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Sens forward prospect man of action on, off the ice

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators forward prospect Darren Kramer shares a photo and a smile with a young prospect in attendance at today's practice session at the Bell Sensplex during Sens development camp (Ottawa Senators Hockey Club).

Let it never be said that Darren Kramer isn't a man of action.

In his first season in the Western Hockey League, the Ottawa Senators prospect dropped the gloves 47 times as a member of the Spokane Chiefs. The scraps accounted for the vast majority of the 306 penalty minutes he racked up as a 19-year-old forward.

But Kramer is far from your stereotypical hockey enforcer. The native of Peace River, Alta., also carries with him an entrepreneurial spirit that he hopes will someday make a name for himself in the business world. Not to mention alleviate one of his biggest food frustrations.

Two years ago, while toiling for the Grande Prairie Storm of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, Kramer decided he'd had enough of the mess he made while trying to reach the bottom of a peanut butter jar. So he took matters into his own hands, building a prototype of a jar that has a second ring of threads in the middle. So when peanut butter lovers empty the jar to that point, they can just recycle the empty half and screw the lid onto the middle threads.

"You just get a smaller jar out of it and you have no mess getting to the bottom," said Kramer, who has a North America-wide patent pending on his invention. "You just toss the top half of the jar, so it becomes a smaller jar."

Kramer was inspired by a Grande Prairie teammate "whose dad became very wealthy off an invention he made."

"I was just sitting in the dressing room joking around and we were talking about some stuff we should invent," he said. "All of a sudden, this popped into my head because I was thinking about some stuff that was a nuisance to me. I thought of this, quickly went to Wal-Mart and bought a couple of jars of peanut butter and started working on my prototype."

Unlike "Kramerica Industries" of Seinfeld fame, this real-life Kramer believes he's come up with a product that has a practical use. Now it's just a matter of selling somebody on the idea.

"I talked with Kraft about it a little bit," said Kramer, one of 36 prospects taking part in Senators development camp this week. "Nothing too big came out of that. It's kind of tough when you're a small name in the industry trying to get out to the bigger corporations but hopefully one day, we'll see it on the shelves."

With all that in mind, it should be no surprise that this is a guy who was also smart enough to figure out that raw talent wasn't enough to get himself a break in hockey. While he spends "every day trying to get better and develop and (improve) my game," Kramer knows how his bread is buttered in this world, so to speak.

"People ask me why I do it and I say 'if I could score 47 goals, I'd do it that way,'" said Kramer, a sixth-round pick (156th overall) by the Senators in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. "But after you get to a certain age, you see the guys get better and spots become limited on teams. So I figured out (fighting) was something I enjoyed doing and I wasn't too bad at it, either.

"I started fighting and playing an energy role. But I didn't fight just to fight. I did it for the right reasons and tried to pick my spots properly and try to motivate the team and the crowd at times."

Being drafted by an NHL team hardly entered his mind at the season's outset.

"Let's just say that eight months ago, I was just starting my major junior career and I wasn't expecting it to go this quick," said Kramer. "But after the season, I talked with quite a few NHL teams, so I was suspecting it might happen but I wasn't 100 per cent sure about it. When I saw Ottawa had selected me, I was more than happy to know I was staying in Canada."

Four days into Sens development camp, Kramer is savouring what he calls "the best experience of my hockey career so far." He admits the presence of top Ottawa defence prospect Jared Cowen, his teammate and captain in Spokane, has helped settled him into camp.

"It helps a lot having him here," said Kramer. "He's such a good guy and everyone respects him so much, so it helped having him here coming into (my first) camp."

And yes, word of his peanut butter jar invention has started making the rounds.

"Some of the guys have started to ask about it here and there," said Kramer. "It kind of spreads like wildfire. Maybe somebody important hears about it and it'll be the start to a partnershp and a new peanut butter jar."

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