Tanner Lishchynsky has been named the 20th captain in Kootenay Ice history.
“It’s a great honour,” Lishchynsky said following Tuesday’s contest against the Saskatoon Blades. “Seeing those guys like Sam Reinhart and Jarret Stoll, guys that wore it before, it means a lot. It’s a great honour. Hopefully I can keep the legacy going.”
The announcement was made Tuesday morning prior to the Ice hosting the Blades.
“He’s in the trenches, he’s physical, he’s competing,” said Luke Pierce, head coach of the Kootenay Ice. “He brings that work ethic and that effort.”
Lishchynsky becomes only the fifth defenceman to sport the captaincy, following in the footsteps of Steve McCarthy (1998-00), Mike Green (2000), Brayden McNabb (2010-11) and Joey Leach (2013).
“Since joining our club in late December 2014, Tanner Lishchynsky has impressed both his teammates and coaches with the hard working, never-say-never attitude,” said Jeff Chynoweth, president and general manager of the Kootenay Ice, in a team release. “He brings his work boots to the rink every day and is a person all players on our team can look up to and learn from as we continue through the remainder of the season.”
Lishchynsky, 21, takes the reigns from Luke Philp, who was named captain in October before being traded to the Red Deer Rebels in a blockbuster deal Jan. 3.
“Tanner is a perfect example of how hard work gets you anywhere in this league,” said Ice goaltender Wyatt Hoflin Friday night after the 6-foot-1, 182-pound defenceman posted a three-point performance in a 5-3 win over the Regina Pats. “Anytime he has the puck, doesn’t have the puck, he’s working as hard as he can. He continues to do that every night and it’s huge for us.”
Hard work has certainly been the defining characteristic for Lishchynsky over the course of his four-year junior hockey career — a trail that has seen him suit up all across western Canada.
“I try to keep level-headed and try to keep everyone positive out on the bench and everything like that, because the game’s going to happen, stuff is going to happen, so you try to keep everyone calm and try to help them as best you can,” Lishchynsky said.
“I’ve been in this league long enough that I know the ins and outs of it. I’m just trying to help them as best I can.”
The Saskatoon product began his Western Hockey League days with the Prince George Cougars, suiting up in 78 games from 2012-13 to 2013-14, before being assigned to the Yorkton Terriers of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
Lishchynsky made the most of his stint in Saskatchewan, helping the Terriers to the 2014 RBC Cup — Canada’s national Junior A championship.
The speedy defenceman registered a goal in the title game, helping his squad complete a dramatic third-period comeback before winning 4-3 in overtime.
From there, Lishchynsky was shipped north to the Flin Flon Bombers, where he started the 2014-15 hockey season, playing 29 games and registering 18 points.
His play grabbed the attention of Chynoweth and in need of a spare defenceman coming out of the Christmas break, Lishchynsky was recalled as an affiliate player for a five-game trial run.
The impact he had was immediately noticeable and shortly after, Chynoweth announced the veteran rearguard was around for good.
Fast forward to this season, and Lishchynsky now finds himself as one of only two remaining overage players on the Ice roster, with Hoflin the other.
With a bevy of quality 1995-born players heading into training camp, including Jaedon Descheneau, Hoflin, Jon Martin and Philp amongst others, odds seemed stack against Lishchynsky remaining in the fold beyond the 20-year-old deadline this fall.
Then Martin was traded. Then Descheneau suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Suddenly, Lishchynsky was in a favourable position, and once again, he has made the most of it.
As the elder statesman, Lishchynsky has posted one goal and 10 points through 31 games this season, but most importantly, he has provided stability and experience for what is a largely inexperienced blueline and dressing room.
“I think part of being the captain is to make sure guys are ready for next year,” Lishchynsky said. “I know I won’t be here. I’m trying to make them better hockey players, better leaders and better people in general. I’m just trying to get them to always work hard — the mentality the Kootenay Ice have always had for years. I’m trying to get that into their heads and hopefully it works out.
After years of slugging it out on the bubble of the Western Hockey League, Lishchynsky is finally getting just recognition for his tremendous work ethic and leadership.
“He’s huge [for our success],” said forward Matt Alfaro Friday night. “This is his last few months of junior hockey and he’s making the most of it and playing well.”
As the 20th captain in Kootenay Ice history, Lishchynsky follows in the path of many greats before him, including Reinhart, Stoll and Adam Cracknell, just to name a few.
In addition to the naming of Lishchynsky as captain, Alfaro, Zak Zborosky and Cale Fleury have been named alternate captains.
Kootenay Ice Captaincy History
John Kachur (1996-97); Steve McCarthy (1998-00); Mike Green (2000); Mike Comrie (2000); Dean Arsene (2000-01); Jason Jaffray (2001-02); Jarret Stoll (2001-02); Colin Sinclair (2002-03); Nigel Dawes (2003-05); Adam Cracknell (2005-06); Ryan Russell (2006-07); Steve DaSilva (2007-08); Andrew Bailey (2008-09); Dustin Sylvester (2009-10); Brayden McNabb (2010-11); Drew Czerwonka (2011-12); Joey Leach (2013); Sam Reinhart (2013-15); Luke Philp (2015-16); Tanner Lishchynsky (2016)