Back in the early ‘90s during hockey season, whenever the Whitehorse Huskies senior men’s hockey team was playing, it was the hottest ticket in town.
Whitehorse hockey fans would flock to Takhini Arena to cheer on the AAA team, filling the stands and beer garden.
The Huskies, who have been reincarnated as a AA team this season, are hoping to reignite Whitehorse’s appetite for high-level, full-contact, action-packed senior hockey.
This weekend will help determine whether Whitehorse’s hockey-crazed days are done.
The Huskies are playing their first home games in five years this weekend. They are hosting the Fort Nelson Yeti this Friday and Saturday evening at Takhini Arena.
“We need as much support as we can get,” said Huskies assistant captain Clayton Thomas. “There could be a future in this if we can keep this hockey program going through the early stages. We need all the fan support we can get.
“We’re a 100 per cent local hockey team, unlike last time when we were 50 per cent - if that. To play at home - this is awesome.”
“I’m pretty excited for the weekend to come,” said Huskies head coach Michael Tuton. “There were a few guys out of the line-up (in December) that we’ll have back in the line-up this weekend at home. This being home games after not having a senior team ... I think there are going to be big crowds and I think the boys are going to be up and ready for that.”
The Huskies won a two-game away series against the Yeti in Fort Nelson early December.
Whitehorse took a 7-6 overtime win over the Yeti on Dec. 6 with hat tricks from forwards Evan Campbell and Kane Dawe. Teammate Daniel Clethro added another.
The Huskies then took a 3-2 shootout win over the Yeti on Dec. 7. Tyrell Hope and Campbell scored for the Huskies in regulation before Thomas and Dawe scored in the shootout.
“They were two really exciting games - overtime and shootout,” said Huskies captain Jared Tuton. “They could have gone either way: a bounce for one team, one bounce for the other and you never know.
“But I’m very confident. The guys we have, who weren’t on that trip but are here, are great. We have a coach this time, which is great. We have additions we didn’t know about (then) that are going to add a lot to our team. And practices have been going really well the last couple of weeks.”
The Huskies played two seasons of AAA in the early 1990s and won the Allan Cup - Canada’s senior amateur trophy - in 1993.
After 16 years of dormancy, the team was revived in 2009 in an effort to reclaim its former glory. However, because of the cost of importing Outside players, travel costs and increasingly poor ticket sales through the season, the club was unable to make ends meet and the 2010/2011 season was scrubbed.
This season the Huskies are making a run for the Coy Cup, British Columbia’s AA championship trophy, with all Yukon players. They include players who were on the Huskies five years ago, former junior players, local coaches and former NCAA players. (Jared and Drew Pettite played NCAA for University of Alaska Anchorage, while Derek Klassen and Adam Henderson played NCAA for University of Alaska Fairbanks.)
“We have at least four, four-and-a-half lines of guys coming out to practise that make it a difficult decision to get it down to three lines for game time,” said Jared. “Usually, on the teams I’ve played on it’s easy to get it down to two lines and then the third you find some guys. But the depth of this team is crazy. The third line guys ... could all play on the first line easily.
“It’s a really tough problem to have, but it’s a really good problem to have.”
“We have some good young legs. We’ve got some good talent,” said Michael. “We have three strong lines and we’ll be able to just keep rolling. I think we’re going to be a fast team and I’m predicting we’re going to be an exciting team to watch.”
Huskies forward Gibson Pearson is one of the youngest on the team at 21. He played for the Whitehorse Mustangs rep team as a youngster, then a couple years with the Fort St. John Tracker Flyers before going to school.
It was great to get back into contact hockey last month in Fort Nelson, he said.
“It’s pretty cool, actually,” said Pearson. “It’s a good team - it’s probably the best team I’ve been a part of.
“We have a very large amount of talent on our team and I wouldn’t be surprised if we went a long way. We have a ton of goal scorers on our team, that’s for sure.
“I’m glad it’s back and glad we have a good group of guys.”
This weekend’s games will be the Huskies’ third and fourth of six regular season games scheduled against AA teams from the British Columbia Amateur Hockey Association. The Huskies need six to be eligible for the Coy Cup.
The Whitehorse team will then host the Powell River Regals for two games Jan. 30 and 31 to fill their dance card.
The Huskies will later head to Fort St. John for a series against the Flyers in March. The winning team will go on to play for the 2015 Coy Cup, which will be hosted by the Fort Nelson Yeti at the end of March.
It has not yet been confirmed, but it is believed former Huskies goalie Cory McEachran is travelling to Whitehorse with the Fort Nelson team and might be in net for Yeti in at least one game. McEachran has collected three Allan Cup rings in his career.
“That’ll make things interesting, won’t it?” said Michael. “The plot thickens.
“He has a pretty good resume. I had Cory play for me at the native tournament the first time he ever came to the Yukon and he was pretty impressive there.”
This weekend’s games will start at 7:45 p.m. on Friday and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets are $10 at the door (cash only). Minor hockey players accompanied by adults and wearing their team jersey get in for free. Tickets are also available at Total North, Ridge Pub, Kopper King, and through the team’s Facebook page.
And, yes, just like old times, there will be a beer garden.
“We’ve been pre-selling tickets and it’s been going pretty good, but we have lots of room at the rink,” said Thomas.
Contact Tom Patrick at
Huskies roster (unofficial)
Evan Campbell (A)
Derek Klassen (A)
Clayton Thomas (A)
Jared Tuton (C)