It may be more than 2,200 kilometres away, but there is no way Ed Watts would not be in the stands at the Art Hauser Centre this weekend.
Watts lives in Bakersfield, Calif., but is gladly making the trek north to Prince Albert, Sask. for Games 1 and 2 of the Rogers WHL Championships on Friday and Saturday, May 3 and 4 between the Prince Albert Raiders and the Vancouver Giants.
He will then return to Langley Events Centre for Games 3 and 4 on May 7 and 8, as he continues cheering on his grandson, Brayden Watts, and his Giants teammates.
Travelling is nothing new for the elder Watts, a retired firefighter, and something he has done regularly since his grandson joined the WHL in 2015 with the Moose Jaw Warriors.
“I have been to places that I never in my wildest dreams imagines that I would go to since he left home to play hockey,” Ed Watts said. “Never thought I would be in Prince Albert, when it was 45 below zero, that’s for sure.”
His grandson, who is in his fourth WHL season, spent the 2015/16 campaign in Moose Jaw before being traded to Vancouver during his sophomore season. He just completed his second full season with the Giants.
Brayden finished the regular season with a dozen goals and 38 points (just one off his career high of 39 despite playing 13 fewer games) and has added five goals and seven points in 15 playoff games.
His most recent goal clinched the Western Conference Championships for the Giants in game five against the Spokane Chiefs on April 26. Facing elimination, the Chiefs had just cut the lead to 2-1 early in the third period but 21 seconds later, Watts banged home a rebound to restore the two-goal advantage. That goal was crucial as the Chiefs pulled back to within a goal with 1:47 to go but could not notch the equalizer, sending Vancouver to the Rogers WHL Championships for the first time since 2007.
And of course, Ed was in the stands to watch what became the series-clinching goal.
“Growing up, he has always been there for me and supported me with my hockey, so him being able to come up for these big goals is really important to me,” Brayden said.
With it much easier to travel from California to the Lower Mainland, Ed has been at many of the Giants’ regular season home games, also attending for round one against Seattle and round three versus Spokane. He did miss the team’s second-round sweep of Victoria.
In fact, Ed has been there from the start of his grandson’s foray into hockey, taking his grandson to a Bakersfield Condors game when he was a child.
“Where we sat, he would stand on my feet to look over the wall at the second level. I would never hear him say a word, he was always studying the game and the players on the ice,” Ed explained. “He was always like that.”
Hitting the road
The Vancouver Giants and Prince Albert Raiders will be competing for the Ed Chynoweth Cup in the 2019 Rogers WHL Championship series.
The Giants secured their berth in the league finals with a 3-2 Game 5 victory on home ice last Friday night against Spokane while the Raiders were victorious this afternoon in Edmonton.
Tickets for Games 3 and 4 at the Langley Events Centre are on sale now.
The dates for the 2019 Rogers WHL Championship have been announced. The full series schedule can be found below:
Game #1 – Vancouver at Prince Albert – Friday, May 3rd at 6 p.m. PT
Game #2 – Vancouver at Prince Albert – Saturday, May 4th at 6 p.m. PT
Game #3 – Vancouver vs Prince Albert – Tuesday, May 7th at 7 p.m. PT – GET TICKETS
Game #4 – Vancouver vs Prince Albert – Wednesday, May 8th at 7 p.m. PT – GET TICKETS
*Game #5 – Vancouver vs Prince Albert – Friday, May 10th at 7:30 p.m. PT
*Game #6 – Vancouver at Prince Albert – Sunday, May 12th at 5 p.m. PT
*Game #7 – Vancouver at Prince Albert – Monday, May 13 at 6 p.m. PT
The Giants will be competing for the Ed Chynoweth Cup for the third time in their 18-year history.