Passion, skill and dedication are the main qualities Coach Joe Martin looks for on his Whitehorse Mustangs Midget Rep hockey team.
No players may personify these more than 17-year-old forwards Wyatt Drift and Spencer Tomlin.
There is no doubting their love of the sport.
Between them they have almost 30 years of hockey experience, having played the game for as long as they can remember.
“It’s the biggest part,” chuckles Drift, when asked how much of his life the game takes up. “We play hockey in gym class, go public skating after school and I own a year’s pass to the rink, so I can go whenever I want.”
As for skill, Drift captains the Mustangs and, along with Tomlin, is among the scoring leaders on the team. He plays regularly on the top line and the power play and penalty killing units.
But perhaps the most remarkable characteristic of these two players is their dedication to the game.
Drift, a stocky center and Tomlin, a speedy right winger, are actually from the small Yukon community of Haines Junction.
So, each week the players carpool with fellow Mustangs teammate Thomas Moore to Whitehorse for practices and games.
The mileage can total over 1,500 kilometres a week.
Surprisingly, both say it’s actually not that hard to convince their parents to taxi them back and forth.
“Both our Dads play hockey and our Moms both like hockey too, so it’s actually pretty easy to get them to drive us,” explains Tomlin.
Adds Drift, “If we play good it usually keeps them happy, plus they understand how committed we are to the team.”
There’s no doubting their coach is both aware and appreciative of their loyalty to the Mustangs.
“Our other forwards are great players and have some great chemistry between them as well, but these guys have something different, something I don’t think I’ve seen before in minor hockey,” explains Martin, going so far as to compare Drift and Tomlin to Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri. “The things they do out on the ice together are because they’ve known each other for so long, it’s nice to watch.”
Just coming to the rink is an adrenaline rush for both Tomlin and Drift, however they both agree at times it’s the drive out to Whitehorse itself that can provide the most excitement.
Tomlin recalls one winter night along the old road to Champagne in which their minivan almost skidded head on into a semi-truck.
“That was a close call,” said Tomlin.
When talking about their hockey future, both players say it would be fun to play down south.
For this season, along with their Mustangs teammates, they are now in the midst of training for the upcoming Provincials.
“I’ll be happy if we play as well as we can and the team really pulls together,” said Drift. “As long as you know you played as hard as you could there’s no shame in losing.”
As for being known as the guys who commute in from Haines Junction to play hockey, they both kind of shrug it off.
“Every generation there have been a couple of players from the Junction that really standout and make the commitment to drive all the way,” said Drift. “There’s definitely an amazing amount of talented hockey players that come out of Haines Junction.”