As the National Hockey League heads into the playoffs, junior hockey begins to wind itself down for another season.

That means Logan Cunningham is all done with his rookie season as a member of the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs.

The 17-year-old defenceman managed to dress for 14 games this season and while he didn’t hit the score sheet in any of those games, he said the experience of his first WHL season, as weird as it was, was good.

“The coaches rode our top lines and ice time was at a premium sometimes,” he said. “I still got a decent amount of ice time. It was tough, but good.”

The WHL played its season in pods with absolutely no travel over international borders under the league’s return-to-play guidelines. The five American teams played in what was known as a “pod” and were scheduled to play a total of 24 games versus each other.

Cunningham wasn’t the only player from Yellowknife within the American pod as Jonah Bevington got the chance to play with the Portland Winterhawks in what was also his rookie season. Both players suited up twice in games against each other during the abbreviated season but they didn’t match up against one another.

“I never got him along the boards or anything like that … it would have been easy to rub him out if I did,” joked Cunningham.

That didn’t happen for Spokane as two of their games against the Tri-City Americans were cancelled due to members of the Americans testing positive for Covid-19 earlier in the season.

That didn’t bother Cunningham, though.

“I still felt good out there,” he said. “Making the jump to the WHL from midget is tough because the pace is so much quicker and the players are stronger. You go from being used to throwing guys around in midget to being the new kid and you find out just how tough it is but I managed to hold my own.”

Like almost anything else, once he got the hang of it, he said it became easier to adapt.

“My last few games of the season were the best ones,” he said. “I was used to it by then and I got better with each game.”

The hope for next year is that things will go back to the way it used to be: a full season with a chance of impressing some scouts along the way. You see, Cunningham is eligible for the National Hockey League draft in 2022 and while that’s not at the top of his list of to-do things right now, he wants to be ready for whatever happens.

“I want to work on my size and speed for next season,” he said. “The game sense is there – I know what I have to do when I’m out on the ice – but I want to get bigger and faster so I can handle players better. No one’s really watching you when you’re a younger player.”

James McCarthy

After being a nomad around North America following my semi-debauched post-secondary days, I put down my roots in Yellowknife in 2006. I’ve been keeping this sports seat warm with NNSL for the better...

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