Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Cool things I saw in 2014

The Medicine Hat Tigers celebrate a goal in the 2014 WHL playoffs
            It still amazes me what all can happen in a year.
            As 2015 closes, a number of people are listing highlights from the year that was in 2014. For me, I wrapped up my time at the Medicine Hat News and made the move to Saskatoon for family reasons.
            Over the past year, I was able to witness a number of highlights. Actually, I can't believe how many different things I attended in so many different centres.
            It seemed like I was at everything from watching Olympic hockey with a big group, going to numerous WHL and CIS hockey games, hitting a number of CFL and CIS games, enjoying the Medicine Hat Exhibition and Stampede and watching a talented music artist perform at home.
            Here is of a few of the highlights going from the start of the year to the end.


Watching gold medal win at the Buckle

You know you live in Canada, when you wake up at 5 a.m. on Sunday to watch Canada’s men’s hockey team win gold at the Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
After getting home from my Saturday work shift, I believe I slept two hours before waking up to watch the big hockey game. Turning on Facebook, I couldn’t believe how many other people were also up.
In the second intermission, I decided to motor down to the Buckle in the Hat to see the final period. The place was packed. Canada beat Sweden 3-0 in the final, and the place was rocking.
It was about 10 a.m., when I headed home for some real sleep. That was definitely a night I will never forget. Canada also swept the hockey gold at the Olympics with the women’s team also winning it all.

Huskies women’s hockey team win Canada West title

The Huskies celebrate celebrate a Canada West title
This was one of those unexpected highlights.
Thanks to having Sundays and Mondays off at the Medicine Hat News, I was able to make it to Game 3 of the Canada West Women’s Hockey Championship Series on March 2 at the Rutherford Rink in Saskatoon. I went because it was my only shot to see Huskies captain Cami Wooster play live with how busy my life was.
Following her and her team that season was great, because it was one of the few sports things I followed I didn’t cover. It got me back to just enjoying sports. Life was so busy in Medicine Hat, that there were actually times I didn’t enjoy sports anymore, so following Wooster and the Huskies was a nice change.
They beat the University of Regina Cougars 2-1 in double overtime in that deciding game to claim the Canada West title. Wooster had the Huskies first goal and the assist on Kaitlin Willoughby’s overtime winner. Captain Cami was so good, she was good.
They were all so happy that night. I had lots of energy for the game and seeing the celebrations. Looking back, it was a real good thing for me to make that game.

One final Tigers playoff run

Captain Curtis Valk in action for the Medicine Hat Tigers.
Going into the 2014 WHL playoffs, I knew in my heart this would be the last time I would be covering a Medicine Hat Tigers playoff run for the Medicine Hat News.
I tried to soak in every moment as much as I could. I was hoping the moment would last as long as it could. Time was really busy.
The run closed with the Tigers playing 13 games over 24 days with a lot of travel. I definitely enjoyed the playoffs. Tigers took out the Swift Current Broncos in six games in the first round of the playoffs.
In the second round, the Tigers trailed a best-of-seven series 3-1 to the Kootenay Ice before rallying for a 4-3 series victory. The run ended in the WHL Eastern Conference Championships with a 4-1 series loss to the eventual Memorial Cup champion Edmonton Oil Kings.
Watching the Tigers forward line of Trevor Cox, Curtis Valk and Cole Sanford was something else. That was the most exciting forward line I saw the Tigers put on the ice in the 10 seasons I covered them. Marek Langhamer was spectacular in goal.
It was still a strange feeling after I finished my stories after Game 5 of the series loss to the Oil Kings at Rexall Place in Edmonton. A tired Tigers team tried to pull out a win, but fell 4-3. After I finished writing, I went around shaking hands with the Edmonton sportwriters who were there and Oil Kings communications manager Paul Owen, who once worked as a sports reporter.
Walking out of there, I knew I had covered my last Medicine Hat Tigers hockey game. It was weird to comprehend then, and it still is now. It did feel in a way that I was able to go out on top, so that was a good thing.

The celebration of life for Crystal (Heisler) McGregor

Crystal (Heisler) McGregor circa 2001.
            A list from 2014 wouldn’t be complete without me remembering the passing of Crystal (Heisler) McGregor, who was a good friend to everyone.
            A point guard on the University of Regina Cougars Women’s Basketball team that won the 2001 CIAU title, McGregor passed after a lengthy battle with cancer in May. A big celebration of life was held for her at the Conexus Arts Centre in Regina.
            In the day before and the day of the celebration of life, I was able to reunite with the all the members of the Cougars team that McGregor played with. I went to school with all of them at the University of Regina.
            It was a great time to hang around with old friends. It is too bad it had to occur under such circumstances. It was also great to share memories of McGregor and of days that shouldn't feel so long ago.
            I think a few us are still waiting for her to approach us a say her typical, “Hey buddy.”
            RIP Crystal. You will be remembered forever.

Seeing MacKenzie Porter perform live

MacKenzie Porter at Kin Coulee Park.
I finally got to see MacKenzie Porter perform live on Canada Day at Kin Coulee Park in Medicine Hat, and she was so good.
It is very impressive to see how talented she is at making music. What is even better is the former Medicine Hat College Rattlers Womens team soccer player is still the girl next door. 
She is still super sweet, and seems to remember everyone that passes through her life and treats them like gold.
My favourite part about seeing her perform in her hometown was saying in a break between songs, “There are like 50 people in this front row section I know personally. This is so great.
There was a huge line of people to great her that night after she finished performing.
I still have her debut CD which is personalized autographed and also an autographed poster from that night. I enjoyed getting to see her again.
It is still very cool to hear her songs on the radio and see her music videos on television.

