Eyebrows were raised all over Canada as the Vancouver Giants made hockey history when they picked 15-year-old Chloe Primerano of North Vancouver as their 13th-round choice in Thursday’s Western Hockey League draft.
She’s the only female player ever selected by any of the three major junior hockey leagues.
Hockey Night in Canada’s Ron MacLean talked to her for feature interview during the Tampa Bay Lightning-Florida Panthers playoff game Thursday night, Canadian crooner Michael Bublé, a minority owner of the Giants, called to offer his congratulations, and there was a national news crew waiting for Chloe to come home Friday morning to do another interview.
The hockey world was stunned to have a girl get picked by the Giants 268th overall in the draft but that came as no surprise to her 17-year-old brother Luca, a forward for the Prince George Spruce Kings of the B.C. Hockey League. He was expecting it.
He’s watched her develop over the years while they’ve both played for the Burnaby Winter Club and he knew her high-end talent to play the game as a defenceman was too much for the scouts to ignore.
“My dad called me when she got picked and I was just so proud of her because I know how hard she works and how badly she wanted this,” said Luca. “It was a pretty cool experience. It was awesome to see her get the recognition I think she deserves in boys’ hockey. Sometimes she doesn’t get all the opportunity but I think it was a full-circle moment for her to get that yesterday.”
Chloe started playing around the same age as Luca, when they were two or three, and she’s always played with the boys. This season, playing for the Burnaby Winter Club U15 prep Wildcats, she scored two goals and had 17 assists in 34 games. In a national tournament, she played for an all-girls team and put up 17 points in five games.
“I hope she inspires other girls to make them think, ‘Chloe did this, and if I keep working hard, playing with the boys, I can do it one day,” said Luca. “She was excited about the fact she can inspire so many people like that.”
Chole has been overwhelmed with interview requests since the draft and Luca says he’s more excited about her instant celebrity status than she is. “She’s still pretty young for all of this and I think she’s just kind of nervous,” he said
Luca has never played against his only sibling but he has taken her on in open-ice keepaway sessions at the Winter Club rink.
“She never beats me but it’s good competition, it’s not an easy task,” he said. “I just think she thinks the game so well. As a d-man she can control the game back there. With the boys, she’s really good at making the simple passes and not putting the forwards in bad spots. When she’s with the girls, she’s so dynamic back there. She literally can control the whole game.
“It’s amazing, I try to watch as much of her games as possible and I can’t wait to see what she does in the future. Especially when she plays the girls, I expect something crazy every game.”
The WHL website has a highlight package that shows what Chloe is capable of on the ice.
Chloe, who turned 15 on Jan. 2, is still too young for any of the national teams but you can bet she’s being targeted on Hockey Canada’s radar for future involvement, and she’s a sure-bet to play for Team B.C. in the 2023 Canada Winter Games next winter in Prince Edward Island. The five-foot-eight, 137-pound blueliner just had her first round of tryouts for the provincial team. Chloe will move on the Rink Academy in Kelowna next season to play for the U18 team. Her brother and parents, Joe and Fiona, are keeping their fingers crossed she will one day end up playing for the national women’s team in the Olympics.
Luca attends Grade 11 classes at Burnaby Central Secondary School, while Chloe is in Grade 9 at the same school. She also plays basketball and soccer on her school teams.
Luca joined the Spruce Kings for the playoffs, right after his Burnaby Winter Club 18U team won the Canadian Sports School Hockey League playoff championship. He went on the 12-hour trip with the team to Cranbrook and watched from the crowd as they eliminated the Bucks in a six-game opening-round series. He made his BCHL debut in the second round against the Penticton Vees and played in Game 2 in Penticton and the fourth and final game in Prince George, where the Vees completed the series sweep. At least three other BCHL teams were after his services and Primerano said the Spruce Kings players made it easy for him to commit to Prince George.
“I got to come up and meet all the guys before I made my decision to sign and it was just awesome, everyone was so nice and the thing that stood out when I got there was every single person in the room came up to me and shook my hand and introduced themselves,” he said. “I knew it was different from other teams and I just loved it right away. It’s just such a tight-knit group and I’d love to be part of that and hopefully bring a championship to Prince George.”
Luca stands six-foot-one and weighs 170 pounds and he’s still growing. In 235 games with the U18 team he scored 23 goals and had 35 assists for 58 points. He was also a huge factor in the playoffs with four goals and five assists in five games in the Wildcats’ run the title.
“I’d say I’m a playmaker who can play both ends of the ice,” he said. “I’d like to bring a 200-foot game to the team next year and play in every situation.”
The Spruce Kings have a long history of developing BWC players into college material – players like Ethan de Jong, Ben and Nick Poisson, Kyle Johnson, Liam Watson-Brawn, Ben Brar, Nick Bochen and Nolan Welsh all went on to play in the NCAA. Former Wildcats Jag Phangura, Amran Bhabra, Ty Gagno, Evan Fedele and Adam Leitch played for the Spruce Kings this season. The Kings’ recent success as 2019 BCHL champions and 2018 finalists was another deciding factor that convinced Primerano to sign.
Luca and Chloe work out regularly with a track club in North Vancouver and are also together for skating sessions, and they plan to be frequent visitors to the weight room this summer to build up their hockey strength.