Sundher shipped to Brandon
Blockbuster deal brings Royals two players and a draft pick
By Cleve Dheensaw, Times Colonist
January 10, 2012
The Western Hockey League is a business, so don't get too attached to home-team heroes.
Kevin Sundher, the first true star for the Victoria Royals and the club's leading scorer and most popular player, was traded Monday to the Brandon Wheat Kings for 17-year-old forward Dakota Conroy, 18-year-old defenceman and seventh round Ottawa Senators draft pick Jordan Fransoo and Brandon's 2012 first-round bantam draft pick.
Sundher was literally pulled off the Royals bus in the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre parking lot just before it rolled out for an extended road trip, and informed of the trade that came ahead of today's 2 p.m. WHL trading deadline.
"It was surreal at first," said an emotional Sundher, who is seventh in WHL scoring with 64 points.
"It's bittersweet. I've been a long time with this organization [in his fourth season with the franchise previously known as the Chilliwack Bruins] and been through a lot with the guys on that bus. I got to say a little farewell and it was emotional. You build a special bond. Now I have to move on with a new team and try to fit in there."
A classy individual, Sundher expressed a strong desire earlier in the day to remain in Victoria to help turn the struggling fortunes of the Royals.
"It's been an unbelievable season and the memories will stay with me forever," said the all-time leading scorer in the six-year history of the Bruins-Royals franchise.
"It's sad to be moving on and not playing the full year here. I love Victoria. I love everything about this city.
I'll take a piece of the Island with me forever."
But with Sundher signed to a three-season NHL entry-level contract by the Buffalo Sabres, there is little chance of him returning to the Royals next season as an overage 20-year-old. And with equally little chance of a Memorial Cup run this year in Victoria, the Royals are looking down the road.
"This was a deal that best fit our needs for the future," said Victoria GM and head coach Marc Habscheid.
"But it was a bittersweet day. Ever since Day 1 in Chilliwack, Kevin has been there. He is a great player and a great person. This is a business but you do become attached to these guys and that makes it tougher."
Asked if the Royals have lost their best player, Habscheid replied: "No doubt about it."
"We want to lift the Memorial Cup this year but that's not likely going to happen. [Victoria] fans lose entertainment value without Kevin but we're building for the future. It's a good deal for both teams.
Brandon is currently the eighth seed [in the Eastern Conference] but they no doubt will be heard from."
Sundher concurred. "It's a good opportunity in Brandon. They have lots of veterans and told me they are going for it this year," said the 19-year-old native of Surrey.
Last year, the Wheat Kings went the opposite direction at the trade deadline and loaded up for the future by dealing the rights to star Brayden Schenn to 2011 Memorial Cup contender Saskatoon Blades.
Schenn, with 12 games this season in the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers, lit it up after the trade with 64 points in 37 regular-season and playoff games, but that still couldn't stop Saskatoon's doomed Memorial Cup express from being derailed in a huge post-season upset.
The Royals are barely hanging on to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Victoria is three points ahead of the ninth-place Prince George Cougars but the Cougars have two games in hand.
The six-foot-two rearguard Fransoo has two goals and 11 points in 41 games this season for Brandon, while the six foot one WHL rookie forward Conroy has four goals and eight points in 37 games.
In what promises to be a emotion-charged game, the Royals play the Wheat Kings on Saturday in Brandon after opening their 14-day, six-game road trip through the Prairies on Friday in Regina.
"Every situation on every team is different depending where they are in their cycle," said Habscheid, after practice Monday.
"We're in a young mode right now and are staying with that. The goal is to build a championship team here in the future and not just limp around. Sometimes, in order to do that, you have to take a step back."
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