After a season that left people wondering what could have been, perhaps the most interesting question was regarding Victoria Royals goalie Shane Farkas.
Farkas had his season cut short even earlier than the league, because of an injury. However, he was solid when he played and put up MVP numbers. What a healthy return to the Royals would have meant still lingers.
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Now, with his junior hockey career over, Farkas reflects on his time in the Western Hockey League as he looks to the future.
A Move from Portland
After being drafted in 2014, 67 overall by Lethbridge Hurricanes in the WHL Bantam Draft, Farkas was traded to the Portland Winterhawks in the fall of 2016. With the Winterhawks, he played in 84 games with a regular-season record of 47-24-3-4, a 2.96 goals-against average (GAA), a save percentage (SV%) of .902 and seven shutouts. His stellar play, especially in the 2018-19 season, led him to become a fan favourite in Portland. Despite his strong play, the Winterhawks opted for youth and Farkas found himself looking for a spot as a 20-year-old.
“It was a very emotional time both up and down. I think the toughest thing was trying not to panic. A word of advice to anybody who is going into their 20-year-old year, the last thing you want to do is panic because you would be putting extra stressors on yourself, and you might end up overtraining, overthinking, or whatever. So, every day, I tried to tell myself this is going to work out one way or the other, and this isn’t the end. Just stay relaxed and positive, trusting that things are going to work out.”
Arrival in Victoria
In May of 2019, the Victoria Royals announced that hey had acquired Farkas in a trade with the Winterhawks. The move back to British Columbia was welcomed by the goaltender. “At the beginning, during the offseason, I was really just looking for a spot to play,” said Farkas. “And when I found out that I was going to Victoria, I was the happiest I’d ever been. It was a place where on the road I always really enjoyed it, and I was a big fan of the city itself. On top of that, being back in BC and in the Canadian market where hockey is viewed differently.
I remember walking in the first day and meeting Cam [Hope], Dan [Price] and the people in the office. It felt like I had been there for my whole career. I was welcomed with open arms, and there was never a moment where I felt like I was out of place or that I was the new guy. That was meaningful to me.”
Once he got into the action with his new club, Victoria unexpectedly became one of the toughest teams in the B.C. Division this season. In 28 games, the overage goalie posted 18 wins along with a .929 SV% and 2.20 GAA. His strong play made him an instant fan-favourite and he was named the team’s 2019-20 recipient of the Enex Fuels Most Valuable Player Award.
Injury and Support
In a moment, everything changed. The last full game Farkas played was on Jan. 14, 2020, versus the Tri-City Americans. Having his season derailed by injury was a hard pill to swallow.
“If I’m being honest,” said Farkas, “It’s how the second half of the year went down still stings the most. I tried to take the mindset of trusting the recovery process, and things are going to get better. It was like my offseason, where you’re not really sure what what’s going to happen.”
During that challenging time, Farkas found value in the support of his teammates.
“It was extremely hard to not being able to be around guys on the team. But there were a couple of times where I would be at home by myself and an unexpected group of teammates would come over, five to seven guys at a time. It surprised me and honestly, it almost brought me to tears when they left because it showed that these guys cared for and missed me. Those guys did an exceptional job of making me still feel as I was part of the group. Hands down, they are the most special group of people that I have known in hockey. I’m thankful for the relationships and bonds that I made with those guys because I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.”
Coaching and Development
A key part of playing junior hockey is the coaching that the players receive and their development. Farkas received a wealth of experience from talented coaches. In Portland, it was former NHLer Andy Moog.
“Obviously, Andy is so great,” said Farkas of Moog. “I’ve had the privilege of knowing Andy for probably since I was 14-years-old, as he spent some time here in Penticton, BC. When it comes to mindset and handling situations, he is one of the best. He’s been through it all and is a very easy person to talk to. I’d love to pick his brain about other things, whether it’s hockey, career events or even Hawaii. He is really an interesting guy with a lot of insight and wisdom.”
Once Farkas got to Victoria, he began taking direction from Royals goaltending coach Lynden Sammartino and former NHLer Dwayne Roloson, who is the team’s goaltending and skills coach.
“With Lynden and Dwayne, that was definitely just like a one-two punch,” said Farkas. “Lynden is a younger guy with lots of energy, and again, really easy to talk to. He wasn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, open communication and finding what works. And with Dwayne, it was very similar to Andy [Moog] with his very established career with what he accomplished. He is wise and kept things simple. They helped me tweak a few things that had become habits that I’d never really paid attention to. That fresh set of eyes to help you see and then pushing me every single day to break those habits, I’m thankful for.”
Although Farkas had many teammates in his time in the WHL, one, in particular, stands out. That was Finland native Henri Jokiharju who played in the NHL for the Chicago Blackhawks and Buffalo Sabres.
“It was my first year in Portland when Jokiharju also came to the Winterhawks,” recalled Farkas. “I just remember thinking, here’s this 17-year-old kid who projected to go in the NHL as a first-round pick. Seeing him around every day, his habits and everything that he did, gave me a wakeup call. This guy is my age, in fact, a couple of months younger than me, and he already looks like he’s been playing pro hockey for four or five years. So, just seeing him every day, rooming with him a couple of times and just having some talks with him, he showed me a lot.”
After four seasons in the WHL, it is hard for Farkas to think of a single favourite memory. “I don’t want to rank these, but the first one that comes to mind is beating the Winterhawks in Victoria,” recalls Farkas. “I’ll never forget that night. Then my first game, I remember it was in Prince George versus the Cougars, the year I think they won the BC Division title. I remember during the anthem, looking down the ice and just seeing the size of the starting lineup and thinking ‘Wow, these guys are huge.’
Finally, one in Portland where we were playing at the Moda Center, and it was mascot night. It was like nothing I had ever seen before at a hockey game; all these people dressed up as characters. I remember Darth Vader dropped the puck or something like that, and it was just really cool.”
Given the uncertainty in sports today, Farkas remains grounded about his future. The desire to play professional hockey remains his goal. “When you’re a kid growing up, the goal is to play in the NHL. As you get older, you realize that may or may not happen. It is difficult, and just statistically, it’s probably not going to happen. But for myself, I am not losing that dream. I want to make hockey my career and profession. I’m looking at any pro opportunity I can get, and if things don’t work out, it’s not the end of the world as I’ll find a spot in university and go that course.”
In getting to know Farkas, it is apparent that he likes to be challenged by thoughtful questions, ones different from the clichés. However, given everything he has been through, from his MVP season to a quiet end to a great junior hockey career, it was fitting to ask what advice he would give to younger players.
“Trust yourself,” advised Farkas. “But be willing and open to learn. You may have doubts in your head about where you’re going, that you’re not ready, or even not playing. But for whatever reason, someone who runs the management side, see something in you. Things might not always be the best always. You might not have the best season of your career, but they want you there. Try not to get down on yourself and remember, at the end of the day, it’s just hockey and enjoy yourself.”
Following the Victoria Royals since their first game in 2011, and witnessed the last season of the Victoria Cougars in 1994 at the old Memorial Arena. Ryan is a Northern Manitoba transplant who is now fortunate to call Vancouver Island home