Monday, 9 January 2017

Pats/Warriors rivalry evolves

Punch ups of the past replaced by speed and skill

Altercations like these are no longer frequent at Pats vs. Warriors games.
    REGINA – Welcome to the new era feud between the Regina Pats and Moose Jaw Warriors, and if you are an ardent fan from the past, you might not recognize it.
    Separated by about a 71-kilometre stretch on the Trans-Canada Highway, the Pats and Warriors have engaged in arguably the greatest rivalry in the Canadian Hockey League dating back to 1984, when the Warriors moved from Winnipeg to the friendly small Saskatchewan city of Moose Jaw.
    For a majority of the history of this rivalry, the clashes between the Pats and Warriors were punctuated by three-hour games that includes multiple fights and line brawls. Fans on both sides got into various over-the-line antics in the stands to create wild atmospheres any time these two clubs met.
    Over the past 10 years, the image of the rivalry has changed much like hockey has changed thanks to a sharp decrease in fighting. On Saturday in Regina, these two arch-rivals met in a sold out Brandt Centre skating in as two of the elite teams in major junior hockey. The contest was played at a fast pace that featured momentum changes, skill, great goaltending and a total of six minor penalties.
Jake Leschyshyn (#19) and Noah Gregor (#22) battle for a draw.
    The Warriors skated away with a 4-1 victory that included an empty net goal thanks to a spectacular 39 save performance by star netminder Zach Sawchenko. Pats goalie Tyler Brown was stellar too turning away 34 of 37 shots he faced.
    The closest thing to an altercation came just over four minutes into the third period, when Pats star captain Adam Brooks had a lengthy wrestling match with Warriors defenceman Josh Brook. Each received a minor penalty for roughing.
    At the end of the game, there was a minor scrum in the left corner of the Moose Jaw zone. In the old days with a three-goal difference on the scoreboard, a line brawl would have definitely broken out.
Warriors goalie Zach Sawchenko stops Pats captain Adam Brooks (#77).
    When the scrum neared Sawchenko, he kind of glided away from it in a whatever type fashion. In a different time, another goalie in that same instance might have taken liberty to throw a few shots.
    The officials calmly separated the scrum and no penalties were called.  
    The gathering of 6,484 spectators, which did include a healthy contingent from Moose Jaw, seemed pretty engaged with the action. There no punch ups or incidents in the stands, and it seemed like the spectators preferred to engage more in firing off some good-natured jabs at each other.
    No mascots had to be healthy scratched like in the final game of the 1999-2000 campaign in Regina. In that clash, the Pats gave dog mascot, K9, and polar bear mascot, Pat, the night off due to fears of retaliation because some Pats fans punched Warriors mascot, Puckhead, in the head the night before in Moose Jaw.
Warriors fans cheer their team on in the Brandt Centre.
    On Saturday, the fans were still cheering hard for their teams, and that was one fact that didn’t change. When the Warriors carried play during the first 10 minutes of the first period and through the second stanza, their fans tried to make the Brandt Centre sound like the rowdy old Moose Jaw Civic Centre, which was best known as “The Crushed Can.” The Civic Centre has been demolished and replaced by the comfortable and modern confines of Mosaic Place in recent times.
    When the Pats carried play during the final 10 minutes of the first period and through the third frame, their fans got into the contest to back their side. One had to also chuckle from the fact the Pats fans made the loudest “boos” of the night, when it was announced in the third period a patron from Moose Jaw won the night’s 50/50 draw.
Pats centre Jake Leschyshyn (#19) wins a battle along the boards.
    During the post-game interviews with each side, it felt like a professionalism was there. Pats head coach and general manager John Paddock, Pats defenceman Connor Hobbs and Warriors head coach Tim Hunter went through the ins and outs of various aspects of the game. There was a focus from each side about what improvements had to be made going forward.
    While the thoughts of the rivalry were there, the Warriors, who improved to 25-9-6-1, weren’t that much over excited about the win, and the Pats, who fell to 27-4-6-1, weren’t noticeably more disappointed than normal about the loss.
Tyler Brown holds the fort in the Pats goal.
    Back in what seems like a forgotten era now, each side would be accusing the other of doing something underhanded during the game. Also, the victor would celebrate like the Memorial Cup was won, and at times, some members of the losing side would fire their helmets down the hallway in disgust followed by an assortment of curse words.
    Sawchenko, who has played his whole career in Moose Jaw, did give a nod to the rivalry.
    “Obviously, it is the best rivalry in the CHL,” said the 19-year-old puck stopper. “Being a part of it for four years now I truly believe that.
    “It is something pretty special. It is obviously not too hard to get up for a game against Regina. It is something pretty cool to hear our fan buses quiet the whole building tonight.”
Warriors captain Brett Howden looks to get past Pats centre Sam Steel.
    In the past, each side cheered against a villain from the other side. Warriors fans despised former Pats captain Barret Jackman, and Pats fans wished former Warriors captain Sean O’Connor would just disappear.
    And who could forget in the late 1980s when the song “Pop Goes the Weasel” played in Regina when Theo Fleury took the ice for the Warriors.
    The modern version of the rivalry is still intense. The hatred definitely isn’t there like it once was.
    Now, you get two top quality teams going at it putting on a great display of the game, and you have two fan bases that are just the right amount into the game. You add it all up, and it is still an enjoyable night out at the rink.

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