Following playing for three other golf equipment, Keltie Jeri-Leon observed a dwelling with the Thunderbirds. (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)
It felt like a operate-of-the-mill exercise for the Lethbridge Hurricanes on New Year’s Eve of 2018. Keltie Jeri-Leon arrived off the ice and was told by the coaches that he necessary to go see typical supervisor Pete Anholt. He did not believe just about anything of the assembly but identified out that he experienced been traded to the Seattle Thunderbirds.
“It was wholly blind to me. I didn’t know I was obtaining traded,” Jeri-Leon suggests. “It was a shock to me at initial.”
This was starting to be common to Jeri-Leon, who was 18 several years old at the time.
Seattle would be his fourth WHL team just after starting up with the Tri-City Us residents in 2016-2017. The next year he would perform for a few clubs as he saw time with the Individuals, Kamloops Blazers, and the Hurricanes. He experienced played 30 online games to open the 2018-2019 campaign prior to Seattle calling.
Lethbridge was starting off to really feel like residence, eventually.
“I experienced great billets there and it is a good group,” Jeri-Leon says. “I was experience snug, but you flip it and one more workforce seriously needs you. You make a favourable out of it.”
He would play 39 game titles for the Thunderbirds in excess of the 2nd 50 % of the 2018-2019 season and recorded 10 points.
With no more trades, he was established in Seattle at the start off of final year and grew to become a single of the Thunderbirds prime offensive gamers. He set profession highs with 23 ambitions and 41 factors in his initial complete year with the club. As he prepares this 7 days for his remaining time in the WHL, the 20-calendar year-outdated has at last uncovered a house.
“For some fellas, it just requires a tiny little bit extra time for all the items to slide in place,” Thunderbirds head mentor Matt O’Dette states of Jeri-Leon, who will be Seattle’s lone in excess of-aged player this 12 months. “It’s obtaining the proper circumstance Seattle was that appropriate predicament. It begins with him becoming a large character kid, top rated-of-the-line character, and function ethic. Such a very good man to be around our youthful group.”
Jeri-Leon was steady in his energy past year and had an effects. He scored significant objectives and contributed on the energy-perform, scoring six instances for yet another profession-significant.
It was straightforward for him to locate his groove.
“I just assume from the staff to the gamers we experienced these a great team,” Jeri-Leon claims. “It was simple to come to the rink and participate in challenging for each and every other. I located some chemistry with (Henrik Rybinski) and (Conner Roulette). It gave me some self confidence and I just rolled with it.”
That chemistry gave the Thunderbirds a correct top rated scoring line, one thing the club experienced been exploring for in the very first half of the season.
The three took off and have been a huge rationale for the workforce enjoying greater in the 2nd half to get again into a playoff place by the season’s finish. Although Jeri-Leon found his scoring contact, his contribution off the ice was just as significant.
Seattle had one particular of the youngest lineups in the CHL and Jeri-Leon took on a leadership role, exhibiting the rookies the way ahead.
“Everyone on the workforce is equivalent,” Jeri-Leon suggests. “It does not make any difference your age, in which you’re from, or in which you are in the lineup. Every person justifies to be there. I don’t forget when I was a young man there were men who picked you up and assisted you. These are the guys you keep in mind.
“We’re possibly more youthful this calendar year so it’s likely to be enormous for me to phase up and guide by example. Just help out and give a supporting hand the place it is required.”
O’Dette has still to announce the group captain for the period and whether he’s putting on the ‘C’ or not, Jeri-Leon will engage in a vital function in the leadership of one more young crop of promising rookies.
“It’s rough for young guys when they go away from dwelling and really do not know what to assume,” O’Dette suggests “To have a male like Keltie consider guys underneath his wing is substantial and it’s important to have leaders. A dude like that can have the culture and change the lifestyle. What he started off very last calendar year grew to become contagious.
“It rubbed off on fellas like (Matthew) Rempe and Roulette, keeping late on the ice and in the health and fitness center. We had to kick all those fellas off the ice. That’s the kind of lifestyle you want to have. When you have additional guys on that facet of the fence, excellent things are heading to come about.”
The shortened 24-recreation period this calendar year is centered on improvement for Seattle’s and all WHL players.
For a even though, in the offseason, the prospect of any season appeared bleak. That experienced an result on players in the course of the league as they scrambled to uncover ice time. Finding video games in this calendar year will be essential for NHL Draft eligible gamers and the incoming rookies but it’s similarly important for Jeri-Leon.
He still has aspirations to come across a professional agreement for up coming season or to land himself in university and continue on playing. So, when he’ll be a useful chief in the Thunderbirds dressing area, he however has anything to enjoy for himself.
As the commence of the time was becoming pushed again on three situations, the be concerned rose.
Last but not least, the league found a way to go right after gaining approval from the Condition of Washington much to the aid of Jeri-Leon and it is heading to start off in just 10 days. Jeri-Leon says the time off was a mastering knowledge to not choose hockey for granted.
“You have to think about it like sometimes you are in a tough follow and you believe it sucks,” he claims. “During the time off you’d do something to be back again in that instant. Just remaining section of a group, heading by means of all the ups and downs, the bus rides, and every thing. Each minor instant this calendar year we’re likely to be far more appreciative of.”
Jeri-Leon will be back again on the ice with the Thunderbirds on March 19th when they host the Portland Winterhawks at the ShoWare Center. There will be no enthusiasts in the arena and the gamers will have to create their very own electricity.
You can guess Jeri-Leon will be a component of that power to not only enable his group but put a stamp on his very last WHL period.
“I’m coming into these video games and trying to perform my sport, play the team’s way to assistance us get,” he states. “Yes, there’s no playoffs but each individual game however matters. You have got to carry out, and no one wishes to lose. I believe at the conclusion of the day with the young main we have there is a terrific prospective for us to actually make a mark.”