Normally, September would mark the start of Lethbridge Hurricanes training camp with a new Western Hockey League season soon to follow, but the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the season back until at least December.
With a lack of teammates in town, local products Carl Tetachuk and Zack Stringer have been hard at work in the city all summer.
“It’s a big difference,” said Tetachuk, “just trying to find as much ice as you can right now. It’s kind of hard but I’m just enjoying the time, still skating and stuff, so it’s been hard but I’m getting used to it now.”
The 19-year-old goaltender completed his second season with the ‘Canes when the WHL called off the rest of the 2019-20 season.
A native of Lethbridge himself, Tetachuk has had a familiar training partner since the season ended in March. He and Stringer have been taking a page from their Lethbridge Minor Hockey days, bouncing between rinks around the city.
“I’ve been practising with Carl my whole life,” said Stringer, “and just over the summer as well. We like to push each other in the gym and on the ice.”
Stringer said he’s been making the most of a “boring” extended off-season, with a focus on gaining size heading into his second full season with the Hurricanes.
“It’s a pretty weird feeling right now. Just trying to do as much as I can, stay on the ice, but for sure I miss the boys,” Stringer said.
The 17-year-old’s Grade 12 year will also look quite different in the coming months as Hurricanes staff have directed all high school-aged players to take part in online schooling.
That includes defenseman Joe Arntsen, who moved back to Lethbridge earlier this week. Arntsen said he felt that being in the city and training under team strength and conditioning coach Trevor Hardy would be best for his development.
“Just using it to my advantage to get bigger and stronger,” he said. “I thought last year I could have used a bit more speed, so I’m just trying to get faster for the upcoming year.”
Arntsen played 41 of the team’s 63 games last season and said he hopes to cement himself as a more permanent fixture in the lineup when the 2020-21 WHL season begins.
“Last year, we had a really strong D-core, so it was kind of tough to get into the lineup all the time,” he said.
“So this year, just trying to stay in there every night, make an impact. I think I can play a physical role — I’m a bigger guy — and just try to help out the team as much as I can.”
In a statement from Aug. 6, the WHL said it remains committed to playing a full, 68-game regular season schedule in 2020-21, as well as four rounds of playoffs.
The league is targeting a start date of Friday, Dec. 4.