It's never easy to say goodbye to junior hockey players. It's an unfortunate reality of the game: they are only able to stick around for three or four years, at most. You cheer them on as young rookies just working their way onto your team, then your fondness grows as the weeks turn into years. Unlike the pro game, where you might be able to cheer on your favourite player on your favourite team for their whole career, you're watching these kids grow up right in front of your eyes.
Before you know it, they are off to their next adventure. And sometimes, it feels like you're not given the chance to say goodbye.
It's now been a couple of week since the Lethbridge Hurricanes shocked the WHL world with the blockbuster deal, sending Giorgio Estephan, Stuart Skinner and Tanner Nagel to Swift Current. Many Hurricanes fans were equal parts shocked, saddened and outraged. It quickly overshadowed the reality of the business side of the game.
READ MORE: Analysis of Hurricanes-Broncos Blockbuster
And while many have talked about the trade and what it meant to the organization going forward, sometimes it's important to talk about the legacy that will be left behind by the departing young men. For two, their names will forever be synonymous with the Hurricanes thanks to the record books. And both will be in the conversation as two of the best to have ever played for the organization.
For Giorgio Estephan, his name will be all over the top ten in offensive categories. His 297 games played with the Hurricanes ranks him 5th all-time. His 119 goals places him 9th. His 178 assists puts him in 4th spot. His 297 points ties him with the great Byron Ritchie for 7th on the all-time list.
READ MORE: Whatever Happened To... Byron Ritchie
For Stuart Skinner, the numbers are just as impressive. The starter since he was just 16, he will easily be amongst the leaders in most categories. Earlier this month, he compiled his 10th career shutout to take the all-time team lead in the category, previously held by Logan Koopmans. His 5,318 career saves and 182 career games are also easily tops in Canes history. The Edmonton Oilers draft pick might have also supplied one of the most memorable moments in franchise history when he scored a goal.
While it's not hard to debate the merits of their value on the ice based on their numbers, one other attribute should stick in the minds of Hurricanes fans for years to come. Yes, both players were first-round draft picks. But they were also first-round draft picks for a team that was in turmoil. The on- and off-ice issues were well-documented. Players were demanding trades, outright leaving the team, or refusing to report if they were acquired here. Yet Estephan and Skinner became the centrepieces for a team that transitioned from the relocation rumour mill to a winning organization. They put the team on their backs, bringing the team back to respectability, and in the process, captured the imaginations of Windy City hockey fans for two major playoff runs. Players and fans alike are once again excited to head down to the Enmax Centre.
Not only did Giorgio Estephan and Stuart Skinner set the bar with their performance, but it was their contributions to the rebuild of the organization that can't be understated. The proof is in the number of butts in the seats, watching Hurricanes hockey once again.
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