As hockey season fires up, once again it is clear Yukon’s hockey talent knows no bounds.
Yukon has two players signed with professional teams, numerous others playing for college and university teams - in Canada and the U.S. - and many more at the junior level.
“I’m in great shape, I’m ready to rock, and I’m excited about this year,” said Whitehorse’s Jordan Lane.
Lane has plenty to be excited about. The six-foot-eight, 240-pound forward is continuing his professional career with California’s Bakersfield Condors in the pacific division of the East Coast Hockey League.
Lane, who signed with the team in early September, played with Illinois’ Quad City Mallards in the Central Hockey League last year.
The Condors are coming off one of the team’s most successful seasons, having made the conference finals earlier this year. The team has two preseason games this weekend and the regular season kicks off the following weekend.
“It’ll be similar to last year and the year before: I’m here to be a jack of all trades, provide energy and to be a presence so everyone else on the ice knows they can go out there and do their job without fear of repercussions,” said Lane. “I’ll be doing a bit of (the enforcer role), but I’m expected to do a lot more than just that. I actually have to be able to play the game at this level. Especially in this league. It’s a fast league, you have to be able to skate, have to be able to play the game. You can’t just be one dimensional.”
The Condors are affiliated with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers.
“They’re a Canadian team, so I do cheer for them on occasion,” added the 25-year-old.
Haines Junction’s Reid Campbell is hoping to kick off his professional playing career on the right foot.
The 25-year-old defenceman signed with the South Dakota’s Rapid City Rush in the Central Hockey League this past June.
The Rapid City Rush will start off the preseason with an exhibition game this Saturday.
“I signed a contract in the summer, but that doesn’t mean I technically made the team,” said Campbell. “I’m still trying out, camp is not over yet, and regular season starts on the 17th. I’ll know more in the next 10 days or so, but things are looking good so far. I feel confident and comfortable.”
“There are some extra defencemen here, so I have to play well in the exhibition games to stick around. That’s how pro hockey works.”
Campbell and Lane could find themselves going head-to-head this season. It was announced Tuesday that the ECHL and the CHL are merging. In the merger seven CHL teams will be added to the ECHL, including the Rapid City Rush and the Quad City Mallards.
“With this merger it pushes (the league) up another level, so that’s a bonus for sure,” said Campbell. “But now it’s a harder league to play in and a harder team to make because you have guys on NHL deals ... Hopefully I play well enough to stick around.”
“I think it’ll be a good thing for hockey and a good thing overall,” said Lane.
Campbell finished his college career last year with his third NCAA Division III national title with the St. Norbert College Green Knights in Wisconsin.
“That was my third one in four years, so that was a pretty cool accomplishment,” said Campbell. “Division III is kind of underrated, but it’s really good hockey. There’s 74 teams in Division III hockey, so in order to be the best you have to go through a lot of teams.”
Whitehorse’s Trevor Hanna is hoping to get his fill of Division III play this season.
The 20-year-old centre will play for the Castleton State College Spartans, an NCAA Division III school in Vermont.
“The hockey is good. It’s definitely a level up,” said Hanna. “The skill is good and it’s good competition. Hopefully I can crack the line-up and have a good season this year. We have 18 forwards and 12 play a game.”
Hanna is coming off three seasons playing Junior B with the Creston Valley Thunder Cats in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL).
Hanna’s final season with the Thunder Cats was a record-setting one. He logged 71 points in 52 games, setting a club record of 41 goals, helping the team win their division in the regular season and in the playoffs. He was also named MVP for his division.
“So far we’ve just been practicing, the season doesn’t start until November, but it’s been good,” said Hanna. “I’m getting used to school again because I played three years of junior in Creston Valley in B.C.
“Last year we played a 52-game season and in division III we only play a 25-game season, so it’s a lot shorter. That’ll be an adjustment, but when you play junior you don’t have school (work).”
Whitehorse’s David Stephens is going through a similar transition.
After playing Junior A last year with the Pictou County Weeks Crushers in the Maritime Hockey League, Stephens is now a first-year player for Mount Royal University in Calgary.
“It’s definitely a change from Junior A, I’m a lot more busy with school,” said the 21-year-old. “But the team is off to a good start - we’re 4-0 - and today we got ranked fifth in Canada, so that’s pretty good.
“We haven’t lost yet, which is pretty cool. I haven’t been part of a team with such a great start to the season before.”
The CIS Canada West team is not only undefeated in four regular season games so far, they are 9-0 counting preseason exhibition games. Stephens is currently plus-4 and has two points.
“The website says a goal and an assist, but in the last game (a goal) banked off my pants, but I didn’t get credit for it,” he said.
Older brother Ted Stephens is continuing his illustrious playing career as a fourth year play at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. The team, which will host the CIS championships at the end of the season, is currently 3-1-1 in preseason play with a win and a tie against two NCAA teams this past weekend.
Whitehorse’s Angela Burke has started her fifth and final season with the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns in Alberta.
“This season, I have taken on an even larger role on the team,” said Burke in an email to the News. “I have been playing on the top forward line and penalty killing throughout preseason and into the regular season. Obviously, there will be minor adjustments in the lineup throughout the season but I plan on staying within the top lines by continuing to contribute more to the game outcomes, both offensively and defensively.”
