From the moment the Red Deer Polytechnic Kings hockey team was eliminated in the first round of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) playoffs last year, captain Chance Longjohn worked to get back to the postseason.
A year later the Kings made it over the hump and earned a spot in the ACAC Men’s Hockey Championship finals.
Beginning this Friday night at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre, the Kings will play the first of a five-game series against the NAIT Ooks.
Longjohn said they’re excited to get going.
“It’s been everybody’s goal here and all season we put in the work to do this,” he said.
“We lost last year but I think it was more of a learning experience for us. Briercrest came out flying last year and kind of stunned us. Coming into this year we were prepared for that. Concordia battled hard throughout last weekend and it was a good test for us.”
Last weekend the Kings won their best-of-three series in the semi-finals to take down Concordia University 2-1. Two of the games went to triple overtime, including a crushing Game 1 loss. However, the team persevered and they won two straight to win the series.
“This past week was a really fun weekend. We battled through adversity and see what our team was made of… We went through 12 periods of hockey in two days and we were able to come back home and finish it off,” he said.
The Maskwacis, Alta. product is in his fourth season with the Kings and statistically had his best season since joining Red Deer in 2018. This campaign Longjohn has produced seven goals and 13 assists for 20 points in 23 games.
When he first got recruited to play in Red Deer he jumped at the opportunity. At the time, Longjohn was playing in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and his family could rarely come to games. Now playing closer to home his family can come whenever they want and Longjohn even had a minor hockey team from his hometown attend a game.
“I’m not just playing for myself anymore I’m playing for them,” he said.
The 26-year-old forward is also serving his first season as captain of the team, which he said has been a learning experience.
Since the first time he stepped on the ice five years ago in Red Deer, he explained he’s grown a lot as a player and a person.
“I’m not really a vocal leader. I’m one of those guys who think actions speak louder than words so I try to do that through my playing,” he said.
That attribute and others led Longjohn to become the first Indigenous captain in program history. A badge he wears with pride.
“I’ve never really thought about that but it does bring a lot of pride to me. I have my community that is 45 minutes away from here and they come out and watch so I’m trying to play for them. I want to show them we can come out and excel in our sports,” he said.
“We had a team come out the U13 Maskwacis Hawks and after I kind of had a moment. They were all here in the dressing room hallway cheering my name and it’s a moment that sticks with you. I thought it was pretty cool for them to see someone from their own reserve here making a difference.”