The captain of the Cowichan Valley Capitals will be close to home next year when he begins his NCAA career.
Defenceman Chris Harpur has accepted a scholarship offer from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York, a 30-minute drive across the border from his hometown.
“Growing up, I saw a couple of games there,” Harpur recalled. “It will be good for friends and family to catch some games at home.”
A 20-year-old in his last season of junior eligibility, Harpur was pleased to commit to Niagara.
“It’s a relief,” he said. “I’ve spent three years in this league now. I’m happy to get a deal. I was happy with what they had to offer.”
Even though playing near his hometown was an attractive prospect for Harpur, it wasn’t until recently that he connected with the Purple Eagles.
“The coach, Dave Burkholder gave me a call and said they were interested,” Harpur said. “Their assistant coach came out and had a look, and I guess they liked what they saw.”
Harpur is the first player from this year’s Capitals team to commit to a scholarship for next season. Seven players from last year’s team earned college or university deals.
Harpur started his B.C. Hockey League career in 2014 with the Victoria Grizzlies, where he spent one season before joining the Caps along with current teammate Ayden MacDonald, finalizing a trade that saw Thomas Gobeil head to Victoria a few months earlier. How he ended up on Vancouver Island after growing up in Ontario is a “long story,” Harpur said.
“Basically, some friends had connections and they thought I could play in this league,” he said.
Halfway through the current season, Harpur has already set career highs in all offensive categories with five goals and 19 assists for 24 points in 32 games. He is tied for fourth in scoring among BCHL defencemen, and fourth among all Capitals skaters. In 146 career games with Victoria and Cowichan, Harpur has compiled 10 goals and 49 assists.
With a scholarship locked down, Harpur plans to get a degree, perhaps in business or sports management, and hopefully go on to play professionally. If he gets to that level, he will be following in the footsteps of his older brother, Ben, who played four years in the Ontario Hockey League before going pro with the Ottawa Senators organization, playing five games in the NHL late in the 2015-16 season.
More immediately, Harpur wants to “win something here with Cowichan.”
“I think we’ve got a pretty good team to do it,” he said. “I think we can go pretty far this year.”