WHL League Updates – Fall 2021
By Rich Campbell, Athletic Trainer & Strength and Conditioning Coach, Portland Winterhawks
The Western Hockey League was one of the last sport leagues to commit to a return to play schedule for the 2020-21 season. The goal was to get our players, particularly draft eligible and 20-year-old free agents, an opportunity to play some games in front of NHL scouts. The 24-game schedule proved to be worth the effort as many of our 20-year-olds inked a pro contract.
The WHL COVID protocol included surveillance PCR and antigen testing. Close to 10,000 tests were conducted over the three-month schedule. The Canadian clubs tested 1x per week and the US based clubs tested 3x per week. A special shoutout to the US Athletic Trainers as they actively participated in swabbing close to 11,000 nostrils.
There has been lots of changes in our WHL group. The path from Major Jr. to the pros is not only for the players. Our athletic trainers and equipment managers also work hard at their craft to fine tune their skills in hopes to earn a job in the show. The reason why I’m writing this update is because our beloved Brian “Cheese” Cheeseman moved on and up joining the CFL’s Edmonton Elk. Jimmy McKnight took over the AT position for the Oil Kings. Future WHL Hall of Famer Innes Mackie decided to take a well-deserved respite and wait out COVID in Palm Springs, so Bryan Collier has taken over the equipment for the Tri-City Americans. TC’s Zach Fournier, ATC, moved to Pro Rugby and is replaced by Madelyne “Midge” Peterson ATC. Long time Everett Silvertips EqM and former pro James Stucky, deservedly makes the jump to the NHL and joins the Seattle Kraken. Chris Fordon, EqM, takes the reigns in Everett. Seattle Thunderbirds Jorge Lopez, EqM, plays his hand with the Henderson Silver Knights. Justin Sturtz, EqM, gives the dub a try with T-birds. The Spokane Chiefs Joe Hurley, ATC, set sail to Lehigh Valley while David Filippone, ATC, takes over the healing role. NHL SPHEM Hall of Famer Mark “Peaches” Brennan retires from the Portland Winterhawks and takes a job with Ecliptic Brewing in his quest toward fulfilling a Canadian lifelong dream of becoming a beer brewer, eh. Clayton Johns defects from the OHL and takes on the challenge in Portland. Ramandeep Dhanjal aka “Chico” gives up his quest for the most bus miles and jumps off in Abbotsford as Head EqM (Regina Pats AT, Greg Mayer and Kamloops Blazers ATEqM “Toledo” are rolling neck and neck as the Red Deer Rebels EqM, “Radar” has them in sight). Chico hijacks Vancouver Giants, EqM, Shingo Sasaki as his assistant. Kory Achtymichuk reupholsters Chico’s seat and Brodie St. Jacques takes over in Van. The Brandon Wheat Kings has a new AT, Zach Hartwick. EqM, Darien Engelhardt resurfaces in Swift Current. Tanner Arnold decided to give it another go as the EqM for the Moose Jaw Warriors. AT Brenden “Hopper” Hope left Saskatoon with a leap of faith for the Greenville Swamp Rabbits in the coast and AT Caden Allingham took over for him. AT Darris Hardern is on a leave of absence from the Winnipeg Ice and Derek Tarko is filling in for him this season.
That is all for this episode of “As the Dub Turns”.