As a teenager, Lance Bouma had many fond memories of playing junior for the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. Now 25, he’s set to add another.
Bouma, who spent parts of five seasons with Vancouver, will be inducted into the Giants’ Ring of Honour on Nov. 20, marking his legacy as one of the franchise’s greatest sons.
“It’s a huge honour to be inducted into it,” Bouma said. “Obviously there are great names that are in there and there have been a lot of great players to play for the Giants. It’s a great feeling. It’s really cool.”
Selected in the second round (No. 29) of the 2005 WHL Bantam Draft, Bouma played 230 games with Vancouver, recording 39 goals and 76 assists alongside 374 penalty minutes. He also played in 65 playoff games and was a member of the Memorial Cup-winning team in 2007.
But at 15, and playing his first games in major junior, the native of Provost, AB. couldn’t have envisioned his career taking shape the way it has. Nearly a decade later, Bouma has now appeared in 202 NHL games with the Calgary Flames, scoring 22 goals and 31 assists.
“It’s been a huge progression, for sure,” he said. “The Giants had a lot to do with that. They taught me what it was like to be a pro. They were a great organization to be a part of. I owe them a lot for the way that my career has gone so far.”
It's been a career Vancouver has enjoyed watching, both up close and from afar.
“Lance was one of my favourite players in Giants history because he emulated everything you want your team to be about,” Giants Executive Vice President and General Manager Scott Bonner said in a release.
“During his time with our team, we won a Memorial Cup, and we won a BC Division banner every season he was here. He is an extremely competitive, dedicated and relentless player which is why I’m not surprised that he has continued to improve with each season in the NHL. He also continues to give back to our club and is a great role model for our current players. We’re incredibly excited to induct him into our Ring of Honour.”
Bonner’s words don’t fall short on Bouma.
“It’s a huge compliment because he’s seen a lot of good players come through that organization,” Bouma said. “It means a lot to hear that from him. He’s a man I still keep in touch with. He’s always there and available to talk and wondering how things are going with me. He’s a guy that is a great person and he’s done a lot for me and my career.”
Though his NHL career remains young, Bouma’s junior career was storied.
And in many ways, it started with a defining moment early, and one he holds most cherished -- a Memorial Cup championship.
“The playoff run was unbelievable,” said Bouma, drafted by the Flames in 2008. “We went seven games against Medicine Hat and lost in double overtime but luckily we were the host team so we were able to make it to the Memorial Cup. We just bonded together after that. We ended up winning in front of our home fans. It was an awesome experience and something I’ll never forget.”
Losing again in the round robin to Medicine Hat, Bouma and the Giants found themselves in the final, again against the Tigers.
They avenged, in front of an announced attendance of 16,281 onlookers.
“I think we just had confidence because we were in front of our home fans,” Bouma said. “They were unbelievable. The whole tournament they were behind us and the whole city was behind us. It was a cool experience doing that in front of so many people, and in front of our home fans.”
It was Bouma’s first full season with the Giants, who won a BC Division title in each of the five years he played.
Titles won; friendships forged.
And now, honours received.
“Every year was an unbelievable experience,” Bouma said. “Every year I was there we had success. We always went far in the playoffs. We had some great teams, played with a lot of great players and I made some great friends.
“There’s definitely a lot, too many to mention that I stay in touch with. Milan Lucic is one I keep in contact with still and are still good buddies with. And Craig Cunningham. There are so many guys that I can’t really name all the names.
“I look back on those moments even today.”