Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L. – Whether it be clothing choices, extra-curricular activities, or positions played in sports, it’s a common occurrence for younger siblings to look up to their older brothers and sisters.
Tyler and A.J. Whiffen both came up through Grand Falls-Windsor Minor Hockey, and both went on to play senior hockey in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Younger brother Tyler, who’s 21, started playing hockey at the age of four, and three years later became a goalie.
Why at such a young age did he decide to net-mind?
“My brother,” Tyler told the Advertiser. “That’s probably the only reason. I had a tendency to follow his footsteps a lot whether it came to clothing or style or anything.”
Tyler played his first year of senior hockey with the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts and they won the Herder Trophy. The following year he didn’t play, then last year he was picked up by the Clarenville Ford Caribous, and the team lost in the Herder final. This year he goaltended for the Caribous who swept the series against the St. John’s Green Sleeves Senior Caps and won the 2018 Herder championship.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Tyler said. “I’ve been here for two years and the friends, the brothership that I’ve developed, it was crazy.”
Tyler said he attributes every bit of the Herder win to the Caribous organization, who got him back on skates.
“When I left the Cataracts organization I had nowhere to play for that year,” Tyler said. “That’s why I stopped playing hockey. If it wasn’t for Ivan (Hapgood, Caribou’s general manager) to reach out and contact me, help me out and get me back on the ice again, I wouldn’t even be here.”
Tyler said though fun, he admits he had a lot of ups and downs at the beginning of the season. However, from the playoffs to the finals was incredible.
“It was probably the best season of my life I would say,” Tyler said.
“Every weekend we are together just having fun, and hopefully trying to win. We really wanted to win this year. Everyone did their part and we ended up coming out on top which was nice to see for all the hard work that we put in to it.”
He was on an opposing team in the Central West Senior Hockey League against his brother, whom he looked up to all his life.
“It was mixed emotions when we won but I think I’m ready to fill his shoes I guess now I could say,” Tyler said.
The Caribous eliminated the Cataracts in the Central West Senior Hockey League semifinals and went on the play Gander Flyers in the finals.
“(A.J.) didn’t play for the first three games,” Tyler said of the series against his brother and the Cataracts. “He had a hamstring injury. He did play for the last couple games but he was injured so I don’t think he could have played to his potential. I’ll take it as a win but I’m looking forward to next year when we are both fully healthy and can play against each other again.”
As for A.J., he’s proud of his younger brother, and sends congratulations to the Caribous on the Herder win.
“I must admit, it's not the way I pictured my season ending but I'm glad Clarenville won,” A.J. said. “After last year’s heartbreaker it just seems fitting for the team and community. As for Tyler I'm super proud of the way he performed, especially against his former team, the GFW Cataracts. It was certainly a roller coaster and Ty along with his teammates stuck with it. I'm glad he got to experience this feeling. It's doesn't come around often.”
For now, Tyler said he will be taking some time off to rest, get his gear fixed, and then start getting ready for next season.
“I’m not too sure what’s going to happen but I want to be ready,” Tyler said. “Hopefully I can be with (the Caribous) again. They are the ones that gave me a chance so I’m looking to provide for them as much as I can.”