RODE: RDP Kings Hockey proves to be perfect road for Gavlas

It almost seems fitting that Parker Gavlas ended up at one of the premier volleyball schools in the country.

Growing up in a volleyball family — his dad, Brian, was a long-time coach at the University of Saskatchewan and his brother, CJ, is a professional player in Denmark — Parker believed that was the direction he’d take.

It turned out hockey was the road he’d follow which eventually led to him joining the RDP Kings this season.

“My dad coached volleyball for 27 or 28 years at the U of S so I grew up in a gym and I loved volleyball and as a youngster I definitely felt that’s what I’d play,” said the 23-year-old Saskatoon native. “But my dad saw that I was playing hockey more than volleyball and he pushed me toward hockey which turned out good for me. It’s opened a lot of doors.”

He played minor hockey in Saskatoon and one year of U18 AAA in North Battleford before looking to join the Junior A Yorkton Terriers in the 2017-18 season.

But as he was preparing to head off to Yorkton he received a call from the Regina Pats asking him to attend their camp. It proved to be the next step in his development.

“I was undrafted as I was undersized back then and that was what they looked at. Not so much today but it was then. I received backing by (former pros) Scott Scissons and Dean Seymour which opened the door for me.

“At the end they asked me to sign which was awesome.”

He played much to the season with Yorkton — 35 games — but also eight with Regina.

He started the following season in Regina, playing 12 games before being traded to the Edmonton Oil Kings where he played 46 regular season and 16 playoff games. After the 2018-19 season he was once again on the move in a trade with Medicine Hat, which he said made his career.

“Willie Dejardins was one of my favourite coaches … hockey popped for me there. I give them a lot of credit in motivating me to where I thought I should be.

“That year was awesome and I thought we had a good chance to go far in the playoffs but Covid cut it short, which was disappointing for sure.”

He finished his 20-year-old season with five goals and 21 assists in 57 games.

The following season he fulfilled his dream of joining the U of S Huskies.

“That was my dream but Covid ended that year as well,” he explained.

The following year Dave Adolph left as head coach and Mike Babcock took over.

“He brought in some guys and put me down the roster which I didn’t understand,” Gavlas said. “I played only 11 games and five of those up front. That wasn’t the expectations I had for myself.”

Ironically Babcock’s naming as head coach of the Huskies was a benefit to the Kings, the team Babcock got his first college coaching experience with.

“It kind of goes around,” said Gavlas with a smile.

After last season with the Huskies Parker sat down and looked at his future.

“I spent a lot of time thinking about it and also talking with my family and I felt it was best to find a better opportunity.”

That turned out best for the Kings.

“Red Deer was a good spot for me,” he said.

“It was a real pleasant surprise,” said Keeper. “Last year we were struggling to get six healthy defencemen and with Parker coming in really solidifies our D-core.”

Parker took two years of Education at the U of S and with the third year not ready at RDP he’s taking a year of Business.

“It’s been great here, although a little different as the Business classes are a bit more time-consuming than what I was taking,” he said. “But it’s good.”

One thing he has done is fit in with the Keeper’s philosophy.

“He does fit our style. He can skate, is big and strong (six-foot-two, 202-pounds), has a lot of experience, He’s committed and not only is he a big help on the ice but great in the dressing room and will help build our culture.”

Parker played against some members of the Kings in the WHL, but was never teammates.

“I knew some of the names, that was about it,” he said. “But we fit well together. I knew we’d have a good fast team.”

It’s not the same calibre as U Sport, but close.

“The top couple of lines here could play with the top lines there,” he said. “It’s good in that I just try to figure out the difference and use my skills.

“Keeps (Keeper) told me coming in that I can jump up in the play and be creative. I feel skating and puck movement are two of my skills and I’ve scored a couple goals so far and I’m happy with that.”

Parker is looking to play pro hockey down the road and feels his time at RDP will help that.

“Coming here will benefit me and give me the opportunity to play pro in North American or Europe,” he said. “I need to play to my strengths and hopefully get the opportunity.”

The Kings, who posted a 3-2-1 record in the preseason, open their regular Alberta Colleges Men’s Hockey League season, Friday at home at 7 p.m. against the Augustana Vikings. The two clash again Saturday in Camrose.

The RDP Queens hockey team opens on the road Friday at Lakeland. The volleyball squads also open their regular season on the road Friday and Saturday at Briercrest.

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at

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