Saturday, 30 June 2018

Brockman is the Swift Current Broncos’ man

Dean Brockman holds court in a media scrum in the 2016-17 season.
    Dean Brockman’s hiatus from the WHL didn’t last long, and he will likely be a great fit in his new stomping grounds.
    On Wednesday, Brockman was introduced as the new head coach and director of hockey operations for the Swift Current Broncos at a press conference in Swift Current. Brockman fills the void that was created when Manny Viveiros stepped down as the Broncos head coach and director of player personnel on May 24 to become an assistant coach with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers.
    Brockman spent the previous four seasons working for the Saskatoon Blades. He was an assistant coach with the Blades in his first two campaigns with the club and spent the past two seasons working for the Blades as head coach. Brockman was released by the Blades on March 18.
    During Brockman’s run as head coach, the Blades posted a 63-68-10-3 record. He is credited with 62 of those victories having missed one of those wins to attend a funeral. The Blades posted a 35-33-3-1 mark this past season to finish three points behind the Raiders (32-27-9-4) for the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.
    Saskatoon last made the WHL playoffs back in 2013.
    Before joining the Blades, Brockman, who will soon turn 51-years-old, was best known for his 17 years in the junior A ranks working with the Humboldt Broncos from 1997 to 2014 in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. He started as an assistant coach and assistant general manager before becoming the head coach and general manager in 2004. During Brockman’s years in Humboldt, the SJHL Broncos won the Royal Bank Cup for junior A supremacy in 2003 and 2008.
    Brockman comes on board with a Broncos WHL franchise that hit heights the club hadn’t seen in some time with Viveiros as head coach. Viveiros, a 52-year-old St. Albert, Alta., product, was in Swift Current for two seasons.
    In the 2016-17 campaign, Viveiros led the Broncos to a 10th overall finish in the WHL’s regular season standings with a 39-23-4-6 record. The Broncos advanced to the second round of the WHL playoffs falling in a tough seven-game series to the Regina Pats, who would advance to the WHL Championship series.
Dean Brockman, centre, mans the Blades bench last season.
    This past season, Viveiros guided the Broncos to the second best record in the WHL’s regular season at 48-17-5-2. The Broncos set a record playing 26 games in the WHL playoffs winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup and capturing the league title for the first since 1993. Swift Current advanced to the Memorial Cup tournament to play for the CHL title.
    At the Memorial Cup tournament in Regina, Sask., in May, the Broncos went 0-3 in round robin play falling by a one-goal margin each time out.
    When Brockman steps behind the bench for the first regular season as Broncos head coach, they will have a much different look than the squad that won the WHL title in May. The Broncos begin the regular season on Sept. 21, when they host the Blades at 7 p.m. at the Credit Union i-Plex.
    Swift Current graduated three key overagers from last season in captain Glenn Gawdin, Giorgio Estephan and Matteo Gennaro. Last season, the Broncos finished carrying 11 players on their roster who were in their 19-year-old seasons and only three can return as overagers.
    Candidates who appear to be already out for consideration include star right-winger Tyler Steenbergen, who has signed a three-year NHL entry-level contract with the Arizona Coyotes, defenceman Colby Sissons, who has signed a three-year NHL entry-level contract with the New Jersey Devils and netminder Stuart Skinner, who has signed a three-year NHL entry-level contract with the Edmonton Oilers.
    Finnish left-winger Aleksi Heponiemi won’t be back for his 19-year-old season, because he signed a two-year professional contract with Karpat Oulu in Finland near the end of May.
    Gawdin, Steenbergen and Heponiemi combined to form a dynamic top line for the Broncos over the past two seasons. Sissons brought a steady presence to the Broncos back end for the past three seasons.
    Brockman will be overseeing the Broncos through a reloading period.
    The Broncos also need to replace director of hockey operations and head scout Jamie Porter, who officially resigned from the team on Tuesday.
    On Thursday, the Broncos took their first steps in their reload under Brockman selecting two players in the CHL Import Draft. The Broncos selected Finnish forward Joona Kiviniemi, who turns 17-years-old in December, in the first round and 59th overall. Swift Current proceeded to pick up 17-year-old Finnish defenceman Roope Pynnonen in the second round and 119th overall.
Dean Brockman runs a Blades practice last season.
    Brockman will be a good fit in his new stomping grounds. His departure from Saskatoon was one of those situations that comes up in the business of hockey were all involved decide to go their separate ways.
    He is a player’s coach and is very community minded. Brockman also goes to a community in Swift Current that is similar in a lot of ways to Humboldt. Both are tight-knit farming communities, where the main difference is Swift Current has a larger population than Humboldt.
    Swift Current is also the second smallest market in the CHL with the defending Memorial Cup champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League coming from the CHL’s smallest centre in Bathurst, New Brunswick.
    With his outgoing, personable and honest personality, Brockman is going to be an easy quick fit in Swift Current. Brockman is a person that is made to coach an entrenched community-owned franchise like the WHL’s Broncos.

