He may be a quiet young man, but Chris Breese has definitely been a presence on the ice since returning to the Castlegar Rebels this season.
Breese first played with the Rebels during the 2015-16 season, counting 25 goals and 39 assists over 51 games.
The following season, Breese — who grew up in Athabasca, Atla. — moved to the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), playing for the Drayton Valley Thunder.
“It was alright I guess,” Breese said of the experience. “Didn’t have the greatest team in the world, but it was a good experience.”
He returned to the Rebels this year with a purpose.
“Lost first round two years ago and kind of want to do better than that this year,” Breese said.
As the Rebels have already clinched their playoff spot, Breese and the team will definitely have the chance to make it deeper into the playoffs this season.
Breese hopes the team can make it all the way to the championship.
It’s been head coach and general manager Bill Rotheisler’s intention to make it deep into the playoffs since even before the season began.
Acquiring Breese was part of his pre-season strategy.
“His previous experience with the team was he was a top, top guy and one of the top producers in the league,” said Rotheisler. “So now he’s two years more mature from that, so it’s exciting that even though you don’t know exactly how much better of a player you get, you know that in some capacity you’re going to get a better player.”
Breese is eighth in the league for points so far this season with 16 goals and 30 assists over 32 games.
In addition to being a producer, Breese is also a larger player, coming in at six-foot-two.
“Two of the things we needed to do over the offseason was to get stronger and bigger down the middle,” said Rotheisler. “And in addition, kind of replace our scoring, and he allowed us to kill two birds with one stone.”
Rotheisler and Breese met last season and Breese attended some of the Rebels’ ice times before going off to the AJHL.
“So we kind of established a little bit of a relationship there,” said Rotheisler.
He also invited Breese to join a team he took to Boston for a tournament in May.
“We got to actually build a relationship on the bench and he got a chance to see how I was as a coach and I got a chance to see how he was as sort of my own player versus just a player on video,” said Rotheisler.
He describes Breese as “not very talkative,” but “very genuine about his emotions.”
“It’s funny because he’s not talkative, but he does at the same time kind of wear his heart on his sleeve,” said Rotheisler. “You know when he’s happy, you know when he’s frustrated.”
Rotheisler and assistant general manager Parker Hickey also both described Breese as being team-first.
“I think he’s a guy who, maybe more than anyone, bought into what we’re trying to do with this team,” said Hickey. “He scored a lot of goals, obviously, the last time he played for the Rebels and he’s on pace to do almost the same amount of points. But if you look at — I mean I look at ice time every game, and he plays the most of every forward, because he’s on the penalty kill, on the power play. He’s on the ice when we need him in defensive situations or offensive situations.”
“When you see a game he’s on our penalty kill, he’s not just scoring goals and not just trying to get points, but he’s trying to block shots,” said Rotheisler.
Breese is also known for challenging everyone else in the change room to ping pong, according to his coach.
“He likes to gloat sometimes when he gets lucky and wins a couple of games in a row,” said Rotheisler.
But Breese’s time with the team is only part of the picture.
He has spent four out of the past five years being billeted for hockey.
Breese said spending so much of his teen years living in other people’s home was “weird at first, but you kind of get used to it, and it’s nice to meet new people.”
Breese is staying with Sandy and Darrel Bojechko this season, along with his teammates Vince Bitonti and Evan Della Paolera.
“They’re hockey players. They have a routine and we’re just used to that routine,” Sandy said of sharing her home with the three young men.
She said Breese’s routine includes doing coursework.
“A lot of times he’s in his room and he’s studying,” said Sandy. “We don’t even know he’s there, he’s so quiet. And he comes out, grabs something to eat and he’s back hitting the books.”
This season will be the 20-year-olds last in the KIJHL, as he’ll age out at the end of the season.
Looking forward, Breese plans to go to school so he can get into industrial instrumentation.