” said Bakke. “It makes you wonder ‘what is next? What lies ahead for me?’”
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Red Deer native came to the Pontiacs from the Red Deer Rebels midget AAA squad back in 2012. He played two games for Bonnyville in the 2011-12 season before making the team full-time the next year.
Since then, Bakke has suited in up 129 games for Bonnyville scoring five goals in each of his three seasons. His best year in the Pontiacs black, white and gold came this past year when he notched five goals and 21 assists in 58 games.
“Brady is one of the smartest players that I have had the privilege of coaching,” said Pontiacs head coach and GM Rick Swan. “You know what to expect of him every day in terms of his great work ethic, team-first attitude, and his character.”
During the Pontiacs historic playoff run this past spring Bakke suited up in 13 of the team’s 15 postseason games. His lone playoff point came on March 8, when he assisted on Bobby McMann’s first period tally in a series-clinching win in Drayton Valley.
After a series sweep of Drayton Valley the Pontiacs took down Lloydminster in six games to make the North Division final for the first time in franchise history. Spruce Grove then deposited Bonnyville in six games.
“Looking back on (the playoffs) we have to be proud of it. We did something no other team in Bonnyville has ever done,” said Bakke. “We made history. We have 23 guys who are always going to be connected by history. I am pretty proud of what we did for the town.”
While the lengthy playoff run will always hold a special spot in Bakke’s heart, it was the support from the local hockey community that stood out to him.
“Being in the building during the playoffs this year with all the fans we had was awesome.” said Bakke. “The big screen with the 50/50 going up was amazing. The amount of people and support was incredible.
Another on-ice moment that stands out in Bakke’s mind was his first AJHL goal, which came back in his first full season with Bonnyville.
“My first goal is a big memory. I got that up in Fort McMurray in one of our first games of the season in my first year with the team.”
That goal Bakke is referring to came on Sept. 12, 2012 at the Casman Centre in Fort McMurray. He beat Oil Barons netminder Tanner Jaillet at 7:55 of the first period in a 3-1 Pontiacs win.
“I have so many memories from my three plus years with the team,” said Bakke. “You just remember all of the good times you had with the guys, your billets and the coaches. Along with the times in the dressing room that nobody else really knows about.”
In 2015-16 Bakke will be suiting up for the Concordia University College Thunder of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC).
The Concordia University College of Alberta is located in Edmonton. Bakke will be attending the school to seek a degree in business and finance.
“It is a different league. It is a little bit more laid back because the emphasis is more on school than it is hockey at that point,” said Bakke. “I am excited for a different chapter and to play more for a love of the game.”
Bakke will be suiting up against a large group of former Pontiacs as the Thunder compete in the same league as the NAIT Ooks and SAIT Trojans. Former Pontiacs Redford Swan, Locke Muller and Dante Borelli were apart of the Ooks 2014-15 Championship team.
“Brady has made a significant contribution to the community of Bonnyville and our organization,” said Swan. “It has been a pleasure to work with him everyday and I am extremely excited about his opportunity to play for the Concordia Thunder next season.”