320 games. That's how many times Swan River's Riley McKay has hit the ice in game action throughout his junior hockey career. It's a career that began in his hometown of Swan River with the Stampeders of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.
The journey would continue on to Spokane where he played two seasons with the Spokane Chiefs. Add two years in Saskatoon as a member of the Blades and now, Riley's junior hockey chapter has come to a close. That means for the first time in several years, McKay isn't taking this off-season to prepare for a junior hockey season. Now, he's switched his focus to training for what he hopes will be a hockey career at the next level.
"It's sad to think that all of us graduating players don't get to finish out their seasons because of all that's happening in the world right now," said McKay. "I guess we'll see what happens this summer and hopefully something comes up and I can play hockey in the fall."
"My goal is to get a professional contract, so we'll just play it by year and see what happens," he added.
The season didn't end how anyone would have hoped; however, McKay has certainly ended his junior career with a bright spot in a hockey journey that has included many to date. In their final game of the season back on March 10, McKay scored once. His Blades also put up 47 shots as they hammered Moose Jaw, 6-0. In fact, McKay and the rest of the team won their final three games of the season as they finished the campaign with 34 wins.
Last season, McKay helped the team win 45 games and place second in the highly competitive East Division. Add up the two seasons and McKay has been a part of 79 regular-season wins with the team based in the "Bridge City".
"Saskatoon is a great organization. They treat you with a lot of class and it's a great place to be," continued McKay. "We picked up some guys at the trade deadline this year and we were ready for a good push in the playoffs, our division was so tight. I loved my time in Saskatoon and I made memories that I'll always remember."
When it came to his production this season, McKay scored 19 goals and he had 19 assists for a 38 point total. The total is a new career-high. In fact, McKay has only been going up in the past few years of his junior hockey days. Last season in the regular season, Riley chalked up 12 goals and 15 assists. In the 2017-2018 season with Spokane, he had 13 points (4G). In his first season in the WHL with Spokane, he scored three times and added six assists.
Overall, Riley had 38 goals and 49 assists in 243 WHL regular-season games. He also scored once and added one assist in 17 playoff games.
"I knew I wasn't going to be a point guy in Spokane. When I was traded to Saskatoon, I wanted to add that piece to my game more," continued McKay. "I would say I played pretty well all season long this year. Playing in the defensive end is also a big part of my game and I think I did a solid job of that as well."
So there's no doubt that life in the WHL was a big part of his life, but it wasn't where he started his junior hockey days. As mentioned above, before his stops in Spokane and Saskatoon, Riley played with his hometown Swan Valley Stampeders, the team he grew up watching and idolizing. As a 16-year-old in the 2015-2016 season, McKay got his junior big break. Including playoff games, he played 60 games with the team.
"That was always my dream growing up to play for the Stampeders," McKay added. "I had such a great time. There were five local guys on the team and we were all best friends. I think that was probably the best year of my hockey career when it comes to making memories and having fun."
Two of the local players on that team were Tristan Langan and Josh Tripp. Langan ended his junior career last year with the Moose Jaw Warriors where he exploded with 113 points (53G) in the regular season. Josh Tripp also ended his junior career last year with the Stampeders. He was the league's Most Valuable Player after he potted 36 goals and he had 48 points prior to the playoffs. In the playoffs, the man they call "Tripper" had 21 more points as the team went to game seven of the league final before falling to Portage.
The trio no doubt had a lot of fun on the ice, but they also enjoyed their time off the ice as well.
"I remember us three were always stirring the pot with the older guys, we were just young guys and we were doing that, it was pretty fun," continued McKay.
Langan's career has now blossomed to the professional level. He played most of the season with the Orlando Solar Bears of the East Coast Hockey League. He also made his American Hockey League debut with the San Jose Barracuda earlier in the season. When it comes to Josh Tripp, he's also playing at the next level. He's now with the University of Manitoba Bisons men's hockey team where he had seven points this season.
"It's really cool to see what they're doing at the next level. We were best friends and we spent so much time together in the past," said the Swan River native. "Even in the past few years, we would go back home in the summer and share what happened throughout the season and we would text each other during the season. We definitely had a pretty special bond and I'm really happy that they're having success."
The goal for McKay is definitely getting a pro contract and he knows exactly what he has to offer the lucky team that gets his services.
"I work hard and I put my all into this game," he concluded. "Hockey is what I do and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens and I'll give everything I have to whoever gives me a chance."
Riley is now back in Swan River working on the farm. It was no doubt a storied junior hockey career starting with playing with his hometown team to playing 250+ games in the WHL. What's next? Only time will tell.