The left-winger and her Pronghorns team missed the final playoff spot and placed seventh in Canada West last season.
Burke stayed in Lethbridge during the summer to train at a high performance centre and also shared the ice with a wide variety of players, “including athletes from the Pronghorns men’s team, Lethbridge midget teams, WHL Lethbridge Hurricanes, Rob Gunderson of the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves ... Kris Versteeg of the Chicago Blackhawks and Rob Klinkhammer of the Phoenix Coyotes, just to name a few. I truly believe that these ice times and my off-ice training program were extremely beneficial and important in allowing me to have an even stronger role on the team for my final year.”
Marsh Lake’s Jocelyn Wynnyk is having a busy semester at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary. The second-year student is a goalie for the women’s hockey team and is also playing fullback for the women’s soccer team.
Whitehorse’s Linsey Eby also has a balancing act going on. Eby is attending MacEwan University in Edmonton, and is playing for the Fort Saskatchewan Fury in the Alberta Junior Female Hockey League. The Fury who won their season opener on Saturday.
Whitehorse’s Brett Roulston is racking up points on his new team.
The 19-year-old is playing right wing with the Nanaimo Clippers in the British Columbia Hockey League and is currently sixth on the team in points with three goals and three assists in seven games.
With an overtime win over Langley on Saturday, the Clippers are 4-3-0 and are in second place in their division behind Victoria.
Roulston spent the last two seasons with the Prince George Cougars in the WHL.
“On the island it’s a lot different, but I really like it down here,” said Roulston. “We have a really good team and it’s been fun so far.
“We’re pretty confident where we are and in our abilities. I think we’re going to go far. We had a bit of a slow start, but we bounced back pretty quick. We’re doing well now, so I’m pretty excited.”
Whitehorse’s Craig Berube is buttressing the defence on the Notre Dame Hounds in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. The Hounds are currently one of the top ranked Junior A team in Canada. Berube, who was captain of Team Yukon’s bronze winning midget team at the Arctic Winter Games early this year, helped the Notre Dame Argos win the AAA Midget Saskatchewan Provincial Championships in March.
Tamara Greek is playing defence for the Richmond Pacific Steelers in the Junior Women’s Hockey League in the Greater Vancouver. Greek, who is in her second season with the team, was selected for the league’s All-Star game last February.
The Dawson Creek and Yukon NEBC Trackers in the Northern Alberta Midget Hockey League have a lot of Mustang spirit.
The team has four players who, like virtually everyone named in this story, are Whitehorse Mustangs rep club alumni.
Jack Blisner and Marcus McLeod are on defence while Levi Johnson and Kole Comin are forwards on the Northeast B.C. team.
“It was actually a complete coincidence,” said Blisner. “I was supposed to come down to the camp by myself and I convinced Levi to come with me. About a week and a half later Kole decided he wasn’t going to play down south and wanted to come up here, and Kole convinced Marcus to come down.”
The Tier 1 midget team is currently 2-1 after three regular season games.
Blisner, Johnson and Comin all have multiple goals already. (McLeod hasn’t played a game yet.)
“Yeah, the Whitehorse kids are doing pretty good down here,” said Blisner.
“I like it, I think the program is really good. There’s nice people down here and I think it’s pretty fun.”
The Summerland Steam in KIJHL is another team with sourdough spirit. The team, which currently has a 6-3-0 record, includes Yukoners Wyatt Gale, Jarrett Malchow and Riley Pettitt, who so far has a goal and three assists.
Whitehorse’s Alex Hansen is helping out on the midget AAA Cariboo Cougars in Prince George. The team is currently second place in the BC Major Midget Hockey League with four wins, one loss and a tie.
After missing last season because of an injury, Whitehorse’s Graeme Close is playing defence for Hanna’s old team, the Creston Valley Thunder Cats in the KIJHL.
Dawson City’s Charlie Dagostin is also playing Junior B in the KIJHL, but on the Kimberly Dynamiters.
Whitehorse’s Riley Smoler is on the under-18 varsity team at the Pursuit Of Excellence Hockey Academy in Kelowna, B.C. The team is right now third in their division in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League and Smoler has three goals and an assist in six games.
Whitehorse’s Dylan McCuaig is playing midget AA with the Airdrie Lightning in the South Central Alberta Hockey League. The team is off to a 2-1 start to the season.
Whitehorse’s Lukas Jirousek is whipping up a storm with the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the South Central Alberta Hockey League in bantam AAA.
Brother Tomas Jirousek is playing in net for the Southwest Rockies in midget AA in the same league.
Jonas Leas is with the Okanagan Hockey Academy in the Elite 15 division of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League. Leas was invited to rookie camps for four WHL teams this summer following last season with the North Shore Winter Club.
Little sister Zoe, who is affiliated with the Whitehorse Mustangs, is also playing for the North Shore Avalanche on the peewee A rep team in Greater Vancouver.
Mustangs teammates Maddie Nicholson and Chyanne Spenner also have an affiliated team. They helped a Terrace, B.C. team win silver at a Tier 1 tournament this past weekend and both received MVP nods.
If you know any hockey players who should have been included in this story but were omitted, please contact Tom Patrick at