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STAR POWER – First overall WHL pick Gavin McKenna in his Medicine Hat Tigers publicity shot. Photo courtesy of MEDICINE HAT TIGERS

Gavin McKenna making Western Hockey League debut Saturday

Whitehorse hockey phenom Gavin McKenna is making his Western Hockey League (WHL) debut Saturday night.

By Morris Prokop on September 21, 2022

Whitehorse hockey phenom Gavin McKenna is making his Western Hockey League (WHL) debut Saturday night.

McKenna’s Medicine Hat Tigers are facing off against the Lethbridge Hurricanes at 6 p.m. Yukon time.

The game is being broadcast on Medicine Hat radio station chat94.5, which can be found online at https://chat945.com/player/?playerID=397

McKenna, 14, has had a good pre-season.

“We won three out of four games, so it was good,” said the young star. “I scored my first goal. I also had three assists, so I thought I played pretty well.”

McKenna even drew an assist on an overtime goal against Lethbridge Sep. 10.

“I had the puck at the blue line. I passed it over to my teammate on the right side. He had a one-on-one and he shot it and he scored bottom left corner and it was pretty awesome.”

As expected, McKenna has had to adjust to the speed of the “Dub”, as the WHL is known.

“Obviously, the speed was a lot faster. You don’t have much time to think out there ... Obviously, they’re a lot bigger, stronger, so you’ve gotta have your head up at all times.”

McKenna has had a great welcome in the “Hat.”

“They’ve been great to me. I’ve had guys hanging out with me outside of the rink so that’s been pretty awesome. Coaches and trainers have been awesome to me. Roommates and billets have been really good to me. It’s been awesome.”

Needless to say, McKenna is stoked about his first WHL game.

“Obviously, there’s a bit of nerves but that’s sometimes a good thing but I’m pretty excited. It’s gonna be lots of fun finally playing in front of a big crowd. My family’s obviously coming to watch so that’ll be cool to see them again. It should be a lot of fun.”

The young scorer will be playing left wing, where he played all pre-season. It hasn’t been determined which line he’ll be playing on.

“That’s not decided yet … we’re trying lots of different things right now in practices, so we’ll have to see.”

McKenna started on the first line in one of the pre-season games.

“It was good ... I feel like starting, there’s a lot more nerves than waiting one or two shifts, but it went well.”

McKenna said he is completely healthy going into the season.

Because of his young age, McKenna is limited to five games during the regular season, although there have been efforts to have the league allow him to play more.

“I think my coach Willie (Desjardins) said that we were gonna spread ‘em out throughout the year,” related McKenna. “I’m playing with another team, the South Alberta Hockey Academy (SAHA). It’s in the midget league that I was in last year, so I’ll be playing lots of games with them as well.”

The SAHA, located in Medicine Hat is in the CSSHL U18 league.

Not surprisingly, McKenna’s parents are thrilled that he’s making his WHL debut.

“They’ve been texting me quite a bit, telling me how excited they are and wishing me good luck. They’re definitely excited,” said the young McKenna.

McKenna’s mon, Krystal, agrees.

“We’re all definitely pretty excited about it. Looking forward to seeing how it goes and how he does and we’re super excited to just get down there and see him, too.

“I think there’s going to be about fifteen of us going down to watch him from here.

“And then we’ll have some other people there that we’re meeting to join us and sit with us during the game so we can all cheer for him.”

“So far, he seems to be fitting right in. He’s having fun and doing well,” she added.

McKenna’s dad Willy is excited as well.

“A little nervous for him but very excited and looking forward to watching the game. We’re gonna have, I think, about 13 friends and family members down there so some from down in Alberta and then the rest from Whitehorse, so it’s gonna be a fun weekend.”

Mckenna, understandably, is proud of his son.

“Absolutely. He’s played three pre-season games so far and he’s fitting in really well. Comments we’ve heard back form the coaches ... is that he’s a really WHL-ready this year, but because of his age he’s not allowed to play a full season there but hopefully they’ll get him in as many games as they can.

“He’s had a fair bit of success. He’s had four points in three games in the pre-season, so he’s fitting in really well and he’s liking his team, liking the coaches, liking Medicine Hat – all around, it’s been a good thing so far.”

The elder Mckenna is hoping to see his son in more games this year.

“We’re hoping so … the coaches don’t want to make promises that they might not be able to keep.”

“After the regular season, he can play full-time in the playoffs. We’re hoping the Medicine Hat Tigers have a good season and go far in the playoffs.”

Willy McKenna is pleased with Gavin’s WHL success so far.

“He’s been on the power play, they’re giving him lots of opportunities and he’s had some success already, so he’s in a good spot for sure.”

Willy McKenna added “I guess everybody’s just excited and hoping he does well and we’re quite confident he will do well.”

Comments (1)

Up 9 Down 1

Allan on Sep 21, 2022 at 9:00 pm

All the best from all the Yukon era. Have a great season

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