In his hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Jesse Mychan lives just 5 minutes from Credit Union Centre, the home of the Saskatoon Blades. Mychan will play there Wednesday with the Tri-City Americans, and he hopes to see plenty of Mychan jerseys in the stands.
“I’m definitely excited,” Mychan said Tuesday. “Today was stressful with the overage deadline, and now that I know I’ll be here the rest of the year, it’s a big weight off my shoulders. It will be nice to go home and see the family, play in front of them and have some fun.”
Saskatoon is the fourth stop in a six-game trip for the Americans through the East Division. The fun begins tonight with their first game against the Brandon Wheat Kings. Sunday, they play the Moose Jaw Warriors before getting a day off Monday.
The Americans then go to Prince Albert on Tuesday and to Saskatoon on Wednesday. Thursday is an off day before they play the Regina Pats on Friday.
The Americans finish their trip next Saturday at Swift Current before hopping back on the bus for a 754-mile trip home.
“It will be fun, especially with a new team,” said Tri-City defenseman Justin Hamonic, who today will play two hours from his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. “It will be good for team bonding and getting to know everyone better than we do. We will have fun out there.”
The Americans started their journey Wednesday, leaving Kennewick after a morning skate and stopping for the night in Cranbrook, British Columbia. The first leg of the journey took just six hours. Thursday, the team spent 12 hours on the bus before settling into Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
The Americans took the ice at the Bert Hunt Arena in Moose Jaw on Friday morning before loading up the bus and continuing on to Brandon, Manitoba, where they will begin their six-games-in-eight-days adventure.
“Six in eight is a grind, but everyone has to go through it,” Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. “It’s early, and the weather is nice, which makes it easier. As difficult as it is to get out there and win, it’s good to be challenged. I thought the four in five (last week) warmed us up for this, but six in eight is a pretty good challenge.”
The bigger challenge, is making sure everything and everyone is on the bus and that there are hotel reservations at every stop and reservations for three meals a day.
“I probably have it easier than the rest,” Hiller said. “Innes (Mackie), Darcy (Ewanchuk) and Dan (Mulhausen) do all the planning with meals, hotels, the itinerary and all the supplies we have to take. They are such a great staff. I just have to worry about preparing the team.”
Mackie, the team’s athletic trainer and equipment manager, teamed with Ewanchuk, the athletic therapist, to make sure they are prepared for anything.
“This is not just a normal game,” Mackie said. “Every player has at least six sticks (144 total). We take plenty of protein bars, a lot of water, fruit and bagels to eat on the bus. We don’t have to take tape, water bottles or towels, and that makes it easier. If we run short of anything, the home team helps us out.”
Mackie, who has worked in the WHL more than 37 years, has made the trip east many times, but this will be the first time the Americans play at Moose Jaw’s new arena, Mosaic Place. The old Moose Jaw Civic Centre (nicknamed the Crushed Can because of its shape) was demolished in August.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the new building,” Mackie said.
Hamonic said the Americans should have a small fan base tonight in Brandon with his family and friends. Add in fans of goalie Brenden Fiebelkorn (also from Winnipeg), and there will be a little love for the visiting team.
“It will be fun to see family and friends and play in front of them,” Hamonic said.
Hiller said he believes it’s important for the players to see their families, and for the families to meet the rest of the team.
“The parents know some of the other players, and they get a look at how much they have improved their game and matured as people,” Hiller said. “Anytime there is family, we like to pride ourselves on being an organization that welcomes everyone, and we know everyone is in it together. It’s good for the players.”
While the players will get to see their families, Hiller is leaving his wife, Kathy, and three kids behind.
“It’s hard for me, but harder for her to be home with the kids,” Hiller said. “We signed up for this, and she’s been a trouper through it all. We don’t get too far without our wives behind us.”
Seeing familiar faces in the stands is all well and good, but the Americans still have a job to do.
Tri-City is 4-3-0-1 entering tonight’s game against the Wheat Kings (5-2-0-0??), and three of the six teams in the East are playing better than .500 hockey.
“You just have to do what you normally do,” Hamonic said. “Different attitude, different rinks and stuff like that, but you have routines. You have to keep it simple and play in the zone. As similar to at home as you can.”
Mychan, who has played just three games this season after sustaining a deep thigh bruise Sept. 29 in Spokane, is raring to play.
“Being injured, I couldn’t be out there, but watching, I could see how far we have come since the first game,” Mychan said. “We just have to keep going up from here. Six games in eight days is hard, but you have to know what motivates you. For me, it’s my family (they will be at every game except tonight) and how important the points are.”