Former Lincolns’ centre joining Reading Royals in Pennsylvania
By Pat Payton
Brady Wiffen is soon embarking on a new chapter of his life: professional hockey.
The former St. Marys Lincolns’ centre and leading scorer, now 25, recently agreed to join the Reading, Penn. Royals of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL).
For Wiffen, the road to Reading went indirectly through Troy, N.Y. where the St. Marys native spent the past four years at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (R.P.I.) on an NCAA Division 1 hockey scholarship.
“In June, I reached out to my old (Engineers’) coach Seth Appert, who recruited me at R.P.I.,” Wiffen told the Independent in a recent interview. “He was fired after my second season at R.P.I., and now coaches in the U.S. national team program.
“I asked him if he had any ideas where I could fit in. He told me he would call around, and I ended up talking to the head coach (Kirk MacDonald) at Reading. There was an R.P.I. connection there.”
MacDonald, who has coached the Royals the past two seasons, is a former R.P.I. player. The 35-year-old native of Victoria, B.C. made a couple of stops in Reading during his minor pro playing career.
“I talked to Kirk and he told me they had lost a lot of centremen and forwards,” Wiffen said. “He told me it would be a good fit.
“He knew I was listed as a centreman at RPI, but for the last half of last season I played on the wing. But he said it’s easier for a centreman to play the wing, than it is for a winger to play centre in the defensive zone. He liked that versatile aspect of my game that I’d be comfortable playing centre or wing.”
Will need to adjust to pro game
Wiffen thinks playing in the ECHL will be a “good challenge.” He also knows there will be a period of adjustment from the college game.
“Obviously, the college game is a little different hockey, and it will take a while to adjust to the pro game,” he said. “After that, hopefully I can fit in well and be successful. I’m excited about it; it’s a chance to make some money and play hockey.
“I want to establish myself first and get adjusted to the pro-style game,” he continued. “It’s not as run-and-gun as the college game. Just get my feet wet and hopefully strive to be the player I can be. Hopefully I can establish myself as a player and keep improving and continue to move up.”
Wiffen, who is 6 ft., 3 inches and 205 lbs., has been busy getting in good shape this summer.
“I’ve been going at it pretty hard,” he said. “I have a program that I got from the strength coach at R.P.I.; he gave me a program for the summer. I’ve been going to the gym four or five times a week, doing weights.
“As the summer moves along, I’ll be getting on the ice more when they put it back in here (at the PRC). That’s when I’ll get into game shape.”
It’s been almost 10 years now since Brady Wiffen was a 16-year-old rookie with the Jr. ‘B’ Lincolns. After two seasons with the Lincs (2010-12), Wiffen joined Trenton Golden Hawks of the Provincial Tier II Jr. ‘A’ League.
In his third and final season at Trenton, the big centreman produced 53 goals and 92 points in 52 OJHL games. He then added 13 goals and 22 points in 16 playoff games. Wiffen’s banner season caught the attention of the R.P.I. hockey program.
“A good experience” is the way Wiffen described his four years at R.P.I., playing NCAA hockey at its highest level and going to school.
“It was fun to travel around to the different colleges that you hear about,” he said. “Last year, we travelled to Notre Dame and that was special. But it’s a grind, playing ‘D’ 1 sports and going to school at the same time.”
–Reading’s training camp begins at the end of September. “There is a trickle down from the NHL to the AHL camps and then to the East Coast camps. The exhibition games start at the beginning of October,” Wiffen said.
–The Royals are the ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers and the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms. They are entering their 19th ECHL season. They won the Kelly Cup in 2013.
–Coach MacDonald has guided Reading to a 76-52-13-6 record in his first two seasons as head coach. Royals had a 34-28-4-6 record last season, finishing fifth in the North and out of the playoffs.
–The ECHL has 26 teams altogether, including two in Canada — Brampton Beast and Newfoundland Growlers. Most of the U.S. teams are located on the Eastern seaboard. The three teams in the West are based in Utah, Idaho and South Dakota.
–Reading is in the North Division along with Adirondack, Brampton, Maine, Newfoundland and Worcester. There are also South, Central and Mountain divisions. ECHL teams play a 72-game schedule.
–Royals’ first three regular-season games are in Newfoundland against the Growlers. Their home opener is Oct. 19 against Maine.
–The city of Reading, in southern Pennsylvania, has just over 88,000 residents.