Haden finds scoring touch, new nickname with Saskatoon Blades
Since joining the Saskatoon Blades in an October trade, Gary Haden has become one of the team’s most consistent point producers. But that isn’t the only thing about the Airdrie, Alta., native drawing attention these days.
“A lot of people I meet for the first time, I tell them my name’s Gary and they look at me like I’m crazy,” Haden explained. “No kids from probably the 50s on have been named Gary but me, so I’ll take it.”
He’s not far off. According to Service Alberta, which keeps annual records of every baby name registered in that province, Haden is one of only four Garys born in Alberta in 1999.
Haden was named after his grandfather. While the name ‘Gary’ was once quite common, it’s fallen out of fashion over the last two or three decades and its throwback feel has spawned a new nickname for Haden: Uncle Gary.
“I’ve been called a lot worse so I just took it for what it’s worth and it’s been lots of fun,” Haden said of the moniker.
Blades forward Max Gerlach plays on a line with Haden and the two were also teammates with the Medicine Hat Tigers. But Uncle Gary is all Saskatoon.
“We didn’t call him Uncle Gary in Medicine Hat so it’s just kind of evolved here and now I think he likes it a lot,” Gerlach said.
Even Blades coach Mitch Love is embracing the nickname.
“Whatever the kids wanna have fun with, I mean he’s quite the character in that dressing room and I think guys really enjoy him so we’ll stick with Uncle Gary,” he said.
No matter what you call him, Haden’s name has been uttered a lot this season, by WHL broadcasters and PA announcers alike. He’s averaged more than a point per game with the Blades and his body of work includes a pair of four-goal games.
“That was my biggest focus coming into this year, just playing consistent hockey and I think I’ve had some good chemistry with my linemates and we try to be dangerous every time we’re on the ice and create scoring chances for each other and I think we all work well together,” he said.
Blades captain Chase Wouters completes the trio with Haden and Gerlach.
“He gets to the areas where you need to get to score goals and when he gets his chances he buries them and that’s kinda what he’s been doing all year for us. It’s a big part of our team,” Wouters said.
Clearly the change of scenery has done wonders for Haden, who had requested a trade prior to the deal that brought him to Saskatoon. In 70 games with Medicine Hat last season, Haden recorded 42 points including 17 goals. He’s already got 41 points in 36 games as a Blade.
“It just shows you that when you have a little bit of confidence and your approach of coming to the rink and wanting to get better each day, there are good things that will come from that,” Love said.
“I believed I could (produce more) but it was just kinda proving to myself that I could do it in this league,” Haden added. “I’d kinda scored in peewee and bantams and midgets but it’s nothing compared to this so in my heart I thought I could do it.”
And if he keeps it up, Haden will have opposing teams crying uncle.
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