Hayden Pakkala has played in 176 games in the WHL and Wednesday night will mark the first time that he will face the Prince Albert Raiders.
Pakkala was originally drafted by the Winnipeg ICE in the seventh round of the 2019 WHL Prospects Draft, 142nd overall. He was acquired by the Raiders via trade on September 27, 2021 in exchange for a ninth round pick in 2021 WHL Prospects Draft.
On deadline day, Pakkala found himself on the move for the second time in his WHL career when he was traded to the Lethbridge Hurricanes in exchange for a 2027 third round selection.
For the first time in his WHL career, Pakkala will suit up in the visitors dressing room at the Art Hauser Centre when the Lethbridge Hurricanes make their first visit of the season to Hockeytown North.
“It’s gonna feel a little weird for sure,” Pakkala says about facing his former team for the first time. “I’m definitely excited to play in front of the Raider fans again, even if they’re not cheering for me and get to see some of my old teammates and my old billet family, so it should be good.”
Pakkala was spending time with teammates at the Art Hauser Centre, hanging out and waiting to hear the news of what the Raiders would do at the trade deadline.
That’s when he got called into the coaches office and given the news.
“They told me I was traded.” Pakkala says. “My initial reaction, I was pretty upset for sure. I was upset saying bye to everybody. When I started driving down here, I definitely got way more excited. It’s been good so far.”
It didn’t take long after the trade for Pakkala to thank the Raider faithful that had supported him in his WHL career. The day of the trade, Pakkala would make a post on X (formerly known as Twitter) thanking both the Raider organization and the Prince Albert community.
Pakkala says he wanted to let the community know how much he appreciated their support over his time in Prince Albert.
“Over the past couple of seasons that I was playing there, the community supported me and the team so much. I just wanted to thank them for that and I wanted to just thank the organization for giving me the chance to play in this league and helping me develop every day.
“The Raiders, they did provide me with so much through the coaching and the off-ice training with Terry (Lange) there. In the community, (they) helped me get out there and they just showed me support the whole time. While I was out in the community, everybody was so positive with me and just taught me how to be good around kids at schools and just show my support anyway I can.”
During the Raider team awards banquet last season, Pakkala was presented with the Congeniality Award by Raider head coach Jeff Truitt. The definition for congeniality according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary reads “friendly concern, interest, and support.”
The award was presented to Pakkala as a tongue-in-cheek gesture with a video showcasing his play style which is notoriously unfriendly towards opponents with Pakkala never being intimidated by the opposition.
Pakkala says he has no plans in changing his play style and is hoping to help the Hurricanes claim two points at the Art Hauser Centre.
“That’s kind of always been my way to play there. I don’t think it’ll change playing against my buddies in PA, but I’m sure I’ll have some laughs on the ice. We’re still there to win and I’m going to do everything I can to get the points against them.”
Puck drops between the Hurricanes and Raiders at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night.