Patrick Kyte knew it was coming. After 156 games played with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Pembroke native had been traded for the first time in his junior career.
Less than a year after Halifax hosted the Memorial Cup and the Mooseheads came within a win of a national title, the team was in a rebuilding mode. As a 20-year old defenceman whose junior eligibility was coming to an end, Kyte was expendable and when the Chicoutimi Saguenéens offered a first round draft pick to get him, the Mooseheads pulled the trigger on a trade that will give the talented blue liner one more crack at a national championship.
Getting back to the Memorial Cup is a priority for Kyte, who still feels the sting of last year’s title game. Leading 2-0 in front of a hometown crowd of more than 10,500 fans at the Halifax Metro Centre, the Mooseheads couldn’t hold the lead and fell 4-2 to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.
“It was crushing,” says Kyte. “As a junior player, you don’t get many chances to win a national championship. The trade to Chicoutimi will give me one more opportunity, I hope!” adds Kyte.
At the mid-way point of the season, the Saguenéens are battling for top spot in the QMJHL. Kyte joins a deep roster, one that is almost exclusively Quebec born players. Kyte is the only Ontarian on the team and he admits he will need to brush up on his French as he joins his new club.
Kyte grew up in a family of four boys, playing minor hockey in Pembroke. The son of two educators, Murray and Cathy Kyte, he was enrolled at Jeanne-Lajoie, a French Catholic school in Pembroke at a young age. “I’m hoping my French comes back to me. It’s been a while since I have used it consistently, but I’m looking forward to a fresh start and a new cultural experience in Chicoutimi,” says Kyte.
Known by his friends and family as “Patty,” Kyte is the nephew of the National Hockey League’s first deaf player, Jim Kyte. Patty Kyte is also hearing impaired, but on the ice, he is a very different hockey player than his Uncle was during his 16 year professional hockey career.
Jim Kyte was drafted in the first round of the NHL draft by the Winnipeg Jets because he was a huge man who could play the tough brand of hockey that was expected of defenceman in the 1970’s and 80’s. Much smaller in stature, Patty Kyte’s game is speed. A gifted skater, the younger Kyte has displayed plenty of toughness during his junior career, admitting he picked up some tips from his Uncle on dropping the gloves, knowing it would be inevitable when he moved to Halifax and major junior hockey. But, Patty Kyte is not a fighter, he’s a play maker.
Kyte was undersized playing minor hockey, which kept him under the radar for major junior hockey teams. In the 2015 Ontario Hockey League draft, Kyte was taken in the tenth round, 194th overall by the Guelph Storm. At the same time, the Pembroke Lumber Kings made him the number one overall pick in the Central Canada Hockey League draft.
Kyte, who had won two Silver Stick titles while playing Peewee in Pembroke, later played with the triple A Ottawa Valley Titans. After being selected by the Lumber Kings, Kyte got off to a bad start when he suffered a broken clavicle in his first training camp with the Kings. The injury kept him sidelined for several months. When he was ready to return to action, Kyte played six games with the Kings Under 18 team, before quickly making the jump to the Junior A squad. In his rookie season, he played 38 games and tallied 19 points.
His sophomore season with the Lumber Kings produced 38 points in 53 games and a scholarship commitment at Lake Superior State University, but in the summer of 2017 the plan changed. The Mooseheads came calling, and Kyte abandoned his plans to go to school, choosing instead to play major junior hockey.
“It was tough leaving Pembroke, but I knew I needed to try playing at a higher level. Halifax was a great place to play and I have no regrets about my decision. It’s opened up a lot of opportunities,” says Kyte.
Among those opportunities was a chance to attend the Florida Panthers development camp last summer. Now, he’ll be able to take one more run at a Memorial Cup, if the Sagueneens can win the Quebec Major Junior League President’s Cup. The 2020 Memorial Cup tournament will be played in Kelowna, British Columbia.
Kyte is good enough to land a professional contract either in North America or Europe, but education is a priority and several Canadian universities have already reached out trying to lure him to join their schools when his junior career ends. Deciding on his next move will come soon enough, but for now he’ll focus his attention on helping his new team win a league championship.
As the holiday season arrived, Kyte found himself back in a familiar place, the Pembroke Memorial Centre, watching the Lumber Kings take on the Nepean Raiders. He asked a few questions about how the Kings were doing to some nearby fans who recognized him, remembering that hockey matters in Pembroke. It’s where he learned the game and it will always be home.