For Harlan Kingfisher, his road to suit up for the Waywayseecappo Wolverines took a few twists and turns before he made his mark in the valley for two seasons as a Wolverine.
Of the 180 games Kingfisher spent in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, 120 were with the Wolverines. How he got to that point, was with persistence and perseverance.
“I went to the Williams Lake Timberwolves in the BCHL and I almost cracked the lineup. I got cut and was pretty disappointed and went back to Saskatchewan,” Kingfisher said of his first tryout at the Junior ‘A’ level. “At that time, a lot of teams didn’t have websites so I went on google and found another camp.”
“I found out that the Fort Saskatchewan Traders were having a camp so I called them and asked them if I could come and their coaches told me to come. I was one of the last cuts and thought a couple of times that maybe this wasn’t going to work out.”
Kingfisher’s persistence paid off with a single phone call to what was one of the newest and smallest organizations in Canada, the Waywayseecappo Wolverines.
“I ended up calling more teams in Manitoba and Waywayseecappo picked up. I had no vehicle and had to borrow my moms truck. The second day I was there, the coach told me to come back to the main camp. So I packed up my stuff and made the eight-hour drive for the main camp and I ended up making the team.”
Not only did Kingfisher make the team, but he also led the club in rookie scoring with 15 goals and 16 assists as an 18-year-old, playing in all but one of the 64 regular season games.
While the team didn’t have much success on the ice only winning two games that season, the memories made and life experience gained that season helped Kingfisher in the long run.
“I never played with other high caliber first nations players, when I first got there it felt like home in a way because I was on the reserve. It was pretty intense during my first year, and I didn’t know what to expect.”
“It was a tough year on the ice, but the one thing I remember is how the community treats you like family. From the moment I got there, I didn’t feel out of place. I even got a job, I was delivering pizza to houses on the reserve. And for me to see a hockey rink on a reserve, it was something I hadn’t seen before, It was great.”
“That’s what I liked about Wayway, you meet first nations players from everywhere. We had some issues on and off the ice that second season but personally, I was trying to give the young guys some support and be a good veteran.”
In that second season with the Wolverines, Kingfisher thrived and finished tied for the team lead in points with 58 after scoring 26 goals and 32 assists. His outstanding season earned him a nod for the MJHL’s All-star roster.
“I got injured and couldn’t play in the all-star game because I broke my jaw, but it was an amazing time. A lot of the guys I played with that year I still talk to now. I lived with Wayne and Bev Doubleday that season. It was an amazing experience, I never met a family like that. They treated me like one of their kids. Bev even got me a job at the Co-op in Russell.”
After coming to Waywayseecappo to start his third season with the club, Kingfisher was traded to the OCN Blizzard and finished his junior career in The Pas.
According to Kingfisher, he got back on the phone when the season ended and was once again looking for a place to play, only this time, he was looking to play at the university level.
“I phoned the Augustana Vikings in Camrose. They said to come out for a tryout. But at this point, you come tryout and if you don’t make it you were going to school there anyway. It was intense to try and make the team, but I ended up on the team and got injured my first year. I wasn’t really enjoying school and being away from home not knowing anyone was hard. I came back my second year and halfway through the year I met my wife and the rest is history.”
Now residing in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, Kingfisher has become a family man since his playing days in Waywayseecappo and he couldn’t be happier.
“I have a wife and four kids, I’ve been married for 12 years. I’ve been working as a refinery operator as a power engineer for the past 11 years. My oldest boy is playing hockey, every time I bring up hockey to my boy I tell him about Wayway and how I really grew up there.”
Looking back on that first season in Waywayseecappo, Kingfisher remembered how 18 of the 23 players during that year were first nations kids from all across Canada. He says it made his transition to come to play for the Wolverines that much easier with how he could relate to the other guys who were in the same situation.
“We all came from similar backgrounds. Everyone that gets off the reserve it’s hard, there’s no support. It was tough leaving the reserve. When you’re on the reserve you’re battling all these issues and breaking away from all that on your own is tough.”
“Now when we’re all together, you see the effects of living on the reserve and how alcohol and drugs are so easily assessable so it’s a hard cycle to break. We all worked our butts off to make the hockey team and get off reserve.”
“It was almost like you connect instantly when you meet another first nation player, you ask where they’re from and what band they’re from. You become brothers almost, you’re coming from a similar situation so you’re kind of on the same level, it was great. We still talk lots and we see each other at hockey tournaments,” Kingfisher concluded.