VICTORIA, British Columbia – Most professional hockey players like to spend some of their off season chasing a little white ball around a golf course.
After Ryan Wade completed the Victoria Salmon Kings’ season in the ECHL, he picked up on his favourite hobby — racing stock cars at Western Speedway.
Auto racing has been a Wade family tradition for many years. His father Dan has owned Wade’s Auto Wrecking for 18 years and older brother Lance wore a racing helmet for 20 years.
“I grew up around the track,” said Wade of Victoria. “When I was younger, many of our family holidays included going to race tracks around the country. My father has also been putting together NASCAR tour packages for 30 years.
“I’m not a big-time mechanic — I can do a few small things — but racing really intrigues me. I watched my brother race for several years and I decided to give it a try.
“Lance told me racing was just like the video games we were playing, except when you put your car into the fence, you can’t push restart and get a new car. You have to fix your own damaged car.”
Ryan Wade drove a few races in the claimer class two years ago and now has made the move to stock cars.
“I really like this class because the cars are so close. My biggest downfall this year has been slow qualifying times. I’m a very competitive person and I get mad at myself went I don’t do well.”
The 27-year-old Wade started playing hockey in Sooke and then moved up through the AAA Victoria Cougar/Warrior organization.
Wade then toiled five years in the Western Hockey League with Tacoma and then the relocated Kelowna Rockets before spending another five seasons with the Alberta Golden Bears in Edmonton. He was drafted by the Calgary Flames in the eighth round in 1996 but Wade never made it to camp because of injuries.
In April of 2004, Wade had a tryout offer from the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League. “I went down there for two months and I got a small taste of pro hockey.”
After that, Salmon Kings’ coach and general manager Bryan Maxwell came knocking on Wade’s door.
“It was a great opportunity for me to play pro hockey at home, in front of my family and friends. When I was growing up, my father challenged me to be the best I could. I played with older kids just to better myself. I’m still going to try to move up the hockey ladder and play at the highest level.
“We [Salmon Kings] struggled in our first year in the ECHL but it still was a lot of fun. I was also getting paid for something that I love to do. We battled hard all year and I had plenty of ice time because of injuries.”
The five-foot-11, 185-pound Wade played in 69 games last year and he was the club’s leading scorer with 19 goals and 31 assists.
“Maxie [Maxwell] knows all about the stock car racing and he doesn’t have any problem with it. He said he might even come out and watch me race.”
Wade will be back on the track tonight at Western Speedway. Also on the card with the stock cars are the old-time stocks, mini stocks and motorcycles. Qualifying is at 6 p.m., followed by racing at 7 p.m.
“Even when I’m not racing, I’ll go to the speedway just to watch. I enjoy all the other classes of racing.”