Three-year Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) grad Isaac Dutka is going to be counted on to bring leadership to the Okanagan Lakers.
The Lakers are an expansion team representing Okanagan College and UBC-O in the B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League. Dutka collected 58 points in 128 career KIJHL games and added five points in 35 playoff games. Dutka last played in the KIJHL in 2019-20.
While playing in the KIJHL for his hometown Kelowna Chiefs, Dutka developed into a well-rounded defenceman. The league allowed him to round out his game and he gained several skills that started with his offensive side during his rookie season as then coach Jason Tansem gave Dutka opportunities on the power play, which he had never received before. In that 2017-18 season, Dutka had seven goals and 25 points in 39 games. It was his highest offensive output of his three KIJHL seasons.
“Being with the Chiefs gave me a new level to my game and a new aspect to be able to bring to the table,” he says.
He says Kelowna is probably one of the best places in the league to play in.
“They have a crowd, it’s something you can’t match,” says Dutka. “I definitely enjoyed my time in the KI and enjoyed playing for the Chiefs.”
At 22, Dutka will be one of the older players on the Lakers, so he will be counted on to mentor his teammates. He’s looking forward to the opportunity to play at the college level.
“It’s probably one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. It’s always been a dream of mine to be able to play college, my parents have always been driven for me to go to school,” says Dutka, entering his fifth year at UBC-O to earn a Kinesiology degree. “Getting the opportunity to play hockey along with going to school makes me super excited to be honest.”
Being born and raised in Kelowna is a big factor in the Lakers being a good fit for Dutka, who resides in West Kelowna. Being able to continue getting his education while playing hockey, especially in his hometown, is nice.
Playing in the KIJHL while attending school helped Dutka prepare to play in the BCIHL as he learned how to balance his schedule with practice times, games and his course load. Now that he will be able to play for the school, he feels his schedule will line up better.