For fans, the trade deadline is an exciting time. Be it the NHL or CHL, onlookers eagerly anticipate moves their favorite teams will make: if the team’s championship window has passed, veteran players are exchanged for a veritable haul of draft picks and young players; and teams looking to make deep runs through the playoffs hand out picks and prospects en masse as they search for the right piece–the right player–to push them over the top. Such is the story of the Otters’ and Frontenacs’ deadline deal, which saw fan-favorite Brett Neumann and Erie’s third-round pick in 2021 moved to Kingston for overager Warren Foegele. Exciting times for fans and their hopes of a Memorial Cup–but for players, the prospect of packing up one’s gear, life, and future can be daunting.
“I found out the night before [the trade] was finalized, that I’d be coming to Erie,” says Foegele, by now a familiar face around the Erie Insurance Arena. “I had a great time there, in Kingston. It was always like a second home to me [. . .] It’s a great organization, very classy, and obviously leaving was tough. But at the same time, there’s just so much excitement coming to an organization like Erie. It’s definitely bittersweet.” Foegele, a big power forward playing his final season in the OHL, projects a nervous energy as he speaks. From Kingston, Ontario to Erie, it’s a six-hour, 350 mile journey along frozen lakes, snow-swept hills, and icy highways. The two cities are located in two entirely separate countries, in many ways worlds apart in terms of culture and environment. On the transition, Foegele says, “I think it’s always going to be a bit of an adjustment, and I’m still trying to adjust to everybody and the new system [ . . . ] I think I’m still trying to figure [my role] out. I just try to play my game, and that’s working hard and using my speed. I’m a relentless worker, and I just try to use my speed and skills to my advantage.”
However intimidating the move was, it hasn’t negatively affected Foegele’s play: if anything, he’s played the best hockey of his career since arriving in Pennsylvania. He’s scored 17 points in 16 games (as of 2/13/2017) with the Otters, playing largely on a line with 2017 NHL Draft-eligible Ivan Lodnia and fellow newcomer Anthony Cirelli. “It’s exciting,” he says. “I was kind of familiar with a few faces from minor hockey. Just seeing those faces and their excitement at me being here was definitely huge. It helped me feel really comfortable.” In the dressing room and on the ice, however, Foegele credits another tall, lanky overager in easing his transition: “Kyle [Pettit] is just a smart, big-bodied player. He has lots of skill right in front of the net, and I think that’s something we’re similar in. We’re very good below the net. I think if we can keep playing together, then we can create a lot of chances down there.
“I think we have a lot of leaders,” he continues. “Not just the guys with letters on them. Obviously, Dylan [Strome] is a huge leader and a big part of this team. He leads on the ice and he’s always talking in the dressing room, trying to get us ready. I know Darren Raddysh is a big part of this leadership core, too [. . .] They all bring something to the table.”
Though the trade deadline is many things for players–fun, intimidating, nerve-wracking–Foegele uses one word in particular to describe the feeling: “Exciting.” It’s a word he uses no less than sixteen times across two interviews, and it speaks volumes about leaving one team for another: Kingston was like home–it was home–but the opportunity to compete, in his last OHL season, for the Robertson and Memorial Cups is what keeps Foegele going.
by Caleb McLaughlin