Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Oiler # 24 Tanner Olstad

Playing hockey at the Junior A level means you have to be able to make quick adjustments.

That was definitely the case for the newest Oiler. Tanner Olstad, a 17-year-old centreman, was released from a hockey team in a different country and 43 hours later he was in the Oilers’ lineup for their 5-3 victory over the Calgary Royals on Dec. 1.

Olstad was released by the Tri-City Americans in Kenniwick, Wash. of the Western Hockey League after the team’s game on Nov. 28.

“Right after the game the owner pulled me into the office and told me that I was being sent down to Okotoks,” Olstad said. “I drove home to Calgary on Sunday and I had my first practice with the Oilers on the Monday.”

The Oilers have no affiliation with any WHL team, however, because the Oilers carded Olstad two years ago, the team had his rights to play in the AJHL.

Olstad admitted on Thursday the quick transition rocked his world.

“I said good-bye to my teammates, my billets and friends from school and went home and packed,” Olstad said. “I got up the next morning and drove home. I’m kind of dreaming a bit. I had no idea that I would be here right now. I’m just hoping it can work out for the best. I’m sure everything will turn out.”

Olstad was released in order for him to receive more playing time. He had one assist in the 10 games he played in with the Americans. Tri-City had played 33 games when Olstad was released.

“It will take some time to adjust to the team and a new school (Holy Trinity Academy), but I am sure it’s going to work out,” he said. “Down there it’s 45-minute classes and up here they are 80 — I have to concentrate more.”

While it is taking time to get accustomed in the classroom he is having no trouble fitting comfortably in the Oilers’ dressing room and on the ice.

“Right now I am just getting to know my teammates and the systems,” he said. “They seem to be a great group of guys.”

Olstad considers himself a playmaker and he has been given an opportunity to show his stuff with the Oilers. He was on a line between veterans John McInnis and Kyle Reynolds on Okotoks’ three-game road trip last weekend. McInnis is the team’s leading scorer while Reynolds is fourth.

Oilers GM-head coach Garry VanHereweghe wasn’t about to let the chance to have Olstad don an Okotoks jersey pass him by.

“I dealt with Bob Tory (Americans’ general manager) and I told him that we would have a card available if Tanner did become available,” VanHereweghe said. “We want to develop him to the best of our ability and after this year we will see what happens… We want to develop kids to help them get to the goals they want to, whether it be the Western Hockey League or college.”

Sandwiching Olstad between McInnis and Reynolds could work out as well as Alberta beef between two pieces of bread.

“He’s got tremendous speed and I think the line will have tremendous chemistry,” said VanHereweghe. “They all think the game the same way.”

He said the Oilers have been in need of a playmaker since James Bannister went down with an injury.

Although Olstad has had a cup of coffee in the Western Hockey League, he hasn’t closed his doors on playing hockey in a post-secondary school.

The WHL provides players scholarship funds for post-secondary schools. Canadian and colleges allow WHL players to play hockey in their programs.

However, because the Western Hockey League players receive financial stipends, there are restrictions on those players playing in the National Collegiate Athletic Association because they are deemed professionals. AJHL players do not receive any remuneration for playing hockey.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Okotoks Oilers on Facebook.

Come join the fun with the Okotoks Oilers Fan Page on Facebook.

John McInnis, #21, Okotoks Oilers

The head coach of the Okotoks Junior A Oilers describes one of his forwards as pretty dependable.

It’s a bit of an understatement. John McInnis’ironman streak sits at 91 games played without missing time due to injury, illness or even a healthy scratch. Oiler bench boss Gary VanHereweghe said as long as McInnis can lace up his skates, he’ll play.

“He’s the type of kid that doesn’t take no for an answer if it comes to playing time,” said VanHereweghe.

McInnis has tallied 86 points in 91 games played, a streak that began last season. As of Nov. 30, McInnis had 31 points in 29 games played this campaign.

“I hate missing games no matter what. I don’t think I’ve missed a game in probably four years,” said McInnis. Sick, hurt, tired, whatever McInnis said he just shakes it off and gets out there. Like a perpetual-motion machine, once McInnis is moving, he stays moving regardless of how under the weather he might feel.

“It’s kind of like a wall, once you get past it, you’re fine and you’re good for the rest of the game or practice,” said McInnis. Perhaps making the streak all that more impressive is the fact McInnis does not shy away from the most physical aspects of the game.

On two occasions VanHereweghe has seen McInnis flying in to rescue a teammate getting shoved around by an opponent. Watching his teammates getting roughed up is perhaps the one thing that sets McInnis off, otherwise he doesn’t seek out fisticuffs.

“I play with (Kyle) Reynolds and Hoogie (Brandon Hoogenboom), who are not the biggest guys on the team,” said McInnis.

A Plymouth, Mass., native, McInnis said he would like to return home after his tour of duty with the Oilers and skate for one of six major universities in the Boston area. “They are all over the place, I’ve talked to BC (Boston College) a little bit,” said McInnis.

VanHereweghe said McInnis is committed to his hockey and his leadership skills are apparent. All through his minor career McInnis has been a captain and even though he doesn’t wear the ‘C’ with the Oilers, he still looks upon himself as a leader with the club.

“As a 20-year-old guy I have to set the tone for some of the guys who really don’t know the way,” said McInnis.

2 December 2009 by Rick Northrop - Staff Reporter. The Western Wheel