Former Silvertip finishes Jr. A lacrosse career
Braden Kmita started his Junior A lacrosse career like most Albertans do: by playing hockey.
The 21-year-old was born and raised in Weyburn, Sask. where he grew playing the popular ice sport. It wasn’t until he moved to Airdrie seven years ago that he discovered lacrosse - a sport he enjoyed just as much as hockey. Whereas many young athletes are eventually forced to choose one main sport, Kmita was fortunate to play both.
“I played both,” he said.
“Because one’s a summer sport and the other’s a winter, I could focus on one and then the other. They’re both great off-season training for each other. You keep your body in shape year round.”
Kmita began his lacrosse career with the Rockyview Silvertips Jr. B team under the instruction of longtime ‘Tips coach Gord Henry. While the past few years have been rocky for the team, which has long acted as a development program for players, like Kmita, who want to take their sports to a higher level by teaching them the skills and attitudes necessary for one day playing in a professional league.
“(Playing with the Silvertips) was a great experience,” he said. “You meet a lot of guys you become lifelong friends with and you learn how to deal with different situations on and off the floor (through) the program.
“Gord is definitely an attitude person. He teaches you everything about respect and what mindset you need to be one of the best players. He’s seen and taught a lot of players who are well-known. He focuses on you and getting you to be the best you can be.”
After four year with the Silvertips, Kmita graduated to Junior A and spent the last three years with the Victoria Shamrocks. In three seasons, he played 43 regular season games with the team, recording four goals and 17 assists. It was a big jump between Jr. B and Jr. A, but Kmita eventually found his groove with the team and grew into a mentor for the younger players.
“(My time with the Shamrocks) went really well,” he said. “I moved up the ladder in every aspect of my game and being a 21-year-old, you can definitely teach the younger guys how to walk the ropes.”
Not only did Kmita see a difference in the calibre between the two levels of lacrosse, but he also saw how popular of a sport lacrosse is in B.C. compared to Alberta, where hockey is a main focus for many fans 12 months of the year.
“Alberta is very hockey oriented,” Kmita said.
“They leave ice in all summer, but in B.C. you can’t find a sheet of ice until lacrosse is done. Everywhere you go, you see something about lacrosse and people know a lot about it out there. The skill level is way ahead of Alberta where you only pick up your stick for the three months you play.”
For the past three years, Kmita has been trekking back and forth across Western Canada, playing for the Shamrocks in the summer and with the Weyburn Red Wings in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL). Now, he has reached the age limit on both teams, he’s at a crossroads. He’s considering going to school to play hockey, but there he could also be drafted into a senior lacrosse league. For now, he’s keeping both options open, but he’s happy with the experience playing for the Shamrocks has given him.
“It is a pretty big accomplishment,” he said.
“Not too many guys get to experience what I have. Victoria has a lot of history behind the team, so to be part of that organization was great. (Hockey and lacrosse) are both lots of fun and I didn’t play them both for nothing, so I don’t see it as an end in both roads, it’s just time to take that extra jump.”