Friendships don’t end with trades

Perry Bergson
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There was a second story unfolding at the Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon on Friday if you were watching closely.

It came between periods in the game between the Saskatoon Blades and the Prince Albert Raiders. It came after whistles in scrums. It came as the players skated back to the bench.

It came as they set up for faceoffs.

On Friday evening, three former Blades now wearing green and three former Raiders now wearing white met on the ice. For all but Ryan Coghlan and Dylan Busenius, it was their first time facing their former teammates.

At one point in the third period, many fans watched -- perhaps expecting a fight -- as Busenius and Raiders forward Chance Braid jawed back and forth at each other in front of the Blades net after a whistle.

You had to be closer to the action to see their wide smiles.

“Braider was giving it to me all game and being a little pest,” Busenius says. “It was all in fun. Obviously you have to play between the whistles but after the whistles we were having a little bit of fun out there. It’s good to keep that sportsmanship.”

On Dec. 27, the Raiders acquired Collin Valcourt and Coghlan for Busenius, a second round pick in 2014 and fifth rounder in 2014. 

On Jan. 8, the Raiders made a second deal with the Blades, picking up Graeme Craig, a seventh rounder in 2014 and a fifth rounder in 2016 in exchange for MacKenzie Johnston, Tyler Dea, a third rounder in 2015 and a fifth rounder in 2015.   

The teams met on Dec. 28 in Saskatoon, a 4-2 win for the Raiders. Busenius was in the lineup for the Blades and Coghlan for the Raiders.

“I kind of got the emotions out of the way the first game that I came back,” said Coghlan, who chatted with one of his former teammates while they both did their pregame stretching near centre ice. “It was a little better tonight. I was a little less nervous.”

WHL players spend a lot of time together at the rink, on the bus and hanging out in their spare time.

Johnston came to the Raiders in early October from the Kelowna Rockets.

“It doesn’t take long to build relationships in hockey,” Johnston says. “It’s a great group of guys over there.”

Even though he had been a member of the Raiders for only two months and had been traded before, it was a shock for the big overage defenceman.

“It didn’t really make it any easier,” Johnston said. “I kind of thought I was going to end up in P.A. I’ve never been one to get moved around like this. You kind of get your mindset that you’re going to finish somewhere and then you get dealt out of the blue, it’s tough.”

The player who left the Raiders with the most to potentially gain was Dea. He had suited up for just 11 games as a Raider and was moving to a situation where he’ll see more ice.

He’s already played four games with the Blades.

“It wasn’t something I expected but when it did happen there was a quick turnaround,” Dea says. “I’m excited about it because it gives me an opportunity to play. I didn’t play very much in P.A. obviously so I’m excited for the opportunity to suit up every night and the personal development as well.”

Still, the rookie defenceman said it wasn’t easy leaving Prince Albert.

“It’s tough obviously,” Dea said. “I made some good relationships with the billets and the guys on the team but once the first couple of days pass by and you get settled in with your new billets, and get familiar with the new guys, everything sort of works itself out.”

All three former Raiders were thrilled with the 3-1 Blades victory on Friday, an outcome they promise to use for bragging rights.

The two teams met just prior to the trade on Dec. 27 in Prince Albert. Alert Raiders fans may have noticed that Busenius was out of the lineup that night, a curious decision for a 20-year-old assistant captain.

They would have been right if they had guessed a trade had been made but not announced.

Busenius found out that afternoon around 3 p.m. after waking up from his pre-game nap.

“It was kind of weird,” he says. “I was sitting at home and my teammates, my ex-teammates, were playing against the team that I was going to the next day so it was a weird situation.”

It actually happened to Busenius when he joined the Raiders on Jan. 1, 2013, with his first game coming against his old Medicine Hat Tigers teammates.

“It was a little bit of a shock, at least at the time,” Busenius says of the deal. “I was never even mentioned to about a possible trade so it was a shock.”

Valcourt had played six times as a Raider prior to returning to Saskatoon on Friday.

“It was a little weird,” he admitted after the game. “I spent a year here and there were a lot of memories made for sure but at the same time it’s just another game.”

Coghlan saw it the same way.

“Those guys are like my brothers over there but there are no friends on the ice,” said Coghlan, who drew a minor for checking from behind when he nailed one of his former teammates in the second period. “You have to be focused and you can’t have any friends on the ice but I love those guys, every single one of them over there.”

To Coghlan’s credit, he made sure the player he hit was OK before skating to the penalty box.

It was that kind of game.

“I made a lot of friendships over the last year with those guys,” Valcourt said. “I can play hard between the whistles and they understand that but after the whistle we’re still friends and we can pat each other on the back.”

If you think it’s easy for the young men to be uprooted, it clearly isn’t. Busenius, a Raider for 69 games, spent almost exactly a year in Prince Albert.

He pauses and answers wistfully when asked just how difficult it is.

“Obviously it’s hard every time. You get to be so close to some guys.

“I hope everything works out good for both teams. I’ve enjoyed my time here so far and there’s a lot of good things that I owe a lot to in P.A., all the fans and everything like that. This is just another chapter in my life.”





Game story:


Organizations: Raiders, Credit Union Centre, Prince Albert Prince Albert Raiders Saskatoon Blades Western Hockey League WHL

Geographic location: Saskatoon, Prince Albert

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