Blazer rookies adjusting to first WHL season

By Chad Klassen
February 26, 2016 - 1:08pm Updated: February 26, 2016 - 6:18pm

KAMLOOPS — Just as their first seasons in the Western Hockey League winds down, the Blazer rookies are now starting figure out what they need to do to be a good player in this league.

"You really have to learn how to take care of yourself," says rookie Garrett Pilon. "You could get away with maybe not getting as much sleep back in Midget, but now you need your rest. You need your could food to be ready."

During his first year in the WHL, Pilon has quickly changed his habits, eating healthier and adjusting his bedtime routine.

"Just putting my phone away is one thing, putting it away before I go to bed a little earlier, just so I get a good night's sleep and I don't get caught up in something or be up late at night, then come to the rink and be all tired."

A good sleep is especially key leading into weekends like this when the team is on the road and playing three games in three nights. 

The long-distance bus trips have been one of the biggest adjustmens for some rookies. 

"It's always tough," says rookie defenseman Connor McDonald. "You're on a day trip to Vancouver, you're on the bus for five hours, so it's tough to stay energized the whole time, but you find a way to get energized when you get to the rink."

Pilon says he found the bus rides tough at the start of the season, but he's found his groove. 

"I think we all figured out our areas where we can get our good sleep, and who likes what," he notes. "It's been a lot better lately with the rookies, especially up top because we're doubling up."

Plus, after a grueling trip, the rookies have to unload the bus, which is no fun. 

"There have been a couple times this year, when you're out in -20 weather packing up the bus," says McDonald. "But you get use to it and you try and make the best of it. I'm not really sure how you can make the best out of loading the bus, but you get a bit of a workout in, and you find a way to stay warm."

There's also the heavier workload, a 72-game schedule in the western league compared to 40 in major midget. 

"The transition luckily has been a bit easier with prior experience in long seasons," says McDonald. "Thankfully, I've been on a couple teams that have gone far in playoffs before, and just being on the ice every day, it's nothing new. I think if you love the game as much as we do, you find a way to get on whenever you can."

Blazers defeat the Silvertips in overtime Friday