Carter Bancks says the season he spent playing for the Kimberley Dynamiters was “the biggest year of development in my career.”
That career included 10 seasons in the American Hockey League with the Abbotsford Heat and Utica Comets. The Kimberley native, and Comets captain, announced his retirement from professional hockey on Jan. 11.
“It was awesome,” says Bancks, 31, of playing in the AHL. “Tons of unbelievable friendships were made. It was a great hockey experience and there were some definite high moments that we had some really good teams in Abbotsford, my early years. Unfortunately we never won a championship, but then in Utica, we went to the finals my first year. That was a really fun season. A really great group of guys and it was an unbelievable experience.”
Bancks, who played four seasons in the Western Hockey League with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, transitioned into a mentor role with the Comets towards the end of his career, helping his younger teammates and watched them progress to the NHL.
“It was an amazing experience. I wouldn’t change it for the world,” says Bancks, now back home in Kimberley helping out with the Dynamiters. “It was definitely an emotional day saying goodbye to hockey officially in terms of playing. It was definitely the best decision for me and my family.”
Were it not for the global pandemic and the AHL season starting later, Bancks says he would have played another season, however, he knew he was getting closer to this decision and stepping into the next phase of his life.
“She has made a lot of sacrifices over the last five to six years,” Bancks says of his wife, Lauren. “With me being gone a lot, my body has been through a lot. Being back home in Kimberley, my wife and I couldn’t be happier to be here.”
Undrafted, Bancks played 591 career AHL regular season games, scoring 59 goals and finishing with 172 points. He played in 44 Calder Cup playoff games, collecting two assists.
Breaking into the league in 2009-10 with the Heat was awesome and he played under Jim Playfair, seeing action in 22 games – regular season and playoffs combined and says that playoff experience was great.
“It really kind of helped show me where I needed to get to for next season,” says Bancks, who was fortunate enough to have his family watch him play live a few times while in Abbotsford. “Going from playing against guys your age, more boyish type guys to playing against men, there are some big strong guys out there. I thought that was huge for my development.”
That experience was also key in learning he was going to have to adapt his playing style to carve out a professional career. That had already started with the Hurricanes. Bancks says players have to find what is going to keep them in the game and what is going to make them successful.
He enjoyed success as an energy guy, playing a shutdown role while facing the top lines in the AHL on a nightly basis.
“When you get to the pros, there are some extremely talented guys,” says the five-foot-11, 182 pound centre-turned winger. “You realize pretty quick that I don’t shoot the puck like these guys, these guys are going to be taking the power play minutes. How can I help? How can I make myself effective in this game?”
Bancks took pride in killing penalties. Mastering his role allowed him to be a key part of the Comets, including as their captain.
“The quicker you can kind of figure it out, the better success you are going to have young in your career,” he adds. “I’ve seen some guys struggle not being able to adapt or understand their role and earn the opportunity to be on the PP. Sometimes it’s a little more of an expectation as these guys struggle, their mindset is that way.”
Bancks’ career includes playing two NHL games with the Calgary Flames, which he admits, as cliche as it sounds, “it was a dream come true.”
“When you get that call, it’s like the most exciting boyhood joy you feel throughout your body. You can look back and I did a lot of reminiscing when I got that opportunity overall, the sacrifices and injuries you battle through,” says Bancks. “Even though it was just a couple games, it made that all worthwhile. It was extremely cool, extremely thankful to have that opportunity.”
Both games were on the road – the first in Nashville, seeing 12:33 of action and the second in Chicago, getting 16:49 of playing time. Bancks says playing in Chicago was an unbelievable building.
“It was cool to be able to talk to my family about it,” he says. “They sacrificed just as much as you have. I can’t thank them enough.”
As mentioned before, Bancks’ journey began with the Dynamiters as a 15-year-old affiliate player. Being a Dynamiter was amazing for Bancks.
“As a kid growing up in Kimberley, playing for the Dynamiters is the dream to begin with,” says Bancks, whose father Jerry coached the organization, leading them to a championship in 2014-15. “The way this community supports you, getting to go to high school, after playing a game, everyone is kind of pumped if you scored a goal or whatever. It was a really awesome experience. Something that was a huge part of my hockey career.”
Bancks says he could have pushed for a roster spot on a Junior A team at 16, but his parents felt it was best to stay home for one more year and focus on education. That decision allowed Bancks to get great coaching from Scott Beattie and play a lot. He had sustained a big injury as a 15-year-old and that following season allowed him to get comfortable with the puck again. Playing in an offensive role and on the penalty kill, Bancks had 24 goals and 73 points in 50 games.
“It was the perfect stepping stone,” says Bancks of playing in the KIJHL.
And now he is back helping the organization that helped launch his career.
“A big motivating factor for me is kind of giving back to the game that gave me a lot,” says Bancks, adding he sees the high skill level players have and their motivation. “It gave me 10 years pro and a lot of friends and memories. I have always loved working with kids. I want to help kids develop and be at their best at this level or help them move along to the next level.”
While he does that, Bancks is enjoying the winter activities Kimberley has to offer such as skiing, cross country skiing and other activities to stay in shape.