Dyson Stevenson has proven there is still room for some throwback hockey. The Shaunavon native has fought his way through six professional seasons and is hoping that he has done enough to land a more permanent home in the American Hockey League.
After playing four full seasons for the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League, the rugged winger has now played for seven different professional teams in the East Coast Hockey League and the AHL since 2013.
“My first year was crazy. I had played for Regina for four years and never got traded, never even thought about being traded from Regina. My first year [of pro] I played on four different teams, it was pretty crazy. You get so close to the guys, especially as a rookie. Rookies get treated different now than they used to, but I was a rookie right when everything started softening up, so I got picked on a bit and I am a guy that always gave it back. All of my teammates kind of enjoyed having me around, so it’s always tough getting moved,” he explained.
Stevenson has already had professional stints with the Bakersfield Condors, Portland Pirates, Gwinnett Gladiators, Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Allen Americans, Wichita Thunder, and the Utica Comets.
“I’ve been in the East Coast and there’s a lot of travel and it’s been tough in that league. I finally moved my way up to the American League and then the season gets cancelled. I don’t mind moving around, but it is nice to be in one spot and being comfortable. It’s nice coming home and knowing when you are going to be there for months at a time, and hopefully, if you get a decent contract, sometimes years at a time.”
Stevenson skated in 33 games with the Utica Comets in the AHL this season after playing the previous two seasons for the Wichita Thunder in the ECHL.
“It was alright. I played a lot of minor leagues to finally make my way up to the American League. I basically fought my way onto the team like I have in the past. They weren’t too sure of me to start, I wasn’t producing points, but I was getting the job done in other ways. I finally got a chance and they played me.”
He finished with four points and 59 penalty minutes in 33 games.
“I got hurt mid-year, but I worked hard to get there and it sucked that the season ended because, I don’t know if I would have played a bunch in the playoffs, but that’s usually when I play my best hockey is in the playoffs when it is a lot rougher. I play that way the whole year, so I can handle that and mix in a few points here or there.”
The Comets were in the midst of a promising campaign with a 34-22-3-2 record when the season was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had a really good team. We had couple of the top guys in the league. We had a tough division, so it was tough that it ended, but maybe it’s not over yet. It was tough that it ended because we were going in the right direction. We played the whole season to get to playoffs, that’s basically why you play the full season is to get to playoffs and have a chance to win the championship.”
Stevenson also had the opportunity to team up with a familiar face in Shaunavon’s Kole Lind. The Stevenson and Lind families are very close and live only a stone’s throw away in Shaunavon. Dyson and Kole have played together in the Southwest Fastball League over the years before teaming up on the ice.
“I knew Kole growing up and I knew he was going to be a good hockey player. I never really thought I would get the chance to play with him. When I signed a deal with Utica this year I wasn’t for sure going to be there. I just worked hard and we ended up living together and going to the rink together and basically doing everything all year together, so it was pretty cool knowing him my whole life and finally getting to play with him.”
Lind was a second round pick of the Vancouver Canucks in 2017 and improved his production from 17 points to 44 in his second professional season.
“Watching him and how much he improved this year was pretty crazy. He didn’t have the best year last year, but definitely one of our top players this year. Our coach, and I know Vancouver have to be really happy with the season he had. He’s getting a lot better and he’s going to have a really good chance to play a few games next year, if not a full season or half season with the Canucks,” said Stevenson.
Stevenson came up through the Shaunavon and Swift Current minor hockey systems and eventually played Midget AAA in Swift Current and Moose Jaw.
He played four full seasons with the Regina Pats, concluding with a 76-point campaign in 2013-14. He was never one to shy away from the physical side of the game as he compiled 420 penalty minutes in the WHL.
“When I first played in Regina that’s kind of how I first made the team was I had a few fights in exhibition and it went uphill from there. That’s what I have been doing my whole pro career. It shows I care and it shows that I’m a good teammate. That’s what my game has been about the last five years.”
The 6’, 185-pound Stevenson dropped the gloves seven times in 33 games this season. He racked up 188 penalty minutes two seasons ago in the ECHL.
“There is that 10-fight rule in the American Hockey League and I was going to get there for sure. I had seven or eight and that was my goal, I’d pace myself out throughout the year. I don’t plan on fighting every game but every chance I get if someone takes a liberty on my teammates I still stick up for them. I had 21 fights a few years ago and it’s slowly going down every year, so I guess that’s good for me.”
The AHL has not officially cancelled the season, so Stevenson continues to train in hopes of a return to the ice. Stevenson has been spending the majority of days seeding at the farm and then trains in the evening.
“It’s pretty tough, especially with the gyms not being open. I set up a little home gym. I actually got some five-gallon pails full of rocks, the hammer and a tire, and a punching bag, so I do a little bit at home.”
While he awaits word on the 2019-20 season, his next professional opportunity is also in the back of his mind.
“I am a free agent right now. I haven’t really talked to anyone. I think I’m one of the only guys in the American League that really doesn’t have an agent. I’m kind of just doing things on my own here and waiting for this coronavirus to settle down. I’m sure I’ll get a call from Utica and I’ll see if they want to have me back. If not I’ll go forward from there.”