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Over four years after making his major junior debut as a 16-year-old, Victoria Royals forward Alex Thacker’s WHL career is almost at its end.
The 20-year-old recently logged his 200th game played against the Kamloops Blazers on Wednesday and is slated to play his final game as the Royals host the Everett Silvertips next Saturday.
Like many junior hockey players before him, Thacker has experienced the highs and lows of the wayward world of the Western League over his four year career.
Originally a draft pick of the Swift Current Broncos in the 2017 draft, he would be traded to the Lethbridge Hurricanes ahead of the 2019-2020 season, where he would spend the next two-and-a half years before being acquired in a mid-season trade by the Royals in November of 2022.
Having to adjust to the life of a junior hockey player, as well as to two different teams and cities during one’s career is no easy task, however Thacker believes those challenges have been an integral part of his development into the player and person he is today:
“Playing the game I love here in the WHL has been a really good opportunity to learn as a person and grow,” said Thacker. “Not even just on the ice, but off the ice, there has been a huge maturity change for me…I feel like I’ve grown a lot as a person.”
Since arriving in Victoria, Thacker has stood out as one of the most reliable and steady presences both on and off the ice for the club. His skill as a puck distributor is apparent with every shift, and has been a hallmark of his game since coming into the league, allowing him to tally 113 career assists, the most among any current Victoria player.
That ability, along with his experience and veteran attitude, were large factors in the Royals decision to acquire Thacker earlier this season, as Victoria General Manager and Head Coach Dan Price explained:
“[H]e’s extremely intelligent and highly unpredictable in a good way,” said Price. “It’s really difficult for defenders to get a handle on where he’s going next with his skating path, so that makes him a very dangerous player…He’s also been a tremendous citizen, he’s come in and really just fit in well with our culture and left a great legacy too.”
With the door on his career nearly shut, the next challenge for Thacker will be adjusting to life away from the highly-structured life of a junior hockey player, whose days are micromanaged nearly down to the hour to ensure the best quality of play on the ice.
However, Thacker doesn't plan to get away from the game anytime soon, and has been entertaining offers from college teams such as the University of Alberta, which he believes will help aid his transition to life beyond junior hockey:
“I have a lot of guys I know at the U of A right now that are going to be a lot of help for me when I get there,” said Thacker. “I’m not overly worried about the scheduling and I think I’ve really matured in that way, knowing how to work my time and stuff like that, so I think won’t be an easy transition but hopefully one I can get help with easily.”
Thacker also views college hockey as a potential springboard to a future in the pros:
“I think I’m going to go to school for my first couple years, because U SPORTS is a really good league,” said Thacker. “It’s getting more recognition every year and a lot of guys are coming out of there with contracts to Europe or North America. So I’m going to go play some school, hopefully get a couple more looks, and develop a little more as a player and a person.”
Finally, Thacker offered some words of wisdom for young players looking to follow in his footsteps and have a successful career in the WHL:
“Come every day with aspirations to get better, and you’ll do really well in this league,” said Thacker.