The first round of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League playoffs will definitely be a unique experience for Grady Lane.
The son of Craig and Stacey Lane grew up in Virden but competes for the Winkler Flyers. The Flyers and Virden Oil Capitals meet in the MJHL quarterfinals.
“I got to know and grow up with most of the guys on the Oil Caps, so it was weird being on the other side of the bench at first,” Lane said of his experience competing against his hometown team in the regular season. “The games we had in Virden were ones I had circled on the calendar as it’s always nice to see family and friends in the stands that you don’t always get to see with living away from home.”
As a 16-year-old rookie, Lane has learned the ropes of junior hockey while contributing to the Flyers. He had four goals and 21 points in 48 games.
“I have been very lucky to be able to play with some really good players this season,” Lane said. “I think one of the biggest things for me this year was developing my skills and getting better everyday. Playing with and against guys that are usually three to five years older than me has made me a better hockey player and helped me be able to produce numbers.”
Flyers head coach Kelvin Cech said the “big thing with (Grady) is his habits are so good.” He praised the youngster for taking advantage of extra practice ice time by asking coaches for drills and grabbing teammates to work with him.
“He’s so hungry to get better at that skill part of the game,” Cech said. “That’s impressive for anyone, but really impressive for a 16-year-old.”
The head coach said the thing he is most impressed with about Lane is that he does not seem like a first-year player. Lane is able to fit into the team on and off the ice.
In games, the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder has shown he can hold his own. He had 126 penalty minutes in the regular season. Cech said that Lane has proven the ability to handle himself mentally and emotionally as well as physically.
“He’s an agitator,” the coach said. “He’s a good penalty killer. That takes a lot of mental fortitude.”
Lane has earned the coaching staff’s trust and is deployed late in games. Cech said that Lane does not turn the puck over and is good on the forecheck.
Lane said he doesn’t think he has played on a team as close as the Flyers before this season.
“We are a very tight knit group,” he said. “The Winkler Flyers are a top-notch organization and our staff makes everyday at the rink enjoyable. We have the best support in the league with our fans and billets, which makes everyday a good day.”
Lane also has the support of his parents.
“The support I have received from them throughout my hockey career has been incredible,” said Lane, who has a younger sister, Holly. “I don’t think they have missed watching a game, whether that is on the live stream or in person. We even talk after every single game about how it went and what I could have done differently to make myself better. They have put in a lot of time and money towards me playing hockey and I really appreciate everything they do.”