In his junior hockey playing days, Evan Fuller’s name never appeared among Western Hockey League scoring leaders.
But in the sport of bull riding, the 23-year-old former Prince George Cougars forward has enjoyed his position at the top of the points ladder. A gritty and hard-nosed player on the ice, perhaps he can credit those characteristics for giving him confidence on a bucking bull. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he grew up in Williams Lake, a region full of cowboys who show a similar enthusiasm for rodeo.
On May 28, Fuller was back in the city which was his WHL home for three and a half seasons from 2004 to 2008. And he gave onlookers at the Coliseum a performance to remember in the final round of the Bull Riding Challenge, riding Wolverine for 87.5 points, the high score of the evening.
Although the start can be tricky, Fuller never appeared in danger of falling off Wolverine. Once he got into his groove, he was able to ride the bull near the bucking chutes.
Fuller called Wolverine the cream of the crop. He describes bulls like that as rider friendly.
“They’re kind of just letting you sit there, you don’t have to make such big moves,” he said shortly after Saturday’s event ended. “It makes it easier for the bull rider. Plus you’re higher points and they’re just a lot more fun to ride.”
Although he had the highest single round score, Fuller finished second in the competition behind Mike Gill of Merritt.
Fuller, who got bucked off Sharpie in his first go-round, had the second highest cash total at $1,409.15. At $1,042.24, Penticton’s Chad Eneas was third while Adam D’antremont of Quesnel ($517.84) ended up fourth.
Fuller said he lost his balance on Sharpie.
“I didn’t ride him like I should’ve. I didn’t stay square like I should’ve. It was just kind of little mistakes where I shouldn’t be making those mistakes,” he said. “There’s so much going on so quickly where it’s a split-second reaction, and it was the wrong move that I made.”
Fuller quit playing junior hockey early in the 2008-09 campaign, his final season of WHL eligibility. Now living in Riske Creek, approximately 50 kilometres west of Williams Lake off Highway 20, Fuller works in logging and spends his spring and summer weekends competing in rodeo. He ranks among the bull riding leaders in the B.C. Professional Bull Riders Association and B.C. Rodeo Association (BCRA). He had a successful start to the BCRA season, winning the bull riding event at the Williams Lake Indoor Rodeo, which took place April 15 to 17.
This past weekend, Fuller was scheduled to compete in the Kispiox Valley Rodeo. He’s also entering the Kitimat Bull A Rama on June 11.
Fuller’s visit to Prince George was a short one. He planned to leave the city for an event the next day, the Clinton May Ball Rodeo on Sunday. He enjoyed the setup at the Coliseum.
“It’s just a lot louder and the atmosphere is higher. You can feel it,” he said. “It just makes for better bull riding watching for sure. And the bulls buck good and stuff.”
Around 50 bulls from the central Cariboo were brought up to the city for the competition, noted stock provider Roy Call of C+ Rodeos. The C+ Rodeos ranch is based 20 kilometres south of Williams Lake.
Call, who runs the family company with his brother Earl, admitted that he was a bit disappointed with Saturday’s attendance. Seven hundred spectators watched the bull riding competition, and about 200 attended the dance that followed.
“For that kind of event, (the Coliseum) was actually great for the people that were there. You got a great sideline,” Call said. “Everybody was probably within 40 feet from the fence. You can’t be much closer than that.”
Twenty competitors and 40 bulls entered the event, which featured four rounds.
“As far as the bull riding itself, it was really good,” Call said. “They rode some damn good bulls.”