If the Saints are in the lead in the dying seconds of a hockey game, you can be assured that Kris Liber will be on the ice.
Liber, 19, is one of the top defensive forwards in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. He is a premiere faceoff man, a tenacious penalty killer and an agitator. If the AJHL kept track of hits as a statistic like the NHL does, Liber would without a doubt be among the league leaders.
He stands at 5-foot-7 and weighs in at 170 pounds but plays six inches taller and 30 pounds heavier.
“I really enjoy my role. Give me penalties and I’ll kill them,” he said last season.
Liber became a fixture on the St. Albert Saints hockey club at the start of the 1997-98 AJHL playoffs and hasn’t looked back since. He played the majority of the 97-98 season with the Maple Leaf Athletic Club (Midget AAA) and had 52 points (20 goals, 32 assists) in 32 games. When the AJHL playoffs started up the Saints took the opportunity to put Liber on the roster. It was invaluable experience for Liber as they went on to win the AJHL Championship and play in the Doyle Cup-the annual playoff between the best of the AJHL and BCHL-against the Surrey Eagles.
“It was a great experience when I got picked up by the Saints,” he said. “They treat you like gold. It was an unbelievable feeling to even go to the Doyle Cup.”
Liber lists the victory in seven games over the Fort Saskatchewan Traders in the AJHL championship as his favourite moment as a Saint to date.
Liber and the Saints followed up the championship run in 97-98 with a solid 1998-99 season. Technically that season was Liber’s rookie year but because he was with the team for the playoff run it almost seemed like his second season. He became a vocal presence on the ice and in the dressing room and backed up his words with his now-trademark agitating playing style. In 56 games last season, Liber had four goals, eleven points and 66 penalty minutes.
Hockey runs in the Liber family. Kris’s brother Jason tried out for the Saints this past September and his father, Don, was once the captain of the Fort Saskatchewan Traders.
Since joining the Saints Liber has also been very active in the community. Among his more notable accomplishments, he did some work for the United Way through Royal Bank-a major AJHL sponsor-this past summer at a fair at Heritage Mall. Liber braved the rain and cold to be a volunteer in the dunk tank.
This season the Saints have struggled to a 6-18 record but despite the adversity, Liber has remained positive. “It is pretty tough to accept right now that we’re losing. The last couple of years this hasn’t happened. We haven’t started with this type of a losing streak before but this is what kind of builds team character and how you overcome these adversities is how we’ll become a better team at the end,” he said earlier this season during a particularly rough patch for the club.
A deep bone bruise on Liber’s left ankle kept him out of three games last week but he is now back and playing with the club. He has been in the lineup for 21 of the team’s 24 games and has six points (three goals, three assists) and eight penalty minutes thus far this season.
The Saints lately have started to come together as a team and a more consistent defensive effort and physical presence from the team, led by the assistant captain Liber, has been a big part of that. “A lot of teams are trying to take advantage of us. They look at our young guys and they think they can be the big, tough guys against us but our guys are showing that we’re not going to put up with that. If we have to drop the gloves to make a point, that’s what we’re going to do.” The team has won two of its last three games; defeating Olds 4-2 on Tuesday and Bonnyville 7-4 last Friday
Liber is the only Saint currently attending a post-secondary institution. He is in the second year of a Political Science major at the University of Alberta.
“My goal in hockey is to hopefully go as far as I can. Next year I’d like to try out for the Golden Bears,” he said.
Kris Liber also has the distinction of being the only Saint player with his own fan club. If fans want to inquire about joining the fan club, or want to contact Kris they can reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.