Amy Kenny | Special to the News
The Whitehorse Huskies won’t be competing in the 2017-18 season.
Dan Johnson, general manager of the senior men’s AA team, says the worst part was telling his kids.
“I have two daughters in hockey now,” he said over the phone on Wednesday, a day after the team made the announcement. “And for them, the Huskies are right up there with the NHL. Telling them there was no more Huskies was harder than telling anybody else.”
Johnson said the team was faced with the decision immediately after winning the Coy Cup last April, when Whitehorse hosted the B.C. Senior Hockey Championship.
A number of the Huskies’ key players — including Ted Stephens, Adam Henderson, Derek Klassen, Jared Tuton, and Rob Warner — were unable to commit to another season. Some were moving out of the territory. Others had work commitments. Others were new dads.
“Life happens for the players,” said Johnson.
Being part of the team and all that entails — the toll hockey takes on your body, keeping in certain physical condition, and attending practices and games, both home and away — isn’t necessarily too much on its own, he said. However, when you layer that on top of everything else, including for some players, being on recreational teams and coaching minor hockey, the workload can become unsustainable.
Johnson, who has been general manager for a year, said that when he started with the Huskies, he expected funding to be the most difficult component of keeping the team together. Instead, he said, the local business community was quick to offer its support.
“I think in general the community, as small as we are, we like to go to Takhini at the end of the day and watch hockey,” he said. “So this is a sad turn of events.”
He said the difficulty with hockey at the senior men’s level, is that teams are often made up of guys at different periods in their lives. It’s not unique to the Huskies, who have gone on a similar hiatus a couple of times since the team was founded in 1992, once for 16 years. That’s just the way it is across Canada.
“It’s not a dying level, but it’s a level that very few select teams survive in long term,” said Johnson.
He said a group of players like the Huskies, as they were in their Coy Cup-winning incarnation this year, comes along once every couple of generations. There was talk among the board and coaching staff of filling the gaps left by the departing players, but they ultimately decided against it.
“We all know who’s (in the territory) and we know the skill levels and the depth wasn’t there,” he said.
He said they also could have made some calls around the country and brought up seven or eight players from elsewhere, but decided against it.
“That’s not what the Huskies was about. Part of our mission was we were going to do this with local talent, which we did.”
“At the end of the day it’s better to do it this way than to put a subpar product.”
The Huskies would have played their first games this season Dec. 8.
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