Saskatoon Blades newcomer Nolan Kneen loses handlebar ‘stache, gains a new Western Hockey League team

His handlebar moustache is gone.

Nolan Kneen arrived in Saskatoon without it.

“I think he thought he might have been playing for the 1993 or ’94 Kamloops Blazer teams that were winning all those Memorial Cups with all that facial hair,” quipped Saskatoon Blades coach Mitch Love, who was asked for his assessment of the newest member of the Blades along with the his once-notable moustache.

“The kids were going for that Movember look and there were some pretty nice ‘staches there.”

Kneen packed his belongings — the usual clothes, TV and, of course, video gaming equipment (“that’s a must,” he points out) — for a 13-hour drive from Kamloops to join the Western Hockey League’s Blades.

Now that Movember has passed, Kneen has a fresh look along with a new team.

“Before I came back, when I drove out here (Tuesday), I decided to shave it off,” explained the 19-year-old defenceman, who joined the Blades last week in British Columbia.

“(The ride) wasn’t too bad. It was a little over 13 hours. I stopped in Edmonton and stayed the (Monday) night there, and travelled the rest (Tuesday).”

Saskatoon Blades newcomer Nolan Kneen.

Kneen joined the Blades for four games in B.C. and will now make his Saskatoon debut with the team Friday against the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors. Game-time is 7 p.m. at SaskTel Centre.

Kneen left the Blazers with mixed emotions.

“Actually I was pretty surprised,” offered Kneen, a 6-foot tall, 187-pound product of Duncan, B.C. “It didn’t really sink in until, literally, when I was driving out here (Wednesday morning for practice) but it was a shock. I was sort of blindsided by it.”

However, Kneen is excited to join what looks like a playoff-bound Blades team from a team that is currently out of a playoff spot and may not make the post-season.

Saskatoon is 17-9-3-0 while Kamloops is 11-11-1-1.

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“For the trade, it sort of sucked leaving my teammates, but coming here, I think, is better for my career,” he said. “I sort of had to look at it in the long run and it was a good choice.

“Overall, it’s awesome so far. All the guys are great. Besides the cold weather, it’s pretty awesome here.”

Kneen believes he can help the Blades in the D-zone and jumping up on the rush to create things offensively. He also is pretty good on the power play.

“I try to,” he said. “It’s fun celebrating when you score goals but it also helps the team. The more goals you score, the better chance of winning.”

Kneen has four goals and 17 assists for 21 points in 26 games this season. He has one assist in four games with the Blades.

He has made a good first impression on the Blades management and coaching staff. (GM Colin Priestner, head scout Dan Tencer and assistant GM Steve Hildebrand were all in attendance Wednesday watching the Blades practice at the Canlan Agri-Twin Arenas.)

Love says Kneen brings a “veteran presence” to the team’s back end.

“He’s a right shot — something we talked about here for some time with a plethora of left-shot D earlier in the year, to certainly try and balance that out a little bit,” offered Love.

“He’s a guy who’s played for some really good coaches and a good organization in Kamloops. He does a lot of little things. He can shoot the puck. He can move the puck. His compete level is high — a lot of stuff we’re looking for here as a Blades organization. It’s a small sample size, but we’ve got lots of hockey left and we’re excited to have him.”

With or without the moustache.

dzary@postmedia.com

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