A journey that started three years ago with the goal of hoisting the championship trophy on home ice will end just as planned.
As announced Tuesday morning, the 2017 Coy Cup champion Whitehorse Huskies will not be returning this season due to lack of players to fill the roster, with 13 players leaving for other life commitments.
But the ride the team took for the past three years will not be forgotten by the packed crowd at Takhini Arena who witnessed the victory and by the players and coaches who made up that championship team.
“It’s a feeling I’ll never forget,” Huskies head coach Michael Tuton said about the final game. “It meant so much more to us considering what we went through for three seasons to get there, our goal was to win it on home ice in year three.”
A little bit of a different feeling has been circulating the team this past week following the decision to not ice a team this year.
“I’ve gone through a roller coast of emotions the last couple weeks,” Tuton said, who coached the senior AA squad for all three seasons. “What can you do?”
Huskies captain Evan Campbell was set to return for another season with the team after being injured most of last season.
Campbell said disbanding the team was a tough call for the organization to make but it was the right thing to do now because of how many holes they had with the players they were losing.
“Hopefully in the very near future we can get it back and running again,” he said.
That could be a possibility for the team, Huskies president and general manager Dan Johnson said in an interview Tuesday.
Johnson said the Huskies proved it was feasible to have a competitive hockey team here and they showed it operationally, but perhaps a junior level team would be more successful in having enough talent each year without the significant turnover.
At the same time, this is the first season for a junior team of this nature with the Bantam Tier 1 Yukon Rivermen starting play in the B.C. hockey league. They played their first three home games last weekend getting moderate crowds out to the free games.
The lack of personnel to fill the roster also comes at a time when the Whitehorse Mustangs program didn’t have enough players try out for their competitive bantam and midget teams so those teams will not be playing this season.
But it only takes one look back to the packed Takhini Arena to see this team will be missed in the city.
“We had overwhelming support by the whole community, everyone I’ve talked to seems to have really enjoyed the product on the ice,” Campbell said, who will now try to jump on a few tournament teams to get some playing time this season after deciding not to play in the rec league.
Tuton said heading into these season they had a list of players they had a feeling were returning and players they thought would be coming out for the first time, thinking they would be able to fill the roster with local players.
“It became very apparent in the ice sessions that it wasn’t going to happen,” he said.
In order to ice a team, he said they would have had to look outside the city for half of the roster which wouldn’t have been financially feasible for the team.
“The whole purpose behind this team was to fill it with local guys, do it with local talents,” Tuton explained.
Tuton said he is certain there are new adventures on the horizon. For himself, he is at the rink more than ever as a coach of the peewee Mustangs that his son plays for.
But that Huskies team was special and will never be replaced.
“We may get Huskies here again, may get senior AA hockey, who knows, but you’ll never get that group of guys back,” he said. “That’s the saddest part, I’m not sure I’ll still be around to witness another team like that.”