Blades back to full stable with imports

    The Saskatoon Blades returned to having a full stable of import players after making two selections in Thursday’s CHL Import Draft.
    In the first round and 23rd overall, the Blades selected defenceman Emil Malysjev, who has dual citizenship in both Sweden and Russia. Malysjev, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 187 pounds, played in Sweden’s top junior league last season with HV71, where he had four assists in 29 games.
    In the second round and 83rd overall, the Blades selected forward Kristian Roykas-Marthinsen of Norway. Roykas-Marthinsen, who turns 19 in late August and stands 6-feet and weighs 186 pounds, was selected in the seventh round and 213th overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.  
    He played in Sweden’s top junior league last season recording 23 goals and eight assists in 23 games with Almtuna IS.
    Before selecting Malysjev and Roykas-Marthinsen, the Blades didn’t have any import players on their roster due to the fact Russian defenceman Mark Rubinchik, who was eligible to return as a 19-year-old, signed a two-year, two-way contract to play for Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the Kontinental Hockey League back in May.
    Malysjev and Roykas-Marthinsen are expected to attend Blades training camp, which will open near the end of August.

Raiders pick Protas in Import Draft

    The Prince Albert Raiders made one selection in Thursday’s CHL Import Draft.
    In the first round and 26th overall, the Raiders selected 17-year-old forward Aliaksei Protas from Belarus. Protas, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 179 pounds, played for the Belarus U17 Team in Vysshaya Liga, which is the development league for the Belarusian Extraleague. He recorded nine goals and 11 assists in 49 games.
    The Raiders have the potential to return both of their overage players from last season. Czech defenceman Vojtech Budik is entering his overage season and odds are high he will elect not to return to Prince Albert in order to pursue professional options.
    Defenceman Sergei Sapego, who is from Belarus and will enter his 19-year-old season, is expected to be back in the fold next season for the Raiders.

GoFundMe campaign for Vandervlis exceeds $67,000

Ryan Vandervlis drive up ice for the Hurricanes in April of 2017.
    The GoFundMe campaign that was set up to help Lethbridge Hurricanes centre Ryan Vandervlis has exceeded $67,000.
    On June 15, Hurricanes captain Jordy Bellerive, Vandervlis and former team member Matt Alfaro, who currently plays for the University of Calgary Dinos, were all involved in a mishap at the family home of former Hurricanes captain Tyler Wong just west of Calgary. Wong was hosting nine of his friends at the family residence, and they were planning to go golfing and camping the next day.
    There was an explosion from the campfire that was started that night at the Wong residence. Bellerive, 19, and Alfaro, 21, sustained burns to their upper bodies and Vandervlis, 20, sustained burns to the front of his body and was placed in a medically induced coma. Vandervlis was taken off dialysis on June 18.
    Vandervlis sustained critical injuries. The Red Deer, Alta., product is facing months of recovery and multiple surgeries. On Tuesday, Vandervlis emerged from his coma but remains in hospital in Calgary.
    Alfaro was released from hospital on June 21. Bellerive was released from hospital on Tuesday.
    While Alfaro and Bellerive won’t have a problem returning for the upcoming hockey campaign, hockey is likely the furthest thing from the mind of Vandervlis, who is slated to enter his overage season with the Hurricanes.
    The fundraising efforts will help him and his family get past this rough stretch.
    Anyone looking to donate to the GoFundMe campaign for Vandervlis can do so by clicking right here.

