Friday, 30 June 2017

Blades grad Shynkaruk would be great add to hockey Huskies

Jesse Shynkaruk (#14) celebrates scoring a goal for the Blades last season.
    Jesse Shynkaruk and the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team would be a great match for each other, if that ultimately comes to pass.
    The 21-year-old centre exhausted his WHL eligibility last season playing for his hometown Saskatoon Blades. He had a breakout year netting career highs in goals (31), assists (25) and points (56) in 58 regular season games. Shynkaruk came through in the clutch as 10 of his tallies ended up being game winners.
    In his first three major junior seasons split between the Kamloops Blazers and Moose Jaw Warriors, Shynkaruk appeared in 196 regular season games recording 23 goals and 25 assists.
    Recently, Tyler Wawryk, who is the Blades manager of communications and community relations, caught up with Shynkaruk and inquired if the speedy forward was going to join the Huskies. Shynkaruk said he was one of three players battling for two spots on the Huskies.
    It would be great if both Shynkaruk and the Huskies could make things work out. Shynkaruk did so well last season with the Blades you almost wish he had one more season to play in the major junior ranks.
    With that said, a number of factors come into play when it comes to a major junior player joining a U Sports team. Thanks to two strong recruiting classes from the past two seasons, the Huskies have a fairly deep team. They came up just short of winning a Canada West title and dropped a 5-3 decision to the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds in the U Sports championship game.
    Shynkaruk, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 171 pounds, would bring a number of good intangibles to the Huskies. One is the fact he would likely really appreciate being on the team. Heading into training camp last season, Shynkaruk was without a major junior home after being released by the Warriors.
    Had he not made the Blades as a walk on player, the likelihood was high Shynkaruk’s time in major junior hockey would have been over.
Jesse Shynkaruk (#14) sets up for a scoring chance for the Blades.
    With the Blades, Shynkaruk rediscovered some of offensive touch from his final midget AAA season, when he netted 22 goals and 29 assists in 43 regular season games with the Saskatoon Contacts in the 2012-13 campaign. Shynkaruk helped the Blades make a serious push for a playoff berth.
    The Blades ultimately finished ninth overall in the WHL’s Eastern Conference and five points back of a playoff berth with a 28-35-7-2 record. Shynkaruk became a fan favourite, and he was also a good representative for the team at community events.
    When the Blades were on the road, he consistently left a good impression with the media that worked in other WHL cities. That has to be viewed as impressive, because Shynkaruk doesn’t get to interact with media members in other WHL centres on a regular basis like he does with the media members in Saskatoon. He always left a good impression with the hometown media members as well.
    After his final home game on March 17 when the Blades downed the archrival Prince Albert Raiders 5-3, Shynkaruk gave a heartfelt final post-game press scrum to the media in attendance. From that press scrum, it was easy to tell Shynkaruk generally cared about what was going on.
    Under the WHL scholarship plan, Shynkaruk doesn’t have to play with a U Sports team to use the four years of paid post-secondary schooling he has earned. If he wanted to, he could just attend a post-secondary institution and focus just on classes.
    For every season a player plays in the WHL, that player receives a scholarship package that sees all his tuition, compulsory fees and textbooks paid for a school year. Shynkaruk has four school years of paid tuition, compulsory fees and textbooks to use.
    As it stands, Shynkaruk would be a great addition to the Huskies or any other U Sports team. The hometown fans have to hope he will wear the “green and white” in the fall.

