Ben and Nick Poisson had never played together before this season.
Now the brothers are not only teammates, they’re linemates who have helped the Prince George Spruce Kings win their way to the 2019 National Junior A Championship.
“It’s been incredible,” Ben, the Spruce Kings captain, says. “Not a whole lot of people can say they got the opportunity to play on a team with their brother, let alone go on this run on the same line.”
The Spruce Kings won their first-ever B.C. Hockey League and Doyle Cup titles with a dominant run, going 20-3 in the postseason with Ben Poisson leading the charge with 13 goals and 21 points in 17 BCHL playoff games.
19-year-old Ben is in his final season of junior hockey before departing for the University of Maine this fall, while Nick, 17, pushed for a roster spot as a rookie, knowing it would be his only chance to share a line-up with his older brother.
That falls in line with what their parents brought them up believing – working hard and not taking the easy way out.
The result has been an incredible opportunity for Nick, Ben and the Poisson family. In addition to the Spruce Kings’ success as a team, the brothers have both found the back of the net in Brooks – Nick has scored twice, while Ben has registered a goal and an assist.
“It is something really special for me and my family,” says Nick. “Being able to look back at this 20 years from now and say I played with my brother and we went to the national championship.”
A shot at a title is a far cry from where the brothers began. Ben recalls playing at their home in Vancouver, where a court with a pair of hockey nets served as a place for long summer nights learning how to play the game they love.
“We would be outside in the backyard playing hockey,” Ben says. “When it got dark, we couldn’t play anymore but we weren’t done so we made sure to run inside and grab all the lights we could. We strung them around the backyard as best we could and kept going for a couple more hours. Pitch black, middle of the night but we weren’t done yet.”
As they got older, Ben went on to play his minor hockey with the Burnaby Winter Club. Nick saw the experience his older brother had and followed in his footsteps two years later.
Ben moved on to the Spruce Kings and found great success, and when Nick saw the work head coach Adam Maglio put in to get the most out of each player, especially Ben, he knew he wanted to be a part of it.
“Ben’s always been a really good role model for me,” Nick says. “[He’s] a player I have always really wanted to model my game after.”
Chong Min Lee, the third member of the Poisson line, has a fraternal relationship of his own with the Spruce Kings. His older brother Chong Hyun Lee journeyed to Prince George from South Korea for the 2016-17 season before representing the host country at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
The Spruce Kings’ bread and butter all season has been their defensive prowess. The team finished the regular season allowing 2.07 goals per game, third-best in the 133-team Canadian Junior Hockey League, and dropped that number to 1.65 during the postseason.
“That comes down to everyone’s compete level and willingness to do the little things,” says Nick.
That focus on shutting down opponents first and foremost has led Prince George to a banner season and, at the very least, a spot in the semifinals at the National Junior A Championship. But it wants the big prize.
The brothers are trying to savour the moment while staying focused on the unique opportunity in front of them. It is only the second time Prince George has played at the tournament, and the first since it lost the national final as host in 2007.
“Our team is prepared,” Ben says. “We’re going to give it everything we have got here.”