Former Xtreme gunning for playoffs with Hurricanes
It’s been a whirlwind 70 games for a former Airdrie Xtreme player and he’s hoping to squeak out a few more before his rookie season comes to an end.
With less than a week left in the WHL regular season, Airdrie’s Lenny Hackman and the Lethbridge Hurricanes are fighting for the last playoff spot in the league’s Eastern Conference.
Hackman was drafted by the Hurricanes in the ninth round of the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft 179th overall and made his debut with the ‘Canes this season after playing with the UFA Bisons last year.
“It’s been a great experience so far,” Hackman said after a March 9 game against the Calgary Hitmen. “Just playing with all the older guys and the veterans, it’s been a learning experience for sure, but I feel like I’ve been playing well.”
Hackman, 18, has seven points in the 68 games he’s manned the blueline for Lethbridge and said that it was quite an adjustment from playing against 15 to 18 year olds to playing against opponents up to 21 years old.
He’s had to adapt to bigger, stronger, more skilled and physically tougher players and a higher game tempo along with the rigorous schedule that comes with playing in the WHL.
Out of the three regional leagues, the WHL, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey (QMJHL) League and the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), the WHL is thought to have the most difficult travel schedule. Between the league’s most Eastern team (Brandon, Man.) and it’s most Western team (Victoria, B.C.) there are more than 2,100 kilometres.
Hackman said the distance makes road trips long and arduous.
“Sometimes you’re pulling in hotels at four in the morning and we’re on the ice everyday,” Hackman said. “You have to take care of your body. Sleep and hydration are important and you have to pay more attention to it, but you get used to it.”
Despite being new to the WHL and the Hurricanes, Hackman hasn’t had a lack of mentors to help him adjust. He was paired up with Dan Johnston early in the season before Johnston went down with an injury and has spent the last few games of the season playing alongside Adam Henry.
Plus, skating in front of him are a few friends from home. Sam McKechnie of Airdrie and Tyler Wong, a Cochranite who played with the Xtreme, are also on Lethbridge’s roster.
“I’ve played with both of them for quite a few years each and it helps a lot,” Hackman said of the Airdrie connection. “They’ve taught me a lot and made it a lot easier on me.”
With the end of the regular season on the horizon, McKechnie, Wong and Hackman, along with the rest of the Hurricanes are scrambling to solidify the last playoff spot open in the WHL’s Eastern Conference. As of press time, there were four games left in the regular season and the Hurricanes were in ninth place and six points behind the Kootenay Ice. Lethbridge hasn’t made the playoffs for the past three seasons.
It’s a trend that the team is still fighting to buck even though time is running out.
“As long as we’re still in it, we have to find a way to win,” he said. “We need to put the puck in the net, play better defensively and tighten things up overall. We have to win all four games we have left and we have to put it all on the floor. And if the hockey gods our on our side, we can make the playoffs.”