Nolan Reid is one of those hockey players you don’t always hear much about, but every team needs to win.
Reid is a durable defenseman who came to Spokane from Saskatoon in a mid-season trade two seasons ago and has been a steady presence on the back line since then. He played in all 72 regular season games last year, seven more in the playoffs and he is closing in on 300 games played in the WHL (277 including playoffs entering Friday’s contest at Swift Current).
The trade in late 2016 wasn’t easy for him at first. His home in Deer Valley, Saskatchewan is only two hours from Saskatoon and his family was able to see every Blades home game.
“That part was hard,” he said, “because I also had lots of close buddies who I had to leave. But once I got here, I was excited to get a fresh start and make new friends.
“The hockey community is really close, and after a while, it’s like your second family, a family away from home who will do everything they can to help you be better. And that part doesn’t take too long, so it’s not a huge adjustment.”
Reid had never been part of a WHL playoff team until last season, when the Chiefs lost to Portland in a wild seven-game first-round series that reached overtime twice. It was a huge learning curve for him, he said.
“It’s a whole new environment in the playoffs,” he said. “Everything is faster and it’s like playing in a completely different league. Last year, I got a taste of what it takes to get further. We’re not going to be satisfied with just getting there again. We want to go a lot further.”
Reid had a breakout season offensively a year ago with 14 goals and 22 assists – including a six-game goal streak in October – but said that this year he wants to focus on getting better in the defensive zone.
“In the offensive end,” he said, “if you play to your strengths, scoring will come. In the D-zone, you need a strong work ethic and desire, and the ability to see the whole ice in front of you.”
He doesn’t take his role as one of three overage players for granted, he says, because he knows how much the younger players look to the veterans as mentors and role models.
“It’s special to be a ’20’ in the WHL,” he said. “Coming into camp, it’s like another tryout, because you know that only three of you will be around. You just need to be ready for whatever happens, do your best and not change anything, because whatever’s going to happen, will happen. That’s hockey, and you can’t worry about it.”
On the eve of the Chiefs’ departure for a six-game swing through the East Division, as one of seven Chiefs from Saskatchewan or Manitoba, Reid was excited for the opportunity he’ll have to play in front of friends and family again, only this time in a different jersey.
Call it a homecoming on the road.
Spokane Chiefs Education Advisor Joe Everson works with all Chiefs players, from those still in high school to those pursuing a post-secondary education or preparing to do so following their WHL career. He helped lead the Chiefs to the WHL’s Scholastic Team of the Year Award for the 2015-16 season. Throughout each season, Everson will profile individual Chiefs to provide insight into their lives, their mindset and their goals for the future.