In his first season with the Wichita Thunder, forward Lane Bauer has already made himself a key member of the Mountain Division leading team, not only because of his play on the ice, but also because of his acceptance to seek the biggest challenges in order to reach his dream of playing in the NHL one day.
Introducing Lane Bauer
When you come from Anchorage, Alaska, it only seems natural that hockey would be part of your DNA. In a state where ice and snow dominate the landscape, one either spends the winters hibernating, or dons a pair of skates and takes to the ice, with the latter being the pathway that Wichita Thunder forward Lane Bauer chose.
This is not the only reason why it would seem natural that the 5’11, 192 pound forward would take to the ice. After all, when your last name is Bauer and you have an uncle who played in the NHL, it only seems logical that ice hockey would not only become a passion but an outright requirement.
Despite the advantages that Lane Bauer has been given, no one should think he hasn’t earned his place on the roster of the Wichita Thunder. The forward has worked his way into the ECHL, and with his drive and commitment to embrace every challenge that will make him a better hockey player, there is no doubt that he will reach the highest levels of the sport.
A Passion for Hockey Seemed Inevitable
Born in Anchorage, Alaska, Lane Bauer was drawn to the ice at a very early age. His uncle, Al Cameron, played for eight seasons with the Detroit Red Wings and the Winnipeg Jets in the National Hockey League, appearing in 282 games. His uncle become an inspiration for Lane, and combined with the near year around arctic temperatures there was no doubt that Lane would be a hockey player.
“My uncle played in the National Hockey League for eight years. My dad turned into a late hockey fan, and he and my uncle really inspired me to want to play. I’m from Anchorage, Alaska so pretty much our only sport is hockey. There’s a lot of ice around so it’s pretty easy to get into the hockey community.”
While playing both football and baseball, these sports did not create the same kind of passion, plus it is a lot more difficult to field a ground ball in May when the temperature is 37 degrees. Lane knew that hockey was what he wanted to pursue and, ironically, it was a former rival of the Thunder that helped fuel his passion for the sport.
“I grew up watching the Alaska Aces. We treated them like the NHL for us because we have no other pro teams up there. We used to go to every game when I was a kid. I loved it.”
Opting for the Grind
Lane Bauer was having a huge amount of success on the ice playing at the Midget Major level. This earned him several offers to play college hockey, but he wanted something that would be more challenging. To meet that goal, the forward opted to play juniors in the Western Hockey League (WHL).
“When I committed to the University before I went to the WHL, I thought I better start taking this seriously. I wanted a quicker route to go pro so I went to the WHL. I got a few more games under my belt because the WHL is more like a pro schedule, instead of playing like 30 games in college. It was a good fit for me.”
The choice paid off right away. In his first season with the Edmonton Oil Kings, Lane scored 7 goals and added 9 assists in 47 games, as his team advanced to the championship series and would win the Memorial Cup. It was one of the most memorable moments in Lane’s life.
“We won the Memorial cup in my first year. That team was really stacked. It was a good experience that year for sure. Winning a championship is something you can’t really describe.”
In 2014-15, Lane appeared in 71 games, scoring 25 goals and adding 30 assists. A year later he would eclipse both numbers as he scored 29 goals and added 36 assists.
The next season, the Oil Kings star began the season with Edmonton but, in a surprise move, he was traded to the Kamloops Blazers. While the move was a shocking one for the Oil Kings, it made complete sense for the Blazers.
“Lane is an impact player that will be a significant addition to our hockey club as we enter the second half of the season,” commented General Manager Stu MacGregor following the trade. “He is a leader, and a Memorial Cup Champion with the Oil Kings in 2014.”
Lane had scored 25 goals and had 15 assists in 40 games with Edmonton, and he proved to be the impact player MacGregor desired, adding 11 more goals and 20 assists in 31 games with Kamloops. With the help of their new forward, the Blazers entered the playoffs as the third best team in the B.C. Division, but fell in the first round to Kelowna, four games to two, with Lane adding three points in the series.
Ready to Go Pro
After four very successful seasons in the WHL, it was time for Lane Bauer to go pro. He was invited to the Edmonton Oilers rookie camp and, on September 30, he was signed by the Wichita Thunder, the ECHL affiliate to the Oilers. Lane had shown he could score goals, but it was ability to do a multitude of things on the ice that made him the ideal addition in the mind of Thunder Head Coach Malcolm Cameron.
“Lane has shown to be a consistent scorer throughout his junior career in the WHL,” Coach Cameron explained following the signing. “He has the ability to play all three forward positions and is versatile.”
Wichita also proved to be the ideal situation for the Thunder forward. Not only was it a golden opportunity to get a taste of professional hockey, but it also gave him a chance to learn from a veteran laden roster.
“There’s a lot of older guys here I get to learn from. It’s kind of like my first year at junior all over again. I take notes of what the older guys are doing and how they prepare. The biggest thing that I’ve noticed is preparation for practices and games. It’s a lot more serious than it was in the juniors and I get to learn from these guys how to prepare for each and every day.”
A Chance to Do What He Truly Loves
In his first 15 games with the Wichita Thunder Lane Bauer is quickly making his mark. He has 5 goals and 8 assists, including recording the first 2 goal game of his professional career on November 19 against the archrival Allen Americans. Those two goals proved to be the difference in the 6-4 victory, helping him to enjoy the two parts of hockey that he loves the most.
“I love scoring goals. It is something that I have had success doing in the past, and I enjoy it most personally. I love winning more though. I want to score, but as long as we get the win I’m happy.”
While 21-years-old, Lane plays the game with the exuberance of an 11-year-old who just scored the winning goal for his PeeWee team. He loves hockey, and that is seen in the way that he carries himself every time he takes to the ice.
“It’s just a passion. We all grew up playing this game. I think everyone is itching to play games. I get excited for every game.”
Upholding the Family Tradition
It may be early in his career, but Lane Bauer is proving that he has the talent to follow in the footsteps of his uncle. He has recorded points in nine of the 15 games he has been in this season, and has an impressive +9 rating this year, tied for third best on the team, trailing Zach O’Brien and tied with Kyle Platzer, two players who have both been moved up to Bakersfield of the American Hockey League.
Lane is showing that he is not just about delivering on his scoring chances, but also ensuring that he is taking care of business in his own end as well. Lessons his Uncle Al instilled in him at an early age.
“I lived with my uncle in Edmonton for three years. We had a lot of chances to talk. He would give me his pointers and I would take them in and just try to fix my mistakes. He talked to me a lot about the strategies of the game, how I could help my team in more ways than just scoring, especially defensively. It is important to be a good two-way player.”
Lane Bauer may be just 21-years-old, but he is having a lot of success because he plays the game like a seasoned veteran. The forward has quickly become a key member of the team, one whom has gained the trust of his coach.
“Keep in mind that Lane is just a rookie,” his coach explained after the two-goal performance. “He’s earning those minutes on the ice because of how well he has played. He’s a really smart, defensively smart player, but he also has great puck skills.”
Skilled is definitely a great way to describe Lane Bauer, but it is his commitment to push himself to being better that makes his talents all the more impressive. Pure skill can take you a long way in many sports, but in hockey it takes a lot of grit and desire to make it to this level. The kind of drive that will likely put the Wichita Thunder rookie on the ice in an NHL rink one day. With a name like Bauer, that would just seem logical.
Featured Image by Ed Bailey
By Robert Pannier