With the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc with life and sports schedules, Virden’s Grady Lane was thrilled be able to get on the ice with the Spokane Chiefs this past spring.
“I don’t think words could describe how happy and grateful I was to be able to have a hockey season this past year,” said Lane, who also suited up for a few games with the Virden Oil Capitals. “We were very fortunate to be able to play.”
The son of Craig and Stacey Lane cracked the Spokane lineup in his 17-year-old season. He spent the previous winter playing with the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Winkler Flyers. What did he like about his rookie WHL campaign?
“I think the thing I enjoyed most was just getting back to doing what I love,” Lane said. “With the pandemic, I didn’t know if we were going to have a season or not, so I was ecstatic to get playing hockey again. The Spokane Chiefs organization is first class and being able to play with them and meet new teammates/friends was unreal.”
The Washington state-based Chiefs were pleased with the young forward’s approach to the game.
“Grady Lane is a focused and determined hockey player,” Spokane head coach Adam Maglio said. “He is well liked by his teammates, he brings energy and enthusiasm to the rink everyday, and exemplifies hard work.”
The 6-foot-1, 209-pound Lane had two assists and 31 penalty minutes in 20 games for Spokane.
“Grady plays the game hard,” Maglio said. “He is willing to compete along the walls and at the net. He has the ability to use his size and strength to protect pucks and create space.”
Moving from Junior A to the major junior level, Lane said he had to adjust to the speed of the WHL.
“Every play you make, you have to do it much faster and the pace of the game is very fast,” he said. “Everyone in the league can skate.”
Off the ice, Lane had to adjust to city life with moving from Virden to Spokane, which had an estimated population in 2019 of 222,081. Unlike some Canadian WHL teams, the Chiefs did not play in a bubble. They lived with billet families and travelled to play their opponents – the Seattle Thunderbirds (based in Kent, Wash.), Everett (Wash.) Silvertips, Portland (Ore.) Winterhawks and Tri-Cities Americans (Kennewick, Wash.).
“It was definitely different playing and living in big cities. I enjoyed it though,” Lane said. “It was very cool to see how different everything is on the west coast. Being in the mountains and so close to the ocean is something I won’t forget.”
The Chiefs are looking forward to Lane returning for his 18-year-old season.
“Grady has been a pleasure to coach, and we look forward to his continued development,” Magliosaid.
Just before the MJHL season started, the Virden Oil Capitals acquired Lane’s rights. With the WHL season start pushed back, the Chiefs lent him to his hometown team.
“Being able to play with my hometown team was something I always dreamed up as a kid,” Lane said. “Everyone in the organization cares and goes out of their way to make sure you’re enjoying being an Oil Cap. We were a really skilled team and it was a great chance for me to reconnect with former teammates/friends and make new ones. Even though my time was short, the Oil Capitals were first class and I really enjoyed my time.”
He saw action in three games for Virden.
“Grady was a pleasure to work with in his time here,” Virden head coach Tyson Ramsey said. “I really admire the work ethic that Grady has on and off the ice. In his time here, he was always one of the first ones on the ice and one of the last ones off. He is a big strong kid that plays a grinding, in your face kind of game and we really appreciated having him in an Oil Caps jersey instead of the Winkler Flyers one he wore a year ago. With the work ethic and attitude that Grady has towards the game and his teammates, we know that he will have a successful career and we wish him nothing but the best.”
Throughout his time playing hockey, Lane has been strongly backed by his family.
“I will never be able to repay my parents and sister (Holly) for the commitments they have made for me to reach my goal of playing in the Western Hockey League,” he said. “The sacrifices, time, and money they have put into my hockey is unbelievable and I will forever be thankful for what they have done for me.”