They are just 20 years old – but in junior hockey terms, they are grizzled veterans.
Saskatoon Blades forward Jesse Shynkaruk and defenseman Bryton Sayers will finish their WHL careers at SaskTel Centre after the passing of their final trade deadline.
“It’s a weight off the shoulders, and we gave each other a good handshake when we found out we were here for the year,” Sayers said on Hockey Talk Saskatchewan Sunday.
“It’s nice to finish my career in front of family and friends,” said Shynkaruk, a hometown player from Saskatoon.
For some, there are another 10-20 years of high-level hockey to follow. For others, the overage junior year is the end of an era. Reflecting on the past, the pair compares this final season to a high school graduation and share a few laughs looking back.
One thing that sticks out, is coming into the WHL as teenagers and looking up at the 20-year-olds.
“They were always mean and tough and always hurt – I never understood why they were always hurt,” Sayers said.
“I was always fresh and good, but now being 20, I swear the body stops working right.”
Now that Shynkaruk and Sayers are the oldest players on the team, they find the rookies look younger and younger every season – until they look back at their old photos.
“The other day we were looking at each other’s mug shots and looking back I look like a little kid, it’s amazing,” Shynkaruk said.
Sayers was able to confirm this.
“We went to his (Shynkaruk’s) house, and he has a picture from his first year in the league and he looks like he is six years old,” he said.
Now looking their age, the two 20 year olds are enjoying some of the perks of being the leaders in the locker room. Most of them off the ice.
“We’re at the very back of the bus and minimal people going back there except for the washroom,” said Sayers, adding there is a price to pay for a walk to the veteran’s row. “You have to beat all three of the 20-year-olds at rock-paper-scissors if you want to come back there.”
“All three in a row and if you don’t you have to walk all the way back to your seat and then start from the beginning,” Shynkaruk chimed in.
Having fun with the teammates keeps spirits up on a long road trip, but family is just as important for Sayers and Shynkaruk.
The players, from Prince Albert and Saskatoon respectively, spent some time with teams out west, but say it’s an asset to have family so close by.
“Playing in Victoria, it was a 21-hour drive or a three-hour flight – so now it’s a lot easier to see them in person than talking on Facetime or a phone call,” Sayers said.
“I grew a lot being on my own, but there is nothing like being home and playing in front of friends every night,” Shynkaruk added.
The pair is also aware of the task at hand. This is their last chance at a WHL playoff run with Saskatoon entering the week even with Edmonton on points for the last wildcard spot.
“It’s tough to see guys go (in trades), but hopefully we get some guys back from injury and can make a push,” Shynkaruk said.
Hockey Talk Saskatchewan airs every Sunday at 12 p.m. on 650 CKOM and 980 CJME.