It’s a day of packing bags and goodbyes, some for the last time, as Regina Pats players clear out their lockers after another season.
The team’s journey for the Memorial Cup came to an end in the finals on Sunday, losing to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan 3-0.
While the game marked the end of the season for the team, it also marked the end of the junior hockey careers for a few of the players.
One of those players is captain Sam Steel, who spent his entire junior career with the franchise.
“Ever since I’ve been here, it’s been unbelievable, (the fans) welcomed me with open arms and made me feel like I’m just a part of Regina,” Steel said, thanking the fans for all of their support over his career.
Steel ends his career with Pats as the franchise’s 10th leading scorer in its 100 year history with 338 points in 258 games.
“Unfortunately we never won a championship here or anything but we’ve played some great hockey and been in the finals, obviously the Memorial Cup Final, there’s just been so many good memories here,” he said.
Steel is a prospect for the Anaheim Ducks and while he could spend some time in AHL, head coach John Paddock doesn’t believe he would be there for long.
“You know from him that he’s going to give himself the best chance,” Paddock said. “For me, he’s on a very similar trajectory as Claude Giroux, I had him for his first three months when he turned pro and then he was gone. Sam’s a really good player.”
A few other players who laced up the skates for the last time in the WHL were the pats three overage players Matt Bradley, Cam Hebig and Jesse Gabrielle.
“It sucks, packing up the gear and saying the goodbyes, it’s not a fun time,” Bradley said.
Bradley scored 79 points in 72 games during his only season with the Pats, but said it was a year he will never forget.
“I learned lots and I gained a bunch of massive friendships that I’ll carry forever here.”
Another big-name Pats player that could find his way into the Anaheim Ducks organization is defenceman Josh Mahura.
“Talking to some of the younger guys in the last couple of days, we feel as some of the older guys hopefully moving on that we set a good path for them and gave them enough tools that they can keep bringing in throughout their whole careers,” Mahura said. “There’s a lot of good young players in this organization and there’s a lot of guys with bright futures as well.”
Paddock said these days are tough for the players but its something a team has to go through every year.
“It happened when Colby Williams went and it happened last year when Adam Brooks went, so I don’t know if it’s a lot different but these are hard days,” Paddock said.
Paddock has no intentions of a rebuild
While this version of the Pats has come to an end, fans could already be wondering what next year could hold for the team after losing so many key guys.
“We have no intentions of (a solid rebuilding), we’ve got lots of good players,” Paddock said, listing the names of Nick Henry and Jake Leschyshyn. “I’m not overly concerned about next year.”
Paddock said while work hasn’t started on the roster for next season, he said the only additions he can see them making is adding players in the CHL Import Draft.