The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Paul Ocker
The Times 

The Western Hockey League – Teams Resuming Play

 

January 5, 2023

As discussed in my last Western Hockey League article, the young men playing in the WHL are 16-20 years old. Therefore, unlike other major league sports, the players are given a ten-day break to go home and spend the Christmas holiday with their families. Now they are coming back refreshed and ready to play.

So far this year, the Tri-City Americans in Kennewick are at 15 wins, 15 losses, one overtime loss, and one shootout loss. This puts them in fifth place in the Western Conference. While this may not seem a remarkable record, it must be noted that the quality of play and players had vastly improved from the previous three years when they finished dead last in their conference, and the games are much more enjoyable.

Some fun facts for the Americans for the year include:

Defenseman Lukas Dragicevic has scored a goal or an assist in 26 straight games, an all-time team record. How long can he go?

The NHL has drafted Parker Bell and Jalen Luypen. Lukas Dragicevic is also expected to be drafted. It is fun to see boys grow into men.

The two Europeans from Czechia, Tomas Suchanek, and Adam Mechura, are representing their country at the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championship and are doing very well. They are expected back the second week of January.

As I chat with people about going to the games, one complaint was, "last time I went, there were like 20 fights". While hockey is a tough game with a great deal of testosterone-related activity on the ice, the current coach of the Tri-City Americans, NHL great Stu Barnes, has kept this in check.

This year, while I see three to four scrums and scuffles in any game, I cannot recall any "glove-dropping" fights. The Americans are among the lowest-penalized teams in the WHL. So, if fights are not your thing, you may find it refreshing to try a game again.

For those still mystified by the game, I will try to demystify a few things.

There are three zones on the ice. For each team, the attack (offensive) zone is at their goal, the neutral zone is in the center, and the defensive zone is the area in front of the opponent's goal. Each zone is delineated by the blue lines on the diagram below.

There are five players and one goalie on the ice for each team. The active players include two defensemen, one center, and two forwards (right and left wings or wingers).

The two defensemen play in their team's defensive zone to assist the goalie. They play farthest from the opponent's goalie so are typically the lowest scorers on the team.

The forwards and the centers play in the offensive zone trying to score. In the defensive zone, they work to keep the opponent's defensemen from passing to their team's centers and forwards.

A player on the offensive team (with the puck) may not enter the offensive zone before the puck does. If they do, this is an offsides call. This keeps a player from camping out in the offensive zone and having many one-on-one shots on the goalie.

Now that the deep freeze has broken, it is a great time to head to the arena and catch a few games. Upcoming home games will be on January 6, 7, 18, 27, and 28. Weekday games are at 7 pm and weekend games are at 6 pm. Single game tickets range from $24-34 if you walk up to the window. I recommend buying a flex pack of 6 tickets ($114 for adults or $78 for youth) (then tickets drop to $19 and $13, respectively), and you can either use them across multiple games or use them all in one night. If you wanted to do a group of 10 or more, adult tickets drop to $17, and youth (under 16) drops to $11.

 

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