Blades pump out Monday updates

    For a little over a month the Saskatoon Blades have been pumping out Monday updates on their website, and they have been pretty well done.
    Tyler Wawryk, who is the team’s manager of communications and community relations, has been crafting the updates. The writing part reflects a style you once saw in WHL notebooks, which were commonly produced in mainstream media outlet newspapers. With these outlets often being cut to one or two staffers, the WHL notebook is rarely seen these days.
    The Blades update gives a roundup of various happening with the team and the club’s alums. The notebook points are usually accompanied by graphics.
    With most mainstream outlets in Canada having undergone severe cuts, the pressure falls on teams like the WHL’s Blades to do more coverage on themselves through their own website and social media platforms. The same holds true for every high level competitive sports program in Canada that is not an NHL franchise.
    Ultimately, Canadian sports leagues need to follow the lead of NFL teams, which have been covering themselves on a league and individual franchise basis for at least two decades. The NFL was pretty much the first league that did a lot of media coverage on itself on the Internet in the late 1990s.
    While most to almost all Canadian elite sports teams or groups do not have anywhere near the money the NFL brings in, the cold reality is they have to cover themselves, if they want to have a bigger presence in the public. Fans will read and view what is posted.
    The Blades have done a good job in trying out different tweaks on their website and social media platforms. The Monday update is a nice addition. I imagine creating all this content makes Wawryk extremely busy, so here is hoping he can keep it up.
    The last Monday update can be round here.

Love the vintage look

    When the Saskatoon Blades put out their Twitter post announcing their home opener against the Swift Current Broncos, you had to love the graphic that contained the classic logos.
Braylon Shmyr looks to make a pass for the Blades.
    Actually during the off-season, the Blades have gone full out using their vintage blue and goal “Pac-Man” logo that was the team’s primary look through the 1980s and early 1990s. The team’s website was changed to use the retro blue and gold colour scheme as a primary look as well.
    The Blades have used the retro jerseys with the old “Pac-Man” logo as an alternate for some time. Among the team’s fans, that has always been the most popular look, and there has been a longing to make the retro jerseys the club’s full-time look once again.
    While official word hasn’t come yet, it seems with all the hints this will come to pass.
    Actually over the last decade, a number of pro teams in all sports and major junior teams have reverted to a past look, which has been received with a lot of praise. The Blades face one of those teams opening the regular season against the Broncos on Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre.
    Before the start of the 2014-15 campaign, the Broncos ditched their black and blue modern looking jerseys for their classic blue, green and white look with the horseshoe, bucking bronco logo. The Broncos had this look when the franchise returned to Swift Current in 1986 after spending 12 seasons in Lethbridge. The switch to the retro look has been popular with Broncos fans.
Tyler Steenbergen zips into the offensive zone for the Broncos.
    This past season, the look was part of many pieces coming together for a Broncos revival. Other things that have powered the revival is the fact Sheldon Kennedy, who was the captain of the Broncos 1989 Memorial Cup winner, has been back to Swift Current a number of times in recent years and labelled as a real Canadian hero for his public work on the child advocacy front over the years.
    The small city also built a beautiful monument to remember players Trent Kresse, Scott Kruger, Chris Mantyka and Brent Ruff who died in a team bus crash on Dec. 30, 1986.  The monument is located near the crash site on the outskirts of town.
    All of these things have come together to give the Broncos a new level of support the team likely hasn’t seen in some time. The Credit Union i-Plex, which is the Broncos home rink, was likely the loudest building in the WHL playoffs last season. Swift Current advanced to the second round and lost a heartbreaking seven-game series to the Regina Pats.
    It is always cool when a team brings a popular past look back into the future.

