It wasn’t the way Tyson Barrie wanted to end his days in major junior hockey.
Still, the chance to begin his pro career in the next few days might at least help take some of the sting out of the Kelowna Rockets’ second round exit from the Western Hockey League playoffs.
Barrie is headed for Denver this week to meet with the Colorado Avalanche, then is expected to join their American Hockey League affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters.
Lake Erie—based in Cleveland—is currently taking on the Manitoba Moose in the AHL playoffs.
“It’s always tough when the season comes to an end, but going to Lake Erie will be new and exciting for me,” the 5-foot-10, 189-pound Barrie said Monday on the impending start of his professional career. “I’ve never gone to play pro hockey before, so it’s a pretty exciting time. I’m looking forward to it, I’m ready to make that jump in my career. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about the Rockets and my time here…I think they’ve prepared me well.”
An emotional Barrie reluctantly closed the book on his days in Kelowna colours on Sunday when the Portland Winterhawks eliminated the Rockets in six games.
It brought to an end a stellar career in Kelowna which saw the Victoria native set an all-time franchise record for points by a blue liner. Over parts of five seasons, Barrie piled up 51 goals and 228 points in 256 regular seasons games, and 44 more points in the playoffs.
Barrie was also named the WHL’s defenceman of the year in 2009-10, and is once again the Western Conference finalist for the award in 2011.
Head coach Ryan Huska watched Barrie undergo tremendous growth as a player since playing his first game in the 2006-07 season as a 15-year-old.
“As he’s grown up over the years he’s kind of turned himself from a one-dimensional offensive defenceman into guy that played against top lines each and every night, and he’s done a great job,” said Huska. “His game has come a long way. He’s leaving here as the all-time leading scorer among defencemen and when you think about some of the guys have been through here, that’s nothing to sneeze at. He’s a very good player who’s going on to a terrific career and hopefully he can use some things here that will help him out professionally.”
As for his four-plus seasons spent in Kelowna, Barrie wouldn’t trade in the experience for anything.
“I’ve got nothing but good things to say about my time here,” said Barrie, who signed a three-year entry level deal with the Avalanche last year. “The way I’ve been treated, by the coaching staff, by management, and the way I’ve been treated in the community by the fans. My billets have made it like a second family for me, so it’s been an awesome part of my life.”
Barrie is one of five Rockets who won’t be back with the club next season.
Over-age players Evan Bloodoff, Geordie Wudrick and Zak Stebner will be moving on, as well as forward Mitchell Callahan who is expected to play pro next season with the Detroit Red Wings organization.
For the speedy Bloodoff, it marks end of a memorable five-year career.
“When I came here at 16 we didn’t even make the playoffs, then two years later we won the league,” said Bloodoff, who scored 22 goals this season. “We had some ups and downs. It was a fun ride.”