Joining the RDC Kings hockey team last fall was a big change for Chance Longjohn.
But it didn’t take long for the 22-year-old from Maskwacis to feel comfortable.
After all he knew all about adjusting after leaving home at age 15 for Wilcox, SK., where he spent the last six years of his life.
“It was kind of tough leaving there (Notre Dame) after being there so long … it was like a second home,” said the five-foot-11, 200-pound centre. “I met a lot of unreal people and players. It was something not a lot of people get to experience.
“You met people from all over. Some places I’ve never heard of,” he said with a laugh. “But it’s interesting to hear how they grew up … I’m grateful for that experience.”
Now Chance is looking forward to a whole new experience.
“It took a while to get used to the league, as it’s a change from junior. Every team works hard and is skilled. There are a lot of top players from junior.”
Longjohn is one of those players.
Chance started playing hockey at a young age after his parents — Gina and Tim — got him on a pair of rollerblades almost as soon as he could walk. He came up through the Maskwacis minor hockey system before playing his final year of bantam AAA in Leduc. He moved to Wilcox and played three years of midget and three years with the Notre Dame Hounds in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
In Wilcox he played a year of midget AA, a year with the midget AAA Argos and a year with the midget AAA Hounds.
He then played 166 games with the junior A Hounds, finishing with 49 goals and 78 assists. His final season was is best as he had 23 goals and 46 assists for 69 points in 57 games. He was also team captain, the first Indigenous player to hold the position.
“My last year of junior everything really picked up,” he said. “It was a great team as everyone was so close.”
Being from central Alberta, combined with his leadership and skill level impressed RDC head coach Trevor Keeper.
“He’s been a good player his whole life and he came here as a captain and leader,” said Keeper. “It did take him a while to adjust to the pace of men’s hockey but you could see his confidence grow.
“Some guys jump right in from junior while it takes time for others to adjust to the league, to classes and living on their own.
“It took Chance a while to get comfortable, but we saw it coming in the second semester. He was having more fun and wasn’t hesitant to make plays and because of that he was rewarded with more ice time and put in spots where he could show off his skills.
“He’s a great penalty killer and good in the faceoff circle … a balanced two-way player.”
Longjohn looks at himself as just that.
“I like to work down low and set up plays … I don’t look at myself as a big goal scorer.”
Chance finished the season with two goals and six assists in 28 games, then added a goal and two helpers in a 2-0 sweep of Concordia in the first round of the ACAC playoffs.
“Everybody has their roles and you have to know your role and accept the way things are,” he said. “We have a good team with a great room and it’s a great team and organization to be part of.
‘Personally I’m not worried about my stats, it’s all about winning the championship.”
The Kings opened their best-of-three league semifinal Thursday in Edmonton against the Grant MacEwan Griffins. The second game is tonight at 7 p.m. at the Gary Harris Canada Games Centre.
Longjohn feels optimistic, as the Kings have been on a roll, winning six in a row to finish the regular season, including a pair ageist the Griffins.
“We seemed to catch fire at the right time and carried that momentum into the playoffs,” he said. “It was nice to beat them a couple of times late, so we are feeling confident.”
Longjohn is taking business at RDC and could be on hand for all five years.
“We hope to have him for a long time,” said Keeper. “He’s a great role model as a central Alberta kid.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and Alberta Sports Hall of Fame member who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org