Each year the Spokane Chiefs honor three former captains by naming the training camp teams after them. This year, two of the team namesakes will be in attendance this weekend when the Chiefs open their annual fall camp. Kevin Sawyer and Brandin Cote will help evaluate players and coach prospects for the team that they both wore the captain’s C for. Trent Whitfield, the captain of the 1998 club, will have his name attached to the third team participating in camp.
Sawyer returned to the organization when he retired as a player in 2004 and served as the Chiefs Assistant Coach for two seasons. He has been back to Spokane every fall for camp and has been the color commentator for the Chiefs television broadcasts for the last four years.
For Cote, it is a new endeavor. The Chiefs all-time leader in games played with 352, sixth in WHL history, has been put on the shelf with a knee injury that will keep him off the ice for another six months.
“I will spend the year going to school in Red Deer working toward my Bachelor’s Degree in education,” Cote said after he caught up with Dan Mitchell, the Chiefs Dressing Room Manager while he was in Spokane.
“Next season I will make a decision on whether or not I’m going to play and I’m open to any opportunity that comes up. I will rehab with the focus of hopefully playing next year.”
The injury has forced the Chiefs first round Bantam selection in 1996 to think of life after his playing days are over. “I have always wanted to stay in the game and coaching has intrigued me. Teaching would be a good fall back, but I want to say involved in some capacity.”
Cote entered the league as a 16-year-old in 1997-98 on the team that hosted the Memorial Cup. Two years later he was an alternate captain playing for a 47 win team that went to the WHL Finals.
“We probably had more skill and talent on the team when I was 16, but our 2000 team was the tightest and most close knit team that we had when I was here,” Cote said. “We weren’t the most talented group but willing to put in the time and effort and it is a team that I will remember as working hard and having fun every day.”
Cote served as the Chiefs captain in 2000-01 and 2001-02.
To say that Cote’s memories of Spokane are good would be an understatement, “To me, its probably at the top of my list in spots that I have played. It is the best junior hockey league in the world and as professional an organization that you will find. The Chiefs can rival the professional leagues here in North American and Europe. I always said that I would play here forever… only if I could play junior hockey for the rest of my life,” he laughed.
“It is a place that I grew very fond of and somewhere I will always consider home in some sense.”
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)