By: Allison Shuey
Reading, PA – Reading Royals Captain Derek Whitmore is a strong leader with ten years of professional experience under his belt. He’s laced up his skates for more than 500 professional games over his career and shared ice time with some big-name NHLers. After skating in Europe the last three years, Whitmore has loved playing in Reading during his first ECHL season.
“Early in my career the ECHL was kind of a ‘fighting league’ and maybe 3-5 guys on each team could be solid AHL players. Now I feel like everyone in the ECHL can play up a level if given a chance and have some success,” Whitmore said.
Throughout the years the league has grown into a great starting platform for up-and-coming NHL talent. Of the 639 ECHL alumni to play in the NHL, sixteen have debuted this season.
Most of Whitmore’s career was in the AHL, spending parts of seven seasons (369 GP). Among a few notable names he’s skated with are D Dmitri Orlov, D Nate Schmidt and F Tyler Ennis. Whitmore made his NHL debut Dec. 20, 2011 for the Buffalo Sabres in a 4-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators.
“You spend your whole life working on a goal and dreaming about playing in the NHL and when I put on the Sabres jersey for my first game, that is something I will never forget. Things just happen quicker the higher the level and teams are so structured. My fondest hockey memory was playing in the NHL ,” he said.
Reading continues to have a successful season and the playoffs are in sight. Keeping that in the back of his mind, Whitmore is hopeful to be a part of a team that has a solid run for the Kelly Cup.
“We have a really strong team so getting into the playoffs and making a strong run for the championship is something I definitely want to be a part of,” Whitmore said.
Royals Assistant Coach Pat Wellar is not only a coach to Whitmore, but a friend. These former teammates met in Hershey in 2013 and had a few skates together prior to the Washington Capitals training camp. “He was a great teammate and friend to have on that Hershey team. You always knew Wellsy had your back no matter what. He’s a pretty selfless guy,” Whitmore recalled.
A minor injury has put Whitmore behind the bench recently, taking on a coaching role.
“I've really enjoyed the coaching role I've been given with this team. I feel like have always had a really good hockey mind and can pick things up quickly during the course of a game, so it's been fun making the transition from on the ice to behind the bench.”
Whitmore continues to be a strong team leader in this position and has discovered a passion for helping other improve.
“I have enjoyed working with my teammates and helping some of the younger guys whether in practice or through video learn a little more. It is definitely different than being on the ice in the mix of everything, but it still is something I'm enjoying and maybe could see myself doing full time down the road.”
Throughout hundreds of bus rides returning home in the wee hours of a blustery winter morning, Whitmore’s wife, Sarah, has been a remarkable source of support.
“It takes a very selfless and caring person to put up with everything that comes with being a pro hockey player,” he explained. “She delivered our daughter in Germany, flying over there at 36 weeks pregnant. Not too many people would do that, but she did because that’s where I was and knew that we all wanted to be together for the birth of our first child Blake.”
Now their daughter can often be seen at the rink watching her dad play.
Whitmore has played at many professional levels and spent countless hours at the rink throughout the years, molding him into a leader, skilled professional and most importantly, a father and husband to his family.