Chad Butcher is having no trouble adjusting to life in Medicine Hat, although he hasn’t had to deal with any cold weather yet.
As for his adjustment to the WHL, well, he’s still getting used to that.
Butcher, 16, will be in Kamloops with the Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday for a game against the Blazers at Interior Savings Centre. The Blazers will be at home to the Seattle Thunderbirds tonight, while Medicine Hat will be in Vancouver to play the Giants.
Butcher, a Kamloops native and product of the Kamloops Minor Hockey Association, will be playing in his hometown for the first time as an opponent.
“I’m really excited,” said the 5-foot-9 forward. “I’ve grown up watching the Blazers and it’s always been my goal to play in this league.
“It should be an exciting game.”
The Tigers drafted Butcher in the third round, 62nd overall, in the 2011 bantam draft. He was the fourth of eight players off the Jardine’s Blazers roster to be selected in that draft; three of those players – Butcher, Joe Hicketts in Victoria and Carson Bolduc in Prince George – are in the WHL as 16-year-olds.
On Wednesday in Victoria, Hicketts’ Royals beat Butcher’s Tigers 4-3 in overtime.
“It went well,” Butcher said, adding that he had a few shifts against Hicketts. “He’s one of my buddies. . . . We’ve been to different camps so we’re used to competing against each other. Besides, there’s no friends on the ice.”
Butcher, who led the major-midget Thompson Blazers with 29 assists and 42 points last season, left Kamloops in mid-August, hoping to crack the Tigers’ roster. He had a “really good” camp, and has found a home with the Tigers.
He also has a new city.
“It’s a little different – a new home and a new school,” Butcher said. “I’m getting used to it, I think.”
His billets have been very welcoming, and he’s housed with Steven Owre, a freshman forward from Rocklin, Calif., who’s “probably my best friend on the team.”
“It’s been pretty hard being away from home and my family and friends,” Butcher added. “It was tough at the beginning, but it’s getting better.”
Adjusting to life in the WHL has been a little more challenging for Butcher. He has appeared in four of the Tigers’ five games, and is still looking for his first point.
“As a 16-year-old, you have to get used to the limited ice time,” he said. “You just have to work your way up and prove yourself to the coaches and get them to trust you.”
It’s challenging enough being a 16-year-old in a league with players as old as 20, but it’s an entirely different thing for an undersized 16-year-old.
It’s a good thing Butcher’s strongest attribute is his speed.
“It’s a tough league to play in for someone my size,” he said. “But my speed helps a lot. Being quick and shifty, I get through.”