Former Xtreme heading to Memorial Cup with Blades
A local hockey player thought his days of playing in the WHL were over.
It took only a week for his fortune to change and when his second chance came along, it came with a prestigious, added bonus.
When former Airdrie Xtreme defenceman Shayne Gwinner got a call from the Saskatoon Blades asking if he wanted him to play for them for the rest of the season, three words popped into his mind: ‘yes’ and ‘Memorial Cup.’
The Blades are set to host the Canadian Hockey League’s (CHL) Memorial Cup May 17 to 26. The season-ending tournament features the winners of the WHL, the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMHJL) and the tournament’s host team.
“It was nuts,” Gwinner said of the call. “To go from asking out of a team and ending up on a team that’s hosting the Memorial Cup is surreal. I wasn’t expecting it, not even a little bit.”
Gwinner began his WHL career with the Moose Jaw Warriors, the team that drafted him out of bantam, but after only a year his career was in jeopardy. Due to reasons he is reluctant to elaborate on, Gwinner was traded to the Prince Alberta Raiders during the summer of 2012 and after playing only nine games with the Raiders, Gwinner asked for a trade out.
He returned to Alberta to play with his hometown team, the Drumheller Dragons of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL).
Gwinner made his Blades debut Dec. 5 against the Spokane Chiefs.
Gwinner caught the eye of the Blades’ coaching staff when he was playing for Moose Jaw, which plays with Saskatoon in the WHL’s East division.
“There were games where he really got involved physically and we were lacking some depth on defence (at the beginning of the year),” said Blades head coach Lorne Molleken. “Shayne played a lot right off the start because we were missing guys and he played extremely well.”
In the 18 games he’s played for the Blades, Gwinner has four assists and four goals. At first, sitting up in the press box was frustrating for Gwinner, who was eager to make an impression on his new coaches and teammates, but Molleken said as the season’s gone on, Gwinner’s developed a better understanding of his role on the team.
“He understands that he’s part of this team and that he has to work extremely hard on and off the ice because it’s a tough grind and we need him at his best when he gets the opportunities to play,” he said.
On the Edge, which has been filming the team for its “On the Edge” reality show, has been giving junior hockey fans a glimpse into the Blades’ season on and off the ice and will culminate with the Cup tournament.
“When I first got here, it was kind of awkward,” Gwinner said. “There’s a guy always in your face with a camera, but he’s part of the team now and just like any of the other boys.”
The show has chronicled the highs and lows of the Blades’ season and everything in between, including the 17-game winning streak the team is currently on. Gwinner said the streak has made coming to the rink every day fun and has added to the buzz the Memorial Cup has created. Still, the team has endured its share of criticism given that it gets to play in the Memorial Cup based on the fact that it’s hosting the tournament regardless of where the team finishes in the standings and in the playoffs.
“We agree that we want to keep playing through the playoffs and through the tournament, but we’re really proving point now,” he said.