By Matt Stefano
With the 2020 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection officially in the books, we’ve decided to take this time to look back at a past Soo Thunderbird blueliner, who spent one season with his hometown Thunderbirds, before going on to have a four-year career in the Ontario Hockey League.
In today’s first edition of Thunderbirds Turnback Tuesday, we will go all the way back to the 2000-2001 season, when the Thunderbirds had local defenceman Jeff Whitfield.
Whitfield, who entered the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League as a 15 year old in 2000, scored 1 goal and set up 6 others in 38 regular season games with the Soo Thunderbirds during the 2000-2001 regular season.
He then recorded 1 goal and 2 assists in 8 games with the Thunderbirds during the 2001 postseason.
Following his first and only season with the Thunderbirds, Whitfield was then selected by the Sarnia Sting in the 2nd round (24th overall) in the 2001 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.
That year, he also became the second player in Soo Thunderbirds history to be drafted by an Ontario Hockey League team, following Patrick Jarrett, who went first overall to the Mississauga IceDogs in 2000.
Whitfield then went on to play four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League from 2001-2005, splitting time with the Sarnia Sting and the London Knights.
In his rookie season with the Sting during 2001-2002, Whitfield recorded 6 assists in 30 regular season games.
During his sophomore season in 2002-2003, the former Thunderbird recorded 2 assists in 34 regular season games, helping the Sting to a 41 win and 90 point season, which was their best season ever at that time
In his third season with the Sting in 2003-2004, Whitfield set career highs in goals (4), assists (7), points (11) and penalty minutes (50), helping the Sting to their first ever Bumbacco Trophy (West Division Champions).
After spending three seasons with the Sarnia Sting from 2001-2004, the former Thunderbird defenceman ended up being traded to the 2005 Memorial Cup host team London Knights prior to the 2004-2005 season.
Whitfield, who became a member of the London Knights in 2004-2005, also ended up on the same team as the late Kelly Thomson, who was also a member of the Soo Thunderbirds from 2002-2004.
The 2004-2005 season turned out to be a memorable one for the former Thunderbird defenceman, after he helped the Knights capture their first J. Ross Robertson Cup in franchise history, followed by their first ever Memorial Cup title.
In his four-year Ontario Hockey League career, Whitfield recorded 4 goals and 24 assists in 169 regular season games, along with 124 penalty minutes.
To date, Whitfield is the only defenceman in Soo Thunderbirds history to be drafted by an Ontario Hockey League team.