Rookes enjoying his rookie WHL season

“I’d always dreamed of playing in the WHL and I hoped that I could make it to this level”

October 19, 2023, 11:00 am
Ashley Bochek

Manson’s Kurt Rookes is playing with the WHL’s Wenatchee Wild this season.

When Kurt Rookes was growing up in Manson, Manitoba, he dreamed of one day playing in the Western Hockey League (WHL). He is now playing for the Wenatchee Wild in the WHL, and says it’s a dream come true to be playing in the league.

The team, formerly known as the Winnipeg Ice, relocated to Wentatchee, Washington this summer and became the Wenatchee Wild.

Rookes signed as a rookie in early September and has played six games as a defenseman/forward.

“It is very cool and a good experience. It is something that I grew up watching and looking forward to trying to make the league. It is exciting now that I accomplished it.

“It was a long-time dream for me growing up and watching the Brandon Wheat Kings. It is very exciting. I’d always dreamed of playing in the WHL and I hoped that I could make it to this level.”

Rookes worked hard throughout his hockey career and is proud of his accomplishments within his hockey career.

“I wasn’t sure where my hockey would take me, but I knew the amount of work I put into it could lead me to the level I’m at here and I am glad it finally did.”

He says playing in the WHL is a huge experience and playing with guys drafted in the NHL (National Hockey League) and learning from them is a great experience.

“It is very cool and a huge experience. Our team has a lot of high draft pick players and NHL picks. It is very cool to see those guys conduct themselves day in and day out and what level of skill they’re at and what I need to get to. We have one in particular, NHL pick defenseman Graham Sward. He helps me defensively, giving me little pointers here and there and helps me with my game.”

Kurt says every day is busy at the rink and days fluctuate depending on game weekends.

“Every day is a busy day. We get up, go to the rink around 8:45 and have some meetings with the coaches. We go over what the day is going to look like and some video from the last games, focusing on what we need to work on. We hit the ice around 10:15 and then usually skate until around 12. Then head to the gym until later that afternoon with a team workout and then we are done for the day. Some days are longer, they mix it up sometimes and days closer to games are shorter making sure we are rested and fresh for the weekend of hockey games.”

Playing in the WHL places high demands on players’ bodies and Rookes says that there are hardly any days off from training. “The WHL is a high level of hockey and you have to be fast and make sure you work your hardest every time you step out on the ice,” he says. “It is very high demand on your body, and you have to make sure you take care of yourself too and get recovery. You have to be in good shape and day-in and day-out you can’t take a day off.”

Rookes doesn’t notice a difference living in the United States other than the scenery of high terrain as compared to back home in Manitoba.

“I kind of forget sometimes that I am living in the U.S., it doesn’t seem much different here than home. The biggest difference for me is the change in scenery. Obviously Wenatchee looks a lot different than it does back in small town Manitoba. It is a big difference that way for sure, but as far as U.S. versus Canada, it isn’t a big difference other than the money I pay with.”

Rookes is thinking of pursuing his post-secondary schooling after the WHL in hopes of playing hockey on the side.

“I’m going to wait and see where the dub takes me and maybe see after if I play any professional hockey or look at continuing my education as the WHL offers a scholarship program so I will probably utilize that money and go to college and try playing hockey somewhere there while taking my post-secondary schooling.”

Rookes gives the advice to younger kids in minor hockey to work hard all the time because there are many opportunities within the hockey world.

“Keep working hard. There is a lot of opportunity out there for hockey players, you just have to work hard to get yours. As for me, I wasn’t a guy who was drafted in my bantam draft year so I was a guy who had to work at it lots to end up playing here, so I think hard work is the biggest thing. If you have an idea of what you need to do, just work hard at it and see where it may take you.”