Saturday, 16 September 2017

Broncos’ Steenbergen is just too sweet on the ice

Swift Current star one of the WHL’s great hidden gems

Tyler Steenbergen speeds down the ice on a rush for the Broncos.
    If you miss seeing the Swift Current Broncos in action on the WHL circuit this season, you might be sorry.
    Located in the smallest market of the Canadian Hockey League, the Broncos have been experiencing a resurgence in Swift Current. The resurgence is being led by one of the WHL’s most dynamic star players in Tyler Steenbergen.
    Last season, the skilled forward from Sylvan Lake, Alta., had a breakout campaign appearing in all of the Broncos 72 regular season games piling up 51 goals, 39 assists and a plus-29 rating in the plus-minus department. His 90 points were good for a three-way tie for ninth in the WHL scoring race with Victoria Royals centre Matthew Phillips and Tri-City Americans centre Morgan Geekie.
    Steenbergen’s 51 goals ranked him in a tie with Tyler Wong of the Lethbridge Hurricanes for tops in the league. Out of the 51 goals Steenbergen scored, he netted the game winner on 12 occasions to lead the WHL.
    Thanks to these efforts, Steenbergen was named a second team all-star in the WHL’s Eastern Conference, and he was awarded the Brad Hornung Trophy as the WHL’s most sportsmanlike player.
Tyler Steenbergen (#17) of the Broncos cuts past Sam Steel (#23) of the Pats.
    In last June’s NHL Entry Draft, the Arizona Coyotes selected Steenbergen, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 188 pounds, in the fifth round and 128th overall. At some point in the future, the Coyotes might look back and admire Steenbergen’s selection as a draft steal.
    Entering his 19-year-old season, Steenbergen is likely not the most recognized star name in the WHL circuit. The circuit’s most recognized returning standout is likely Regina Pats captain Sam Steel, who took the WHL’s and CHL’s scoring titles last season while also winning the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s most valuable player.
    Last season, Steenbergen’s exploits were often lost behind a number of other established star players who played or likely played their final major junior seasons before embarking on professional careers like Adam Brooks and Connor Hobbs of the Pats, Brett Howden of the Moose Jaw Warriors and Mathew Barzal and Ethan Bear of the league champion Seattle Thunderbirds.
Tyler Steenbergen controls the puck in the offensive zone.
    Besides being lost behind other star players, Steenbergen likely doesn’t get a tonne of notoriety due to the fact he does play in Swift Current, which is often ignored on the national media front. Inside the WHL itself, the awards he won last season show those inside the circuit have definitely taken notice.
    While Swift Current is overlooked on the national media front, it might be the perfect setting to help prepare Steenbergen for a professional career. The Broncos players are stars in the small Saskatchewan city, and people notice everything you do. When you play for the Broncos, you realize quickly how valuable it is to carry yourself in a well-mannered way to make yourself look good and ensure the Broncos look good.
    Anyone that has dealt with Steenbergen even for a short time on a one-on-one basis will come away impressed with how well he carries himself.
    When the people in Swift Current view that the Broncos players are genuinely good guys, they will back them in a strong way. The loud sellout crowds of 2,890 that crammed the Credit Union i-Plex during the Broncos six home playoff games last season are testament to that.
    Steenbergen was at the centre of excitement of what went on in Swift Current last season. When he hits the ice, he made things happen. The home crowd in Swift Current rises to their feet, when Steenbergen hits the offensive zone with speed on a rush.
Tyler Steenbergen (#17) celebrates a goal for the Broncos.
    It seemed like he was always in the middle of things when the Broncos needed a play in clutch time.
    Thanks to Steenbergen’s efforts, the Broncos posted a solid 39-23-4-6 in the regular season in 2016-17. In the playoffs, Steenbergen recorded eight goals, six assists and a plus-one rating as the Broncos won a first round series that went the maximum seven games against the Moose Jaw Warriors and fell in a second round series that went the maximum seven games to the Pats.
    When Steenbergen dresses for the Broncos, he always gives the best effort, and you anticipate offensive fireworks happening that night.
    He is one of those players that is worth the price of admission any time he plays in a WHL game.

