ALLEN, Texas – If you followed the Allen Americans during their inaugural season in 2009-10 it was a dream season even though the Americans lost to the Rapid City Rush in the CHL championship finals.
Today we catch up with Chris Whitley who was the star goalie on that inaugural team. It didn’t start out that way as Chris shared goalie duties early in the season but gradually emerged as the top goalie. Chris was a rookie that season having just finished his collegiate career at Lakehead University. Whitley came to Allen after a highly successful amateur career. He played Junior A hockey prior to attending college (OPJHL) and was the Player of the Year and won the championship (RBC Cup) in 2003-04. At Lakehead University he was selected as the league’s most outstanding player and to the collegiate All-Canadian first team in 2007-08. Chris attended the Detroit Red Wings training camp in 2009-10.
Despite his credentials, Whitley had to earn his playing time when he arrived in Allen as a rookie in 2009-10. He didn’t get his first start until the fourth game of the season. He has that in common with another rookie who came to Allen and had to ride the bench the first three games of the season before getting his first start, Aaron Dell.
Once Whitley got his chance he earned the top goalie spot and by the end of the regular season was on fire. In his last 18 regular season games from January to the end of the season, Chris had a record of 15-1-2-0. Whitley’s regular season record was 31-8-4-1. His 31 wins led the CHL.
Allen finished second in the Southern Conference with 89 points behind the class of the league and favorite for the championship, the Odessa Jackalopes, who finished the regular season with 101 points.
To say the Allen Americans rode Chris Whitley in the playoffs would be a gross understatement. Chris played in all 20 playoff games for the Americans over three series. Allen played Laredo in the opening round and fell behind 4-2 before winning game six (3-2) and seven (4-1). In the second round, Allen took on the favorite, Odessa. It was a back and fourth series that had two overtime games and was decided in game seven in Odessa with a 4-2 Allen win. Allen then took on Rapid City in the finals but came up short losing in six games. The stat that tells you all you need to know about Chris Whitley’s performance in the 2009-10 playoffs is he played in all 20 playoff games and made 636 saves which was 200 more saves than any other goalie in the playoffs.
Chris is currently living in Thunder Bay, Ontario the same place where he graduated from Lakehead University. After graduation, he was hired as a teacher by the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board. He took a leave of absence for a few years to pursue a professional hockey career. He is currently teaching special education at the Senior Elementary level (7th & 8th grade).
Chris isn’t married but has been with his girlfriend, Marcy, for five years. They have no children but do have a fur baby, a Shih Tzu named Harley.
Here is more from Chris in is own words:
What involvement do you have in hockey?
I have coached a few AA and AAA teams in Thunder Bay the past five years. I am currently coaching a Peewee AA team, which is very enjoyable. I also run a hockey development camp, with my former teammate at Lakehead University, Joel Scherban. The camp is called Northern Lakes Hockey Development.
What are your hobbies/interests now that you no longer play professional hockey?
I like to play softball in the summer and travel when I can. I get to Las Vegas a few times a year and enjoy spending some time in that heat which reminds me of Texas. I won’t be able to make the alumni game in February but do plan on getting back to Texas in the future to catch a Dallas Cowboys game and hopefully catch up with some friends in Allen.
Can you share something about your experience playing in Allen?
I really did love the time I spent in Allen. The excitement of a new team was really something I wanted to be part of. I enjoyed going to the rink in shorts, which you can’t do playing hockey in Canada. I think the winning culture the organization has developed over the last 10 years has made Allen one of the best places to play. The city is great. The rink is very nice to play in and the fans made it exciting to play each night.
What is your highlight, fondest memory of your time playing in Allen?
That would be competing for the CHL championship in our inaugural season. Not many teams get the opportunity to do that although the Vegas Golden Knights seemed to do it pretty easily last season.
Who was your/closest teammate in Allen?
I had a very fun time with many guys in Allen because we were all close to the same age. I roomed with Charlie Effinger my first year so I got to know him pretty well.
Chris Whitley was a big part of establishing the winning tradition in Allen and is still #2 all-time in games played by a goalie. His fun-loving personality made him popular with his teammates and fans alike. He was also known as a bit of a jokester.
If you want to read more about Chris, check out his Northern Lakes Hockey Development website and click on the “about us” tab. http://northernlakeshd.com