By Bill Keefe
Tyler Whitney spent a lot of time at rinks as a young kid. Usually, both his parents would want to go see one of his older brothers play, so that meant Tyler was in tow watching. Or shooting tape balls, maybe stalking the snack bar.
|Tyler Whitney has joined the Islanders Hockey Club for their debut in the EJHL.|
Now 19, Tyler is working to come of age on the ice.
A right winger, Tyler wrapped up a stellar career at Lawrence Academy last spring with a New England prep school championship, leading the team with 47 points on 10 goals and 37 assists in 31 games. This season, he has joined the Islanders Hockey Club for their debut season in the Eastern Junior Hockey League to pursue college opportunities.
Neither brothers Joe nor Steve, who both played at Lawrence, brought home a New England championship. But each has captured two NCAA titles at Boston College and each earned a spot on an All-Tournament team at a Frozen Four. Joe is in his second year playing for the AHL’s Albany Devils while Steve is a senior assistant captain for the Eagles this season.
That success, coupled with the fact that the Whitneys grew up in Reading, Mass., and now live in Wakefield, has made Joe and Steve well-known in area hockey circles, and beyond.
“It has its ups and downs,” Tyler said of the comparisons. “It’s nice to hear about your brothers. It’s a little difficult to hear yourself always being compared to them. Everyone wants you to be them, but I’m just trying to do the best I can.”
Tyler was planning to join the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs, but when Sean Tremblay (Newburyport, Mass.) accepted an offer to move over to coach the Islanders, Tyler followed. Steve Whitney had played for Tremblay on a U.S. Select team and was really impressed with the coach. Tyler said Tremblay’s guidance would best help his development.
Tremblay relayed a discussion the two had about the comparisons and expectations.
“He can’t hide from it,” Tremblay said. “The fact of the matter is you’re Tyler. Steve made a name for himself not because of Joe, but because of Steve. You’re going to make a name for yourself because you’re Tyler, not because of Steve. He’s a great playmaker. He sees the ice well. So go make great plays.”
Tyler and Tremblay both talked about making the adjustment from the prep ranks to a faster, more physical game at the junior level. Building strength and speed are goals for improvement this year. Still, Tyler scored twice and earned three assists in his first six games. He might have work to do, but he also has a lot to work with.
“We want guys who know how to win; that’s important,” Tremblay said. “He’s making the adjustment. Once that takes place, he’s so cerebral, he thinks the game in ways most players don’t and that is what will separate him. I’m glad it’s not easy for him. He has to prove to people he’s a Division 1 player. He’s been living under the shadow of Joe and Steven and he is his own player. He is in my estimation a Division 1 player and he has to go out and prove that. He’s learning at this level the timing and speed. I see it every day and, after doing this for 20 years, I’m pleased with his transition. He’s just where he should be.”
Make no doubt about it though, the Whitney boys all pull for each other. Before leaving for the Albany Devils, Joe skated at an Islanders practice and Steve came to the first home game.
Both Tyler and Steve spoke glowingly about playing together the past two summers in a pro league in Foxboro, Mass. Tyler said all three brothers skated on the same line and it was extra special because he had never played with Joe because of the difference in their ages.
“He’s a good hockey player,” Steve said. “He’s fun to play with. He can make plays out there. He’s one of the youngest players in the league. He has fun and we have fun playing with him.
“I played with him when I was a senior at Lawrence Academy and he was a freshman. That was pretty cool. To see how far he has come has been pretty cool.
“He knows what we’ve done and he wants the same thing for himself and he’s working toward it and knows what he has to do to do it.”
This article originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of New England Hockey Journal.