LETHBRIDGE -- Normally at this time of year, the Lethbridge Hurricanes’ season would be in full swing.

Things are, of course, anything but normal due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and, as a result, it’s meant preparing for the upcoming Western Hockey League season a little differently for five regulars from last year’s roster.

Forward Zack Stringer has been loaned to the Drayton Valley Thunder of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, forward Chase Wheatcroft is with the Calgary Canucks, defenceman Alex Cotton is with the Canmore Eagles and defenceman Joe Arntsen and goaltender Bryan Thomson are on loan to the Melville Millonaires of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

Stringer, who just played his first games with Drayton Valley this past weekend, says it’s been a pretty hectic time while training and trying to stay ready but jumped at the chance when an opportunity arose.

“My agent called me and I got a chance to come up here and I took it. I thought it would be good to get some games in before hopping back into the season with the ‘Canes,” Stringer said. “It’s been fun though and a long road to get here but it’s been nice to be back on the ice for sure.”

That’s because as any hockey player will tell you, there’s nothing like real game action to knock off the rust.

“Trying to get a little jump on other guys who may not be playing or skating as much, just trying to work on my development and keep my mind fresh from the game as well.”

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For defenceman Alex Cotton, fresh off being drafted by the Detroit Red Wings last month, it’s been different preparing for the future while being away from Lethbridge in Canmore.

“Getting drafted was super cool for me and my family and friends. Now I guess the real work starts, and I’m going to try and get stronger and better and hopefully crack that roster soon enough,” Cotton said.

Cotton spoke very highly of the welcome he’s felt from the Eagles, their coaches and his temporary teammates since arriving.

“I love the city, and the scenery, and the mountains, stuff like that. I’ve really enjoyed my time here so far, but in saying that I am excited to get back to Lethbridge and get rolling. Right now in Canmore I’m just focused on trying to help these guys and work on myself and then when the time comes get back to Lethbridge and back to season mode.”

In his first game action with the Eagles, Cotton picked up where he left off last season by putting up a goal and two assists in two games against the Canucks.

With three of the five players on loan playing for different teams in the AJHL, while they’re all focused on helping their clubs win, competing against one another is a unique experience.

“We kind of have a little rivalry going with our teams which is cool. Wheats is playing on Calgary, we’re going to play him a little bit here and we already played them twice, but yeah it’s cool and I’ve been keeping in touch with all the guys,” Cotton said.

All players on loan will stay with their respective clubs until the Christmas break, and then they’re expected back in Lethbridge on Dec. 26th to prepare for the upcoming WHL season which is still tentatively set to start on Jan. 8th.