Five Weyburn Red Wings participated in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s virtual showcase, which was held during the Jan. 29-31 weekend.
The event saw players from the league inserted into the video game NHL 21. Games were then simulated and when the dust settled, the Global Ag Risk Solutions squad came out on top in the championship contest.
Connor McGrath, Nolan Cunningham, Joseph Young, Graham Skinner, and Dante Ballarin were all chosen for the virtual showcase. Four of the players were interviewed about the virtual showcase, but Dante Ballarin was unavailable.
“It was a pretty cool experience, to watch myself in a video game,” said Young. “It was unfortunate that we could not play in the showcase, but at least we could watch some hockey and that was fun.”
All the players who were chosen for the Virtual Showcase were given avatars that were created by the league.
“It was good to get your name out there, for the people who might not know who we are and get some exposure,” said Cunningham.
This exposure was especially important, after the SJHL season was cut short and games were called off, as the league followed COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines that were put in place.
Even with no game action right now, the Red Wings are still maintaining their own training and ensuring that they keep hockey in their minds.
“I have been skating at home, and at Humboldt with a coach where we run skills. I have been keeping busy that way,” said McGrath.
“I have been skating every week day with my advisor, and working out with my trainer all the time. Not too much has changed, but it is a little bit harder,” said Skinner.
Cunningham noted that it was more of a challenge for him to go to gyms, as he resides in Alberta where the restrictions have included major shutdowns. “There is no access to gyms, so I have been working out at home.”
“I am working out three times a week, when there is availability,” said Young. “I have been able to been able to get on the ice with this goaltending workshop called ‘Game Ready Goaltender’. It is not a full ice-time experience, but I have worked on my goaltending skills by attending that.”
The players noted that the Weyburn Red Wings have held a few Zoom virtual meetings, where the players can keep in touch.