In the past four seasons, there have been plenty of wins, goals, hits, and big plays, but those are not what Josh Belcher believes he will remember most about his time with the Virden Oil Capitals.
“It would have to be all the people I’ve met in my time there, especially teammates and the billet community,” said Belcher, who praised his billets, Greg and Cathy Tough, “they were so awesome to me in my time there and I can’t thank them enough.”
The cancellation of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League season in February - after it was paused in November – due to the COVID-19 pandemic brought Belcher’s junior career to an end. The 21-year-old Rapid City product was a contributor on four successful Oil Caps teams. This season the skilled forward was one of the team’s top scorers and served as an assistant captain.
“We are very grateful that we had Josh in our program for the last four seasons and we would like to thank him for all he has contributed in his time here,” Virden head coach and general manager Tyson Ramsey said. “He was a great Oil Cap and we wish him good luck as he moves on to the next chapter of his life.”
Belcher has decided to focus his attention in the fall on academics rather than on hockey. He plans to go to university to pursue an agronomy diploma. Belcher grew up on a small cattle farm and said he has always been interested in agriculture.
He departs the Oil Caps with plenty of relationships forged and memories created. Belcher said, “My favourite part of junior hockey had to be getting to come to the rink and be with your teammates every day.”
The 6-foot-2, 188-pounder played 173 regular season and 28 playoff games with Virden. The Oil Capitals are sad to see Belcher and his myriad of contributions go.
“Josh has been very good in many ways in his time as an Oil Cap,” Ramsey said. “He grew a tremendous amount as a player and person here in Virden. In his last two years, he was a leader on and off the ice and he will be greatly missed.”
Belcher played for the Yellowhead Chiefs in the U15 and U18 ranks. He suited up for the Oil Caps in one game as an affiliated player before joining the team fulltime in 2017-2018. As a rookie, Belcher had nine points, including six goals, in 50 games for the Oil Caps. He scored three goals in 15 playoff games while helping the team make it all the way to the MJHL finals.
The next season, Belcher came into his own and recorded 43 points, with 14 goals, in 56 contests. In 2019-2020, he had 44 points with 18 goals in 58 games. This season he scored four goals (tied for second on the team) and posted seven points (tied for fourth) in nine games. But his points production does not begin to explain his full value to the team. Belcher won the team’s Top Defensive Player award at its 2020 banquet.
“Josh has many strengths to his game but his ability to play a complete game is something that he learned in the last couple years,” Ramsey said. “He was responsible defensively and also had the ability to contribute offensively. He played on the powerplay and became one of our best penalty killers over the last two seasons. He was a guy that played the same way night in and night out and was hard to play against.”
Belcher also developed into a leader for the Oil Caps. For two seasons, he was an assistant captain.
“Josh was a guy that had a presence in the dressing room and on the ice,” Ramsey said. “Guys listened when he spoke and when he played a heavy, hard-working game, it made our group play with that much more confidence. His leadership will be missed.”