SASKATOON — In many ways, hometown product Ethan Chadwick has grown into his role of stopping pucks for the Saskatoon Blades.
Growing up, the now 18-year-old goalie played mini-sticks with the players his family billeted. He went to Blades games and then tried to copy the netminders’ moves in his minor hockey contests. Chadwick spent the last two seasons learning with the team before stepping into a big role this campaign. As of Oct. 4, he had a 2-0 record with a 2.50 goals against average and a .900 save percentage.
“He’s really pushed up,” Blades goalie coach Jeff Hardy said. “He’s becoming a great goaltender in this league right now.”
On the opening night of the Western Hockey League season this year, Chadwick made 21 saves on 23 shots to backstop the Blades to a 5-2 road win against Prince Albert. He said he feels more comfortable on the ice this season after playing in 12 games in 2021-2022.
“It’s actually pretty crazy kind of what a year of experience can do for you,” Chadwick said. “My legs are feeling a lot better out there. I feel more comfortable with the guys. Using my voice a lot more on the ice as well. Seeing pucks a little bit better too. I’ve adjusted to the pace of the shots a lot better.”
Time with the Blades
When discussing Chadwick, Hardy said the first thing that comes to mind is the goalie’s perseverance. With the COVID-19 pandemic pushing back the start of the 2020-2021 WHL season, Chadwick played three games for the Saskatoon Contacts in the fall. He had a 3-0-0 record and a 1.00 goals against average when the pandemic forced the Saskatchewan Male U18 AAA Hockey League to halt and eventually cancel its season. Chadwick was a member of the Blades when the WHL’s Saskatchewan and Manitoba teams met to play in a “bubble” setting in Regina in 2021 but he did not see any game action.
“[He] just stuck with it,” Hardy said. “Practiced every day. That’s not easy. Lost a whole year in his development not playing games.
“Last year he came in and didn’t play a lot either the first half of the season … Once again, he persevered. In the second half, he had some great starts down the stretch coming home.
“The way he’s come to camp this year, great focus in him. He’s got out of the gate with a head start running here. He’s been ready to go. It’s been great to watch him evolve like that, but he stuck with it. A lot of guys could have packed in the tent and said it’s not for me, but he’s just stuck his feet in and he’s gone to work.”
Last season Chadwick posted a 6-3-0-0 record with a 3.71 GAA. Although he had practiced with the Blades the season before, it was his first taste of WHL regular season action.
“The WHL game is a lot different than U18 AAA,” Chadwick said. “The pace of the game is a lot quicker. All of the guys can shoot better so my positioning has to be that much better. I have to be ready and set for every shot.”
Learning from Maier
In Chadwick’s first two seasons with the Blades, Nolan Maier was the team’s No. 1 goaltender. Last season the Yorkton product set the WHL record for career wins with 122 and the Blades’ career record for shutouts with 12. Earlier this week it was announced Maier had signed with the American Hockey League’s Leigh Valley Phantoms, the top farm team of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers.
“My relationship with Nolan was next level,” Chadwick said. “I’ve never had a goalie partner do what he did for me – teaching me all that stuff. He’s a great guy. I looked forward to coming to the rink every day and going on the ice with him. I’m lucky enough to call him one of my best friends.”
The younger goalie seized the opportunity to learn what he could from Maier on and off the ice.
“Some of the things that I learned from him are going out on the ice every day and giving 100 per cent,” Chadwick said. “Always try to be the first one on the ice and one of the last guys off as well. Also making sure you are kind of developing some pro-style habits. Coming to the rink early, kind of stretching out before workouts and practices, that goes for after practice too. He was always in the gym stretching, doing mobility. I saw that and I was like, ‘Yeah, I should probably be doing that too.’ He just taught me that it doesn’t matter what people think. Just go out there and be me.”
The Chadwick family has billeted Blades such as Nolan Reid, Jackson Caller, Troy Trombley, and Haydn Hopkins over the years. Currently Chadwick’s teammates Charlie Wright and Marek Schneider live with the family. Having WHL players around when he was younger had an impact on Chadwick.
“It was good kind of growing up with all those guys,” he said. “Obviously, I was a huge Blades fan growing up. Being around those guys all the time and playing mini-sticks with them in the basement, some video games, whatever, it was fun stuff.
“I learned kind of what it takes to play in the league too. They were all open and telling me how much hard work it takes to get here. I feel like that helped a lot too being around that growing up.”
It was around age 11 or 12 that Chadwick became a goaltender full time. However, he was drawn to the position before that.
“I’d come to the Blades games… and I remember my parents telling me I’d just be glued to the goalie, watching what the goalies do in warm ups. When it was my turn to put the pads on when I was young, I kind of took what I saw from their warm-up and try to do it in a game.”
What does Chadwick enjoy about the position?
“I like getting pucks shot at me,” he said. “People say it’s scary or whatever but no. I don’t mind taking a few off the head too. It’s all fun. It’s fun when you get to stop the guys and kind of chirp them back a little bit too.”
Chadwick’s goalie skills have allowed him the opportunity to play for the team he grew up rooting for.
“I think the best part of playing hockey in my hometown is that I still get to live with my parents, sleeping in my own bed as well. Also just knowing the city and knowing the rink a little bit better than the other guys that helps out a lot.”