While the pause the COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc with the hockey season in all corners of North America, it opened a rarely-if-ever stepped through door for a member of the Picton Pirates.
Overage forward Nate Boomhower was summoned last month by the Wheeling Nailers of the East Coast Hockey League and played a handful of games for the Pittsburgh Penguins affiliate club.
“It was a very unique situation in that Nate was a known quantity to the Nailers and there was an opportunity because of the state-of-flux the professional hockey rosters have been in due to COVID and injury protocols,” Pirates General Manager Jason Parks said.
The Pirates, the Provincial Junior Hockey League and the Ontario Hockey Association put their heads together and ensured Boomhower could travel to West Virginia to play in the ECHL and return to the local hockey club when his tryout agreement ended.
Boomhower suited up for a half dozen games for Wheeling, picking up 19 penalty minutes and attributing himself to the club in advance of the 2022 training camp.
“Nate certainly covets the opportunity to play professional hockey like his older brother Shaw and seeing them having a chance to play together for Wheeling was very special,” Parks noted.
Shaw’s recall from Wheeling to the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Penguins of the American Hockey League in early December helped pave the way for roster room in Wheeling that allowed Nate to make a limited foray into the professional ranks. Also a former Pirate and Wellington Duke, Shaw returned to the Nailers lineup for Nate’s final game of the audition, marking the first time the brothers have played on the same team in the same game since a Dukes summer development league team about five years ago.
“It was great opportunity and a really special moment to get into the lineup with Shaw, I know he was really excited about it,” Nate told the Gazette.
Now back with the Pirates, Nate said the taste of the ECHL has him chomping at the bit for the rest of the PJHL season and training camp next season.
“(Wheeling Coach) Derek Army told me to stay in shape and be ready for the fall for their training camp,” Nate added.