One last kick at the Medicine Hat Exhibition and Stampede

Saddle bronc riding at the rodeo in Medicine Hat.
Before pulling the last of my things out of Medicine Hat, I got out to enjoy the Medicine Hat Exhibition and Stampede one last time.
Usually, the 2007 WHL Champion Medicine Hat Tigers team makes it back that week for a reunion, but that reunion happened earlier in the summer to fit everyone’s schedules. With that said, I still ran into a few old Tigers that week.
It was also a fun time as friends that don’t normally go out anymore went out that week. 
It made for a great last run to see everybody before I left the Gas City for Saskatoon. I saw so many good friends. Party wise, it was a great Stampede week.

Calder Cup celebrations with Derek Hulak

Derek Hulak and the Huskies with the Calder Cup.
The University of Saskatchewan Huskies Men’s Hockey team was one of the first key things that got me back to enjoying sports again, when I was in a funk of not enjoy sports due to life in Medicine Hat being so busy.
A big thing that helped was I knew pretty much all the players through covering the WHL. After the University Cup ended, I was pumped to see Derek Hulak join the American Hockey League’s Texas Stars.
The Stars were under the guidance of head coach Willie Desjardins, who was the former head coach and general manager of the Medicine Hat Tigers. The Texas Stars won the Calder Cup, and Hulak got to have the trophy for a day in August in Saskatoon.
He brought the trophy to the University of Saskatchewan, to the Saskatoon Blades offices and to his mom’s gravesite. Alina died in 2007 of Cancer.
There was a big gathering with the Huskies men’s hockey team and a whole bunch of other friends during the night at Boston Pizza on 8th Street. That was a great night out.
While deep in summer, I believe all the Huskies men’s players made it out that night. That was a great thing to see and shows how strong the friendships are on that team. They are one of the best groups to hang around and spend social time with.

Labour Day Classic weekend in Regina

The Roughriders celebrate an Anthony Allen touchdown.
This will make the list every year as long as I can keep making it to the Labour Day Classic weekend in Regina.
I was at my 14th Labour Day Classic game, and the Saskatchewan Roughriders downed the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 35-30 thanks to a last-second touchdown by Anthony Allen. The Roughriders are 13-1 in the Labour Day Classic games I have attended.
The game was also Weston Dressler’s first game back with the Roughriders after being cut by the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL. He was signing autographs at the end of the game and just looked so tired after a whirlwind week.
Victory party in Regina was also so enjoyable, especially when it is the after party for the Roughriders cheerleaders. It was a fun overall party night.

Frank McCrystal’s last home game as Rams head coach

Frank McCrystal, right, answers questions in a post-game scrum.
      A Saturday in Regina that was a turn back the clock type day and night for me.
     The University of Regina Rams were closing out the regular season against the University of Alberta Golden Bears in what would be Frank McCrystal’s final home game as Rams head coach. The Rams pulled out a 35-31 victory to make the Canada West playoffs.
     The stands were filled with a whole pile of old friends from my old Rams days at the University of Regina. A number of people traveled in for the game from all different points on the map.
     There was an alumni gathering after the game, and it was so fun to see a whole bunch of old faces. Lots of old stories were told and a lot of catching up was done.
     It also felt like an end of an era. I am sure the Rams will have a bright future, but things won’t be like what they once were.

Reconnecting with the Saskatoon Hilltops

The Hilltops celebrate their PFC Championship victory.
One of the unexpected good things that happened in my move to Saskatoon was reconnected with the Saskatoon Hilltops.
Those involved with coaching and running the Canadian Junior Football League team are as classy as you will find anywhere. Until the 2014 CJFL season, it has been 12 years since I last talked to Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant.
It has been about four to six years since I last saw my old bud Sheldon Ball, who is the team’s offensive coordinator. It was cool to see how good of a coach Ball has become. We became friends when he was first the quarterback of the Hilltops and later the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
The Hilltops started 1-2, but closed the campaign with eight straight wins. They improved a lot as the season went on. It was great to be at the Prairie Football Conference final, where they dumped the Calgary Colts 27-7.
Saskatoon then moved on to down the Rams in Langley, B.C., in the CJFL final 39-14. I really enjoyed visiting the team’s directors. If life allows it, I will try and make it more of a priority to be around their events next season.

Other good memories

Nelson Nogier gives his stick to a little Blades fan.
            Other highlights of the year include getting to watch my cousin, Nelson Nogier, played a lot more with the Saskatoon Blades before he was traded to the Red Deer Rebels.
            It has been good to get to know some of the new management with the Blades and reconnect with some long time staffers.
            I also enjoyed getting to see a number of the former Medicine Hat College Rattlers players, who now life in Saskatoon, again.
            It has also been cool to see how much of a life superstar University of Saskatchewan Huskies Women`s Basketball team point guard Kabree Howard is. It is cool to see her involved in so many community events. She does so much to give the Huskies a good name, and they will miss her when she graduates from their program later this year.
            Now, it is time to see what 2015 has in store for all of us.

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