If it wasn’t the biggest trade ever made in the history of the Kootenay ICE, it will certainly go down as the most shocking. In a deal to address a perceived shortcoming between the pipes, Kootenay ICE G.M. Jeff Chynoweth did what many had thought unthinkable. He traded ICE captain and forward Jason Jaffray, 20 along with goaltender Jeff Harvey, 18 defenseman Aaron Rome, 18 and Kootenay’s first round draft pick in the 2002 Bantam Draft to the Swift Current Broncos for a familiar face in goaltender B.J. Boxma, 20 forward Duncan Milroy, 18 and the Broncos’ fifth round pick in the 2004 Bantam Draft. For Boxma, it is his second tour of duty with the ICE after being dealt to the Broncos just over thirteen months ago. In Milroy, a second round draft pick (37th overall) of the Montreal Canadiens in last June’s draft, the ICE receive a proven scorer who amassed 34 g and 54 a for 92 points last season.
Even though Harvey had played well in the club’s three wins over the weekend, Chynoweth said he had to make this deal to shore up the club’s biggest weakness, goaltending. “We felt we had to address the situation in goal,” said Chynoweth in his office shortly after the trade was announced. “Not that we were displeased with Bryan (Bridges) and Jeff but we felt we needed a proven number one guy.”
Chynoweth pointed out that the fact that the amount of proven, playoff goaltenders weren’t exactly in abundance in the WHL and that there were other clubs in the league that were in the market for a premier puckstopper as another reason for pulling the trigger on a trade of this magnitude with over a month before the WHL trade deadline. “There’s not a lot of goalies out there with playoff experience,” said Chynoweth. “B.J. Boxma has 21 games of playoff experience and as you know and everyone in this area knows he beat us in game seven last year and played very well in the Eastern Conference final against Red Deer.”
“We’re familiar with B.J.. We drafted him. He came up through our system and it’s a fact that to get quality you have to give up quality and that’s where the name Jason Jaffray came in.”
Jaffray, the club’s captain, inspirational leader and unequivocally, the heart and soul of the ICE, is a name that would bring about the most surprise in any talk of a trade. The twenty-yr-old Olds, Alta. product was in his fourth season in Kootenay and had essentially grown into a young adult in the Key City. A fan-favorite and arguably the hardest worker on the ice for the club made it that much harder for Chynoweth to make the deal. “It makes it very difficult to lose your captain, a four-year guy who was such a positive person both on and off the ice,” said Chynoweth. “Unfortunately that’s who they asked for and to make the deal go, Swift wanted Jaffray to be part of it.”
The mood during practice just an hour after the members of the club found out the news were understandably somber. Looking down at one end of the ice to see an empty net, the group of defensemen missing one black jersey from their midst and one green jersey, signifying a member of the top line, strangely absent. Almost as if there was a death in the family.
For Jarrett Stoll, who along with Colin Sinclair, Trevor Johnson and Richard Hamula, save for the incoming B.J. Boxma are the only members left from the championship run of 2000, shock was one of many motions that was evident. “All of us are a little upset,” said Stoll. “All three of those guys are a big part of our team.” Jaffray being dealt in particular was the hardest to take for Stoll. “Jaff was here right from the start just like I was,” said Stoll. “Harvey and Rome were also big part of the team but to lose them . . . ” his voice tailing off in visible dismay. “People say it’s part of the game but it is personal too. They’re good friends and I guess we’ve just got to look at what we’re getting back in return. It’s the only thing we can do. That’s the business of it and we’re sad that he’s gone, but we can’t do anything about it.”
Even ICE Coach Ryan McGill, himself knowing the business of hockey trades as he was dealt a number of times in Junior and the NHL, said it would be strange without the three in the dressing room, especially Jaffray. “Today was, as I’m sure Jeff (Chynoweth) said too, probably the hardest thing we’ve ever done as an organization,” said McGill. They were a big part of our club and Jaffray, our captain, it’s going to get some getting used to.”
“But at the same time you have to look at what’s coming back. B.J. obviously brings a lot to the table and Milroy is a proven scorer in this league. They’re impact players and they will help our club right away.”
The two newest members of the Kootenay ICE were expected to be in the lineup in Spokane Wednesday night against the Chiefs. McGill indicated that Boxma would get the start.