Former Regina Pat Austin Pratt wasn’t sure what to expect when the team acquired him from the Red Deer Rebels during the 2017-18 season.
“When I got traded here, I didn’t know what to think. Obviously, I knew how good of an organization it was from years prior playing in the league,” Pratt said.
“I didn’t know too much about the city, but the second I got here I just kind of fell in love with everything.”
The Lakeville, Minn., native spent two-and-a-half seasons with the Pats and was part of the team’s Memorial Cup run in 2018.
The following year, Pratt put up career-high numbers, 25 goals and 26 assists, to lead the team in scoring.
Pratt was named captain for the 2019-20 season, his fifth and final year in the Western Hockey League.
He enjoyed his time so much in the Queen City he chose not to leave. Pratt recently committed to the University of Regina men’s hockey team.
“I grew accustomed to Regina. It’s a great city and my whole time here has been amazing so I thought it was a good fit,” Pratt said.
“I really like the program, the coach is really good so it felt like it was the right move for me.”
Coach Todd Johnson has spent eight seasons behind the U of R Cougars’ bench and was named Canada West’s coach of the year last season.
He said he is looking forward to coaching Pratt.
“We’ve watched him for the last couple of years, watched him grow, watched his leadership skills and we’re excited to have him on board,” Johnson said.
“We’re looking at him to provide some scoring which he did at the western league level and I think he can do at our level as well.”
Pratt said he is just as excited to work under Johnson.
Listed at six-feet-three-inches-tall and over 200 pounds, Johnson said Pratt has the size to adapt well to Canada West hockey.
“The transition when you’re a bigger guy is a little bit easier. It will just be the adjustment to the speed aspect of our game, but I can’t see it being an issue or a problem for Austin,” Johnson said.
“His character will add to our dressing room which is just as important as his game.”
It’s an adjustment Pratt said he looking forward to, the challenge of playing university hockey.
“I’m a big guy who can produce offence and is good on both sides of the puck,” Pratt said.
“I’m excited to experience university and its hockey. I think it will be fun to see how my game translates there.”
Pratt said he did consider going pro but didn’t find the right fit. He said the smart decision was to take advantage of the WHL scholarship program in which for one season playing in the league, a player gets a free year of post-secondary schooling.
“I definitely thought about it, but at the end of the day I have five free years of school and the right offer didn’t come along so I thought this would be the best thing for me to do,” Pratt said.
“After I’m done, I can always try to play pro.”
Despite starting a new chapter in his life, Pratt said he will forever cherish his time with the Pats.
“It was amazing. It was the best time in my hockey career. The staff, the organization, everyone from the top down to the bottom are amazing,” Pratt said.
“It’s a world-class organization and they gave me every opportunity to become a hockey player and that is all you can ask for at the end of the day.”
In 317 WHL-career games, Pratt recorded 76 goals and 98 assists for 174 points.
Pratt will be studying psychology during his time at the U of R, something he said has always interested him.
“They have a good program there for that and it sparked my interest. It was always something I looked at and decided that was the way I wanted to go,” Pratt said.
Like all other Canada West hockey programs, the Cougars will have to wait until October to know if the season will start in January due to coronavirus restrictions.