For Moose Jaw product Reece Newkirk of Portland Winterhawks, he was not quite sure when he would be able to kick-off his 19-year-old season of Junior hockey.
Due to the uncertainties surrounding the pandemic, the Winterhawks and the rest of the Western Hockey League did not ha
ve start time and were playing the waiting game on when they would begin their 2020/21 season. That is when Mike Rooney
and the Melville Millionaires came calling as the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League club was getting prepared for the start of their own campaign. “This was a great opportunity for our group. No doubt they brought a skill set, but for our players to have the opportunity to work with WHL players. They are all character people. Reece and Jaydon have some excellent experience. Both are NHL draft selections. Reece has been to NHL camps. Jaydon left Melville and went to the American Hockey League. That is excellent experience to have in your locker room. That will never happen again in the SJHL. I am very proud to be a part of that.”, Rooney said.
For Newkirk he said heading to Melville, was a smart decision.
“I really enjoyed my time in Melville, it’s a great little city and great league to play in and I was just talking to my coaches down here and we said it was a great decision for me to get back onto the ice and the Mils got some great players & coaches and my experience overall was great.”
The 2019 5th round pick of the New York Islanders was joined in the Rail City by Winterhawks teammate Jaydon Dureau and the two would go on to lead the Mils in scoring with 12 and 11 points respectively in 6 games.
“Coach Rooney called us into office and said he enjoyed having us there and how we interacted with his players, and you know what he taught us a lot of how the game should be played and just little things we didn’t know about.”
Rooney echoes those comments saying it also help him as a coach.
“As a staff, we encourage players to communicate and provide feedback. That is how we learn as group – we share. I know it was a short time, but I know as a coach – I took full advantage of that opportunity. I asked questions…I searched for information. These players have worked under great coaches. Mike Johnston, Marc Habscheid and Brent Kisio. I wanted to know how these players learnt in those environments.”
Newkirk, who is in his 4th season with the Winterhawks has 13 points so far in 12 games.
As of April 15th, the Winterhawks are currently 3rd place in the WHL’s US division with 5-4-3 record.