Yellowknife will have a bit of skin in the game as it pertains to the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) 2021 season with two players getting the chance to hit the ice.
One of those players is Logan Cunningham, who’s playing with the Spokane Chiefs, and it’s already been a whirlwind of sorts for the 16-year-old defenceman.
Cunningham has been all over the place this season, starting out with the Penticton Vees of the BC Hockey League (BCHL) before making the move to the Osoyoos Coyotes of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) in B.C. He played a grand total of two exhibition games with the Coyotes before being told he was suspended.
The reason? Improper paperwork.
“I don’t know exactly what happened but I guess when you’re a transferring player from Alberta to B.C. and you’re under 18, you have to get some special paperwork done,” he said. “I missed out on all of the regular season games they played.”
His application was approved just in time for the KIJHL’s announcement that it was shutting down operations for this season back in December due to the pandemic.
After that, Cunningham came back home to get in some ice time and head back to school at Sir John Franklin.
Similar to what Ethan Anstey did while he was home waiting for the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) to resume operations, Cunningham was able to hit the ice to keep in shape.
“I played midget house league for a bit and had a few practices with Carl’s (midget development squad),” he said. “I also played in the (Yk) rec league whenever teams needed an extra player.”
The WHL announced last month that there would be a truncated season for its teams with hub cities announced for divisions within Canada. The five U.S.-based teams will play in their own division and unlike Canadian teams, they will be based in their home arenas with travel between each city.
Training camp began for the Chiefs earlier this month with a total of 24 players making up the roster for this season; Cunningham is one of eight defencemen being carried by the squad.
“It’s going to be busy for us,” said Cunningham. “We have games every weekend and a lot of back-to-backs (games).”
The Chiefs started the season with three games on the spin, all on the road, against Seattle on Friday, Everett on Saturday and Portland on Sunday. The last game of the road trip is significant because that other skin in the game from Yellowknife comes in the form of Jonah Bevington, who is on Portland’s roster for this season.
Cunningham and Bevington have been teammates before, most recently at the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Alberta, and even bumped into each other when they were jetting off to their respective cities.
“We met up in Vancouver – I was over-nighting there – and we saw each other at the gate the next morning,” said Cunningham. “We talked for a bit and he seems excited about getting to play this season.”
While the games will be happening, what won’t be happening is a playoff. The WHL will be doing something similar to what the AJHL is doing with a slate of regular-season games, all coming to an end for the Chiefs on May 9.
“I don’t know why they’re doing it that way,” said Cunningham. “I know the younger guys are going to get a lot of ice time so I’m looking forward to getting a lot of shifts and showing what I can do.”