It’s been hard for Josh Anderson to get used to the fact that he’s a Western Hockey League champion and on his way to the Memorial Cup tournament.
“It’s an unreal moment,” said the Duncan-raised Swift Current Broncos defenceman after a team practice on Wednesday morning. “It’s the dream of every kid growing up.”
The Broncos hoisted the WHL championship trophy on Sunday, and will start the Memorial Cup tournament on Saturday.
Anderson was one of several players the Broncos added at the junior hockey trade deadline in January as they beefed up for a run at the title. He said he knew immediately that his new team would be a contender based on the way the newcomers were received.
“A huge part of team success is having good chemistry off the ice,” he said. “I knew right away we had a chance. Everybody who got brought in, the guys who were already here welcomed us with open arms. The fans and the city have been great.”
Anderson started his junior career with the Prince George Cougars, and spent nearly four years there before joining the Broncos in January. Making the move to Saskatchewan to get a shot at a championship was a no-brainer for the 19-year-old in his last year of junior hockey.
“I didn’t have a problem going farther away from home,” he said. “I was willing to do whatever I could. It was a sacrifice for me, something I’m willing to do.”
Before the playoffs started in March, Anderson inked his first NHL contract with the Colorado Avalanche, who picked him in the third round of the 2016 Entry Draft. While the prospect of signing wasn’t a major distraction, it was still nice to get it out of the way.
“Obviously every drafted kid and every other kid thinks about a contract all the time,” he said. “I talked with multiple guys who had signed contracts, and they said you’ve got to continue to do your thing on the ice and it will take care of itself off the ice.
“It’s every kid’s dream to sign his first contract.”
The Memorial Cup tournament starts Friday with the host Regina Pats facing the Ontario Hockey League champion Hamilton Bulldogs. The Broncos will take on the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan the next day.
The Broncos aren’t familiar with the Bulldogs or Titan, but they do know the Pats very well, having knocked off the Regina club in the first round of the WHL playoffs, although it took seven games.
“They’ll be a new team going into the tournament,” Anderson said of the Pats. “They didn’t go down without a fight. They’re big and physical.”
There’s no reason for the Broncos to think they can’t emerge from the tournament as national major junior champions.
“We won the league for a reason,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to into the Memorial Cup with confidence and prepare for each game at a time.”