Stanks on sports: regular milestones like first goals always special in WHL

Prince Albert Raiders defenceman Tayem Gislason. -- Photo by Darren Steinke.

Darren Steinke

Special to the Herald

Sometimes the best memories in a WHL season come from regularly occurring milestone moments.

One of those moments comes from scoring your first career goal in either regular season or post-season play. Pretty much everyone who plays in the WHL remembers their first goal in a meaningful game.

In the Prince Albert Raiders’ final contest before they headed off for their WHL Christmas break last Saturday, Tayem Gislason experienced that special milestone.

With the Raiders locked in a 1-1 draw with the host Saskatoon Blades at the SaskTel Centre, Gislason, who is playing in his second WHL campaign, put a point shot on goal through a screen that ended up inside the Saskatoon net.

That tally gave the Raiders a 2-1 lead with 7:46 remaining in the third period and stood up as the winner after Prince Albert added two empty-net goals to round out a 4-1 victory. Gislason’s tally was his first career WHL goal, and it came in a timely spot.

Following that game, I went to down to interview Gislason about his big goal. When I reached the ground floor of the SaskTel Centre, a familiar scene that played out many times before occurred.

After interviewing Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid, I went to see Raiders long time athletic therapist Duane “Puff” Bartley about getting Gislason. The entrance to the visitors’ dressing room isn’t far from the main hallway of the ground floor of the SaskTel Centre, and you can often hear big cheers when they are made.

Bartley went into the Raiders dressing room, and to get over all the dressing room conversations, I could hear Bartley raise his voice to tell Gislason that he was needed for an interview.

All of a sudden, Bartley’s request was greeted by the rest of the team with a big “Woooo!”

That reaction showed Gislason is well liked by his teammates. As a defensive-defenceman, Gislason doesn’t get to do too many interviews, so there was happiness seeing he would get a bit of a spotlight.

He emerged from the dressing room with a big smile on his face and his emotions were a mix of happiness and nervousness about being interviewed. Overall, I thought he did a good job talking about scoring his first goal.

He said it was exciting to get that tally, and it felt like a weight off his shoulders to score a goal in the WHL. Gislason said he thought the shot was tipped in by someone so there was some surprise to know he was being credited with the goal.

Obviously, Gislason had quite the good recent story to tell family and friends back home in Winnipeg, Man., when the Raiders departed for their WHL Christmas break after that game.

For myself, it never gets old talking to a player about scoring his first career goal in the WHL. In dressing rooms across the WHL, that series of steps including teammates cheering the fact a first time goal scorer is going to be interviewed has played out many times before.

Each time it happens, it is a great scene. It is those moments that add to making a WHL season enjoyable.

With many leagues like the NHL, NBA and NFL having postponements recently due to positive coronavirus (COVID-19) tests, you cross your fingers hoping the WHL season can progress as straightforward as possible.

That would allow more special moments and memories to be created like Gislason’s first goal.

WHL news and notes: Ice are legit good when they are on

The WHL leading Winnipeg Ice are the class of the league, when they are at the top of their game.

After falling 4-1 to the Raiders at the Art Hauser Centre on Dec. 14, the Ice went into Saskatoon the next night and thumped the host Blades 6-0 at the SaskTel Centre.

In the win over the Blades, five different players accounted for the Ice’s goals, and their play on the ice was as convincing as the final score.

The Raiders have to be pleased they’ve been able to beat the Ice twice this season.

Still, the Ice are scary good, when they are playing at the top of their game.

  • • Former Raiders and current Edmonton Oil Kings star defenceman Kaiden Guhle was named the captain for Canada’s entry at world juniors that start this coming Sunday in Edmonton and Red Deer. It is a well-earned accomplishment for one of the best rearguards in the world at the junior age level.
  • • Steve Konowalchuk has had a big impact taking over as the head coach of the Red Deer Rebels before the start of this season. In an abbreviated campaign last season, the Rebels posted a 4-15-4 record in the 23 contests they played. So far this season, the Rebels are 20-9-1-1 at the WHL Christmas break.
  • • With it being the holiday season, I hope everyone out there has a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. I hope this time treats everyone well.