Schenn’s bumps in Blades days long forgotten

Brayden Schenn skates at the Chase Fantasy Hockey Camp.
    When Brayden Schenn returns to Saskatoon, he is a hometown hero, and the bumps he had to navigate during his short time with the Saskatoon Blades are long forgotten.
    It should be noted the bumps Schenn faced with the Blades were never his fault or the team’s fault. The bumps were a learning experience about what could happen when an extremely high profile player laces up the skates for his hometown major junior hockey team.
    For three seasons from 2007 to 2010, Schenn was the star centre with the Brandon Wheat Kings and a highly rated NHL prospect along with teammate Scott Glennie. In the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Schenn was selected in the first round and fifth overall by the Los Angeles Kings, while Glennie went in the first round and eighth overall that same year to the Dallas Stars.
    At the start of the 2010-11 campaign, Schenn, who was in his 19-year-old season, made the Kings and appeared in eight NHL contests. He also suited up for seven games with the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League for conditioning purposes before being sent back to the Wheat Kings.
    The Blades were in a race for first overall in the WHL that season, and they made a monster trade with the Wheat Kings to get Schenn. In the deal that was made Jan. 10, 2011, the Blades received Schenn and a third round selection in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft from the Wheat Kings in exchange for the Blades first and second round selections of the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, a first round selection in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft, a first round selection in the 2012 CHL Import Draft and then prospects in defenceman Ayrton Nikkel and centre Tim McGauley.
    Schenn played 27 regular season games with the Blades piling up 21 goals and 32 assists. Saskatoon topped the WHL standings with a 56-13-1-2 record for 115 points in the standings. The 56 wins and 115 standings points are still Blades club records.
    While Schenn always carried himself well, it seemed there were some in the public that wanted to bring him down.
Brayden Schenn looks to make a pass at the Chase Fantasy Hockey Camp.
    During the Blades first round playoff series with the Prince Albert Raiders, someone went online and made racist comments towards First Nations peoples in Schenn’s name via a fake Facebook account. That development caused the Blades to hold a news conference to state Schenn didn’t have anything to do with that fake Facebook account and request a police investigation. At that time, the Blades found nine fake Facebook accounts in Schenn’s name.
    Schenn wasn’t made available to the media at that press conference, but the Blades issued a statement from the skilled forward. One can only imagine how much time was spent putting this fire out that Schenn and the Blades had no part of starting.
    The Blades proceeded to eliminate the Raiders 4-2 in a best-of-seven series. Saskatoon was swept away in a best-of-seven second round series 4-0 to the Kootenay Ice, who went on to win the WHL championship.
    In 10 playoff games, Schenn put up six goals and five assists for the Blades. Expectations were high that year that the Blades would win the WHL title and sizable crowds were showing up at the rink that is now known as the SaskTel Centre.
    During the immediate aftermath of their playoff ouster, there were a number of people in the vocal minority of the Blades fanbase that blamed the post-season elimination on Schenn.
    I was working in Medicine Hat during that time covering the WHL’s Tigers for the Medicine Hat News, and relatives in Saskatoon told me that Schenn couldn’t show his face in public in town in the days that followed the Blades playoff exit. I do recall seeing a Facebook group that existed to dump hate on Schenn for costing the Blades the Memorial Cup. I can no longer find that Facebook page.
    Thankfully, the notion of being upset at Schenn quickly faded away. Disappointment over the fact the Blades didn’t have a long playoff run that season likely still lingers a little bit.
    Since leaving the Blades, Schenn has been a career NHLer appearing in 433 regular season games mostly with the Philadelphia Flyers collecting 109 goals and 139 assists. Thanks to an off-season trade at the NHL Entry Draft in June, the 26-year-old will suit up for the St. Louis Blues in the upcoming NHL campaign.
    Anyone that has dealt with Schenn and his family comes away with a fresh realization that they are all a good bunch. Anytime I take a photo of Schenn at a charity event and share it on Twitter, it usually gets a few likes from locals, and that is always great to see.

Cool seeing “BT” enter Canadian Football Hall of Fame

    It was definitely a cool sight to see the pictures and video legendary University of Saskatchewan Huskies football head coach Brian Towriss officially enter the Canadian Football Hall of Fame on Thursday night in Hamilton, Ont.
    Towriss resigned his post as Huskies head coach on Dec. 19, 2016 having complied a U Sports record 196 career wins, 11 Canada West titles, nine Vanier Cup appearances and three Vanier Cup titles. On March 22, an announcement was made that Towriss would be part of this year’s Canadian Football Hall of Fame class along with CFL player greats in Anthony Calvillo, Geroy Simon, Mike O’Shea and Kelvin Anderson along with former Calgary Stampeders president Stan Schwartz. 
    Towriss and Schwartz entered the Hall as builders.
    When Towriss saw his lifelike bust and put on his Hall of Fame jacket and ring, he looked really happy, and it was a happy look that was usually reserved for times when one of his player did something great. It was fun to see him enjoy his moment.
    Towriss was joined in Hamilton by his wife (Vicki) and their children (Kellie and Jake), and they got to experience something special that will be with them forever.
    It is always a great when good things happen to good people. Congratulations to “BT” on his Canadian Football Hall of Fame induction.

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