It's going to be an emotional night in Lethbridge.
Three former Hurricanes make their first rip to their old home building tonight wearing Swift Current Broncos jerseys, while four former Broncos host their old team for the first time.
Swift Current acquired Giorgio Estephan, Stuart Skinner and Tanner Nagel in a trade deadline blockbuster from Lethbridge for a package that includes current Hurricanes Logan Barlage, Logan Flodell, Owen Blocker and Matthew Stanley.
This will be the first visit to the Enmax Centre for Estephan and Skinner as a part of the visiting team.
“Kind of seems strange to me,” Estephan said. “Going in the away dressing will be weird. It's something I have to overcome quickly. I know that stepping out on the ice on the other bench is going to be a little bit different. I'll try to get over it quick and try to make an impact on the game.”
Estephan was a fourth overall bantam draft pick of the Hurricanes in 2012 and played 297 regular season games for the organization. If he gets reflective ahead of the game it will be mostly positive.
“Nothing but joy,” Estephan said of his time in Lethbridge. “The place has been very welcoming the last four years. I had a lot of experiences good and bad. Went through some tough times and went through some really, really good times. We were close to winning a championship there. It was a big learning curve and can contribute to where I am today because of them for sure.”
Despite only recently joining the Broncos his new team held a pre-game ceremony for him on Tuesday to celebrate his 300th WHL game and point. The fans responded to that with a stantding ovation that made an impact on their new star.
“It was pretty nice to see,” Estephan said. “Not only the team welcoming me, but the crowd and the city. It was something special.”
In ten games and a few weeks with his new team Estephan and the other new faces have had some adjustments to make.
“A lot of learning,” Estephan noted. “Systems and starting to make new friends. It's something I haven't had to do before, but they've been welcoming to me and I've got a good billet too. It's been an easier transition than I expected.”
Every team has different systems and messages. That comes in time, but the biggest challenge for the overage forward is trying to find the same kind of chemistry he had with longer term linemates.
“Hockey is somewhat of a simple game,” Estephan noted. “There are different players that play different ways and some different ways that coaches coach. For the most part it's chemistry with players that is the big thing I have to focus on. Something I like is having good chemistry with linemates and knowing where everyone is. It makes it easier to play. That's something I've been trying to build off for sure.”
That includes creating chances for his elite level one-timer.
“Knowing where guys like to place to the puck,” Estephan said. “Little tendencies I like is stuff they have to learn or where I'm coming in for them is stuff I have to learn. It's all trial and error stuff. That's why practice is good and I get to talk with the guys and pick their brain a little bit.”
In the last two games Estephan has moved from centre at even strength to right wing alongside Matteo Gennaro. It's a challenge, but one he's open to while playing with some talented linemates.
“It's hard to switch to a different position,” Estephan said. “It's working pretty well the last couple games. I'm excited to keep it going. It's always easier playing with good players. I'm not worried about that department for sure.”
Skinner also spent his entire WHL career with the Hurricanes before coming to Swift Current. Nagel is on his third team, but spent over 100 games with Lethbridge.
They will surely get a warm reception from their previous home fans at least at first.
You can listen live on The Eagle 94.1 FM with Robertson Family Group Broncos Hockey at 7:30pm.
You can also listen to the whole pre-game interview with Estephan during the pre-game show tonight.