When Red Deer Rebels veteran Chris Douglas laces up his skates Friday, it will be for his 241st WHL regular-season game.
On its own, that milestone is not unqiue – Douglas now sits tied for 31st all-time for games played in franchise history.
What it does represent is a sort of consistency that the multi-faceted, right-shot centre has brought to the rink over his five years with the club.
As Douglas puts it, he’s come a long way from the skinny, Richmond, B.C. kid that showed up in Red Deer back in 2016.
“It’s been a long five years in Red Deer. It feels like just yesterday I was coming in as a 16-year-old, playing with guys like Evan Polei, he was a 20-year-old. It’s crazy. I can’t believe it’s my last year,” said Douglas, who turns 21 later this summer.
“I was probably a buck sixty-five soaking wet when I was 16. I just remember seeing all the older guys and thinking like ‘holy,’ what’s it going to be like when I’m their age. My memories are really good when I was young, most of the older guys were pretty good to me and taught me the way.”
From that moment, Douglas has strived to soak up as much as he can and learn whatever there is to learn at this level– something that he said is even ongoing during his strange 24-game swansong this season.
“You really never stop learning. I’m 20 years old and I’m still learning things this year, whether that’s from teammates coaches, staff – it never really stops. You’re always learning and developing yourself as a person and a player on the ice,” he said.
Part of that learning has included forming great friendships with his teammates.
Whether it’s watching Brandon Hagel and Reece Johnson play in the NHL on the same line or seeing Alex Alexeyev celebrate goals in the KHL, like he used to back in Red Deer – those friendships make the time he’s spent working at his craft worthwhile.
“I couldn’t be happier for those guys. They’re all great people off the ice,” he said.
“There’s lots of teammates that have moved on to pro hockey, it’s cool to see. You love rooting for those guys. Good people off the ice as well.”
The 20-year-old has maybe needed to lean on those good times a little more than usual over the past month, as the Rebels are mired in a six-game losing streak, all six losses at the hands of the Edmonton Oil Kings.
He said the group needs to find more consistency, something that the older players have to lead the way in.
“Just consistency – some periods we had it and some periods we didn’t. Just having that consistency through the entire game,” said Douglas, who has seven points in 13 games this season and 92 points over 240 career WHL games.
“There were moments where we were right there with Edmonton and we were competing and playing well.”
Red Deer (2-9-2-0), likely missing as many as five regulars, will take on the Calgary Hitmen three times this weekend.
Calgary is 6-6-2-0 through 14 games this season and the two teams haven’t matched up since splitting a two-game set nearly a month ago.
“We know from playing Calgary last time they’re always going to play hard and work hard. They’re a pretty big, tough team so just come flying and play with emotion. Be ready to get in the trenches and battle,” Douglas said.
The Rebels will host the Hitmen Friday, play in Calgary Saturday afternoon, before finishing the series Monday at the Centrium.