Chad Robinson and Rene Hunter are trading in the black and gold of the Brandon Wheat Kings for the brown of gold of the University of Manitoba Bisons.
After graduating from the Wheat Kings this spring, Robinson and Hunter have committed to joining the Bisons hockey team in the fall.
“I think in going to U of M, obviously (Bisons head coach) Mike Sirant showed a lot of interest in me,” said Robinson, a 21-year-old centre from Minnedosa. “He really made me feel comfortable in making my decision to go to Winnipeg, which is also close to home to me which was also sort of a factor.”
Robinson and Hunter fit the bill in a couple areas the Bisons have shown an affinity for as Manitobans and former Wheat Kings. The Bisons had only one non-Manitoban on their roster last season and their lineup included ex-Wheat Kings Joe Caligiuri, Aaron Lewadniuk, Darren Bestland, Paul Ciarelli, Jordan DePape and Jon Gaudet.
“I think just going there and knowing a few guys, it makes you feel comfortable with going to a new team which is different,” Robinson said. “So that’s obviously a factor as well is knowing some guys on the team.”
A speedy, two-way forward, Robinson began his Western Hockey League career with the Red Deer Rebels before being traded to Brandon early in the 2012-13 season. He had seven goals and a career-high 32 points as a Wheat King last season, finishing his WHL career with 29 goals and 99 points in 260 games.
Hunter, 20, had the best season of his four-year WHL career in 2013-14, scoring four goals and totalling 34 points in 63 games. He managed 10 goals and 68 points in 247 career games.
“I always had interest in U of M,” Hunter said from his home in Ebb and Flow.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to go to school and be around home and play hockey at the same time.”
While Hunter is planning to move into Winnipeg as soon as possible to get ready for the school year, Robinson is spending his summer working in Calgary, where his girlfriend goes to school.
The Wheat Kings’ third graduating overager, right-winger Jens Meilleur, is looking for a contract to play professionally in Europe next season. Meilleur got his German passport last season and is a dual citizen, which could give him the opportunity to play for a German team as a non-import.
Robinson said he’s still considering the idea of playing professionally one day. His priority for now, though, was finding a university program to continue playing while he gets his education.
“I think school was going to be my option,” he said. “I think that’s sort of what I was focused on for the most part anyways was getting my schooling and maybe playing minor pro or pro afterwards.”
ONE-TIMERS: Meilleur and current Wheat Kings Jesse Gabrielle, Peter Quenneville, Quintin Lisoway, Brett Kitt and Braylon Shmyr will serve coffee today from 11 a.m. to noon and from 1-2 p.m. as part of the Tim Hortons Camp Day fundraiser at the restaurant’s 18th Street location. Proceeds will help send kids ages 9-12 to camp.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 4, 2014