Brooks showing small guys can still play

Adam Brooks signed with the NHL’s Maple Leafs
    Recently graduated Regina Pats captain Adam Brooks had a moment which seemed at one point in time it might not come to pass.
    On Thursday, Brooks signed a three year NHL entry-level contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 21-year-old Winnipeg product was selected in the fourth round and 92nd overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by the Leafs.
    Brooks graduated from the Pats as one of the club’s most beloved heart and soul players. Over five seasons, he played in 317 regular season games collecting 119 goals and 216 assists. His 335 career regular season points make him the 10th all-time leading scorer in Pats history.
    The skilled centre stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 175 pounds, and for a while, it seemed like the NHL started drifting away from players that didn’t stand at least 6-feet in height and be at least 200 pounds in weight.
    Brooks topped the WHL in scoring as a 19-year-old in 2015-16 netting 38 goals and 82 assists playing in all 72 regular season games. Despite his stellar season and being arguably one of the top three forwards in the league, it was conceivable Brooks might not be drafted. The fact the Leafs picked him was a big milestone.
    He returned to Regina to captain the Pats as an overager collecting 43 goals and 87 assists to finish a point behind teammate Sam Steel for the WHL scoring lead. Brooks helped the Pats top the WHL’s overall standings at 52-12-7-1 and advance to the WHL Championship series, where they fell 4-2 in a best-of-seven set to the Seattle Thunderbirds.
    The fact Brooks signed NHL contract is another big milestone. With the Leafs having Mike Babcock as head coach, Brooks a real look to one day make the NHL.
    His story has to give confidence to other players that are short in stature. In this year’s NHL Entry Draft, the Edmonton Oilers selected Spokane Chiefs winger Kailer Yamamoto in the first round and 22nd overall. Yamamoto, who turns 19 in September, stands 5-foot-7 and weighs 146 pounds. Despite being small, he piled up 42 goals and 57 assists in 65 regular season games this past season with the Chiefs, who are his hometown WHL team.
    The winger established himself as one of the WHL’s most exciting players. He might get to duplicate his accomplishments in the professional ranks one day.

Getting Semenko a piece of video history

Dave Semenko, back row centre, in an old Oilers team picture.
    The world let along the sport of hockey lost one of its best characters on Thursday when famed Edmonton Oilers enforcer Dave Semenko passed away from pancreatic cancer at age 59.
    I never met Semenko, but I was still sad to hear of his passing. I also got a chuckle remembering the various colourful interviews he did over the years.
    In a round-about way, I helped contribute indirectly of getting him a piece of hockey history. During my first year living in Medicine Hat cover the WHL’s Tigers in the 2004-05 campaign, I met former Tigers and Winnipeg Jets standout Morris Lukowich at an old timers’ charity game.
    I had a VCR copy of the last contest ever played in the history of the World Hockey Association, when the host Winnipeg Jets defeated the Edmonton Oilers in Game 6 of the WHA title series to win the Avco Cup. Lukowich was a member of that winning Jets team.
    When I handed him the tape in order to get the cover autographed, he asked if that tape really had a copy of the game on it. I said it did, and he asked if I could mail him a copy of that tape to his place. I made a copy of that game and sent it to Lukowich.
    Later on that season, I ended up calling Lukowich for a throwback story for the Medicine Hat News. When the interview was done, we ended up talking about that tape. Lukowich thanked me for sending it to him.
    Having a few video machines at his place to use for coaching, Lukowich told me he made copies to send to all his former Jets teammates and coaches. He then told me he made a copy and sent it to Semenko, who was on that Oilers team that lost to the Jets.
    I laughed and couldn’t believe it. The Jets won that contest in a 7-3 romp at the old Winnipeg Arena, and I thought Lukowich might have been trying poke some fun at the legendary pugilist.
Lukowich laughed and said they were good friends. He added Semenko scored the final goal in that contest, which was the final goal ever in the history of the WHA. Lukowich thought it would be a nice keepsake.
    With that knowledge, I contributed to delivering a memory to Semenko about one of his historic hockey moments.

Huskies duo completes Banff Marathon

    Lauren Zary and Kaitlin Willoughby showed their athletic prowess isn’t limited hockey, and they went to Banff to display that fact.
    Back on June 18, the pair completed the Banff Marathon. Zary, who just exhausted her eligibility with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team, crossed the finish line in four hours, 25 minutes and 30 seconds, and Willoughby, who is a star centre entering her final season with the Huskies, finished officially one second back of Zary.
    For anyone to complete a race that is 42.2 kilometres in length is impressive, so a big congratulations is passed on to the pair. Both Zary and Willoughby accomplished something most people in the world won’t do. As an added bonus, they did it in the scenic mountain terrain of Banff.

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