Three full Western Hockey League seasons prepared Kole Lind for the experience of a lifetime, earning an opportunity to turn professional following his time with the Kelowna Rockets.
Lind will celebrate his 21st birthday on October 16 and would like nothing more than to be in the line up for the Vancouver Canucks. If not he will suit up with the Canucks’ farm club, the Utica Comets.
The off-season in professional hockey is short and players know they need to cram in time with friends and family to go along with training and preparing for the season ahead.
“It was obviously good to be home being in Shaunavon, (Saskatchewan), for most of the summer,” Lind said. “I pushed myself a lot harder than most summers to get ready for training camp and the season ahead.
There were some things he wanted to improve, as most professionals do, and he went to great lengths to work on his lower body.
“The biggest thing for me was lots of power skating,” Lind said. “Tying to get quicker and lots of work with my legs in the gym, as well trying to get stronger. Getting quicker was the main key for me this summer.
“I skated with a number of different people. It’s kind of depends the time of year, usually towards the beginning of summer I’m doing lots of power skating and then towards the end of the summer, I’ll kind of go with the pro group in Saskatoon and try to get the skills and get my hands going a little bit for the season.”
Rockets Memorial Cup Hosting
Switching gears, Lind was excited to talk about how the players, fans and management could take in all there is to offer while hosting the Memorial Cup in May 2020.
“Yeah, just enjoy it,” hes said. “It’s going to be an awesome ride for those guys.
“My last year I really regretted not having a very good run. That was something, especially for the older guys and even the younger guys too, you might not ever get the opportunity again. So, take it to your advantage and you know obviously a lot of people dream to play in the Memorial Cup.”
Time in Kelowna
Of course, all the teams in the BC Division are rivals but there just seems to be something about the
Kelowna and Victoria games that creates sparks. The teams have become heated rivals.
Lind recalled the moment in game seven of the 2016 Western Conference semi-final when Kelowna tied the game with .2 seconds left on the clock. They went on to win the game 3-2.
“That was by far the craziest game of my life,” Lind said. “That game seven and the fans here (Victoria) were hot so it was all in Victoria’s favor. We got a lucky bounce on our first goal. I remember someone just threw it out front bounce off their defenceman.
“I think that might have been one of the craziest games in WHL history and we tied the game with point two seconds left. And you know, from there, we came into the dressing room and I don’t think there’s any doubt in our minds that we were winning that game after the kind of Cinderella story, you know, tied up that late in the game.
“I think there wasn’t even a thought of us losing in there and luckily enough, we scored early. It sucks though we didn’t go any deeper after that. We lost to Seattle and they’re on to the conference finals. But that was a very crazy game and you know, the nerves and now we’re up and down to the whole thing.”
The rivalries didn’t stop there and having them prepared Lind for the next level.
“it prepared me for a lot of rivalries, especially being in Utica,” Lind said. “Last year, we had a big rivalry with Syracuse. So, comparing that to playing against Kamloops or Victoria was big.
“I always had a plan on those guys but those are the key games. They love to play and it gets gritty and you want to be a kind of a hero in those games. That’s kind of where the fans start to love you as a player so I think that’s something that that I kind of took in and tried to enjoy my role there.”
The transition from Major Junior or Junior A to pro hockey is a difficult one, Lind shared his experience in
going from Kelowna to Utica.
“I think it’s a lot of everything kind of just from moving from midget to junior even there, everyone’s just better at everything,” he said. “So that was kind of something I learned last year.
“And you know, I was trying to get quicker like I said, not only on the ice, but you know, with my decisions and everything else. In pro hockey, a lot of guys do a lot of little things that go unnoticed when you watch the game and now that you’re actually playing it, there’s a lot of things that I had to learn last year and take into my game to try to be consistent with this year.”
And of course, he wanted to share about moving from small-town Saskatchewan into junior hockey.
“Yeah, it’s gonna be a ride and it’s gonna go by quickly,” He said. “You’re heading to your rookie season and next thing you know your playing the last 20 games in your last season.
“So enjoy it. I think lots of people say that it goes by quick, but you never really notice until you’re actually there. The biggest thing for me especially, my little brother hadn’t been to his draft so I kind of told him this enjoy it. Everything about it’s going to be fun and every little moment – just take it in and have fun with the guys and make memories that will last a lifetime.”
Thank you to the Vancouver Canucks for allowing us to spend some time with Kole Lind. Ryan Sinclair of DUBNetwork contributed to this article.