Stars and Contacts to move to Merlis Belsher Place

    The Saskatoon Stars and Saskatoon Contacts will play out of a new home rink next season.
    The Stars, who are the defending champions of the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League, and the Contacts, who have long been an elite club in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League, will play out of Merlis Belsher Place, which is being built on the campus on the University of Saskatchewan. The new multisport facility, which will have two pads of ice, is expected to be open in October.
    The Saskatoon Minor Hockey Association announced the switch of venues for the two teams on Wednesday. Merlis Belsher Place will be the new home of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s and women’s hockey teams.
    The Stars had been playing out of the Agriplace Arena. Last season, the Stars finished first in the SFMAAAHL with a 24-3-1 record, won the SFMAAAHL title for the third time in the last four years and advanced to the Esso Cup national championship tournament for the third time in the last four years.
    Saskatoon made the championship game of the Esso Cup held in Bridgewater, N.S., in April. The Stars fell 2-1 to the St. Albert Slash from Alberta, who won the Esso Cup for a second straight year.
During their history, the Stars have won the female title at the Mac’s Midget AAA Tournament twice.
    “Moving to a new state-of-the-art facility will help raise the profile of our program in the community and provide a sports and scholastic focused environment where our athletes will be exposed to ever expanding opportunities for both personal and team growth for years to come,” said Stars president Don Karnes in a statement.
    The Contacts have been playing out of the Schroh Arena. Last season, the Contacts finished sixth in the 12 team Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League this past season with a 20-18 record. They were swept 3-0 in the best-of-five first round playoff series by their archrivals the Prince Albert Mintos.
    The Contacts have won the SMAAAHL title on six occasions, the male title at the Mac’s Midget AAA Tournament twice, the bronze medal at the Telus Cup national championship tournament twice and Telus Cup national title in 2005.
    “The Saskatoon Contacts leave behind a rich history and tradition at Schroh Arena,” said Contacts president Jim McIntyre in a release. “We look forward to this great opportunity and the start of a new tradition at Merlis Belsher Place.”
    Approximately 1,500 hours of ice time will be dedicated annually for use by SMHA teams at Merlis Belsher Place, and the Stars and Contacts are expected to use less than 15 per cent of that allotted total. The SMHA will gain access to ice times vacated by the Stars and Contacts at their former home rinks.
    The Saskatoon Blazers midget AAA club will continue to play out of the Rod Hamm Arena. Last season, the Blazers finished eighth in the SMAAAHL and were swept 3-0 in a best-of-five first round playoff series by the Notre Dame Hounds, who moved on to capture the SMAAAHL title and the Telus Cup as national champs.

CBC story shows bonds of the Humboldt Broncos girlfriends

    On Friday, the CBC released an online feature focused on how the girlfriends of the players on the Humboldt Broncos were rallying together in their own group after the tragic crash of the team bus on April 6.
    Back on April 6, the bus carrying the Broncos team was involved in a collision with a semitrailer about 30 kilometres north of Tisdale. The Broncos were on their way to Nipawin for an SJHL playoff game against the Hawks.
    The crash resulted in the deaths of 16 players and team officials and injuries to 13 other players from the team.
    The girlfriends of the Broncos players gather together in Saskatoon from June 22 to 24 and made a trip out to Humboldt during that time. CBC followed their story and it was sweet and heartbreaking.
    The CBC feature of this remarkable group of young women can be found here.

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Monday, 25 June 2018

WWCFL title clash delivered classic showdown

Riot prevail 14-10 in comeback victory over Valkyries

Mallory Starkey (#7) rushed for two touchdowns for the Riot on Sunday.
    As the Regina Riot relished in a championship victory, the spectators on Sunday at Mosaic Stadium likely came away with the feeling they saw something special.
    In the Western Women’s Canadian Football League title game in the Saskatchewan capital city, the Regina Riot faced their archrivals the Saskatoon Valkyries. The WWCFL playoff format was changed before the start of the 2018 season to create the opportunity for the two powerhouse clubs to meet in the league’s title game.
    Since the WWCFL was formed in 2011, the Riot and Valkyries have created what is becoming a lengthy list of classic encounters, which included meetings in the Prairie Conference championship game.
    They successfully added to that list of classic engagements creating the most exciting WWCFL title game to date. In the process, they both showed how good elite level women’s tackle football can be, where the Riot claimed a 14-10 victory in a fierce defensive battle.
    During the clash, the Valkyries came out hot offensively in the first quarter. Carly Dyck booted a 29-yard field goal and running back Sarah Wright scored a touchdown on a two-yard run to complete a solid offence drive to give the visitors a 10-0 edge.
    The Riot comeback was a gutty one thanks to the fact the Valkyries wouldn’t allow the hosts to have anything easy.
    The host side got a spark in the second quarter when clutch cornerback Courtney Tafelmeyer intercepted Valkyries star quarterback Alex Eyolfson at the Saskatoon 51 yard-line and set the Riot up on the Saskatoon 47 yard-line.
    The Riot marched down the field, converted three gambles on third down and scored a touchdown on a one-yard run by running back Mallory Starkey to cut the Valkyries edge to 10-7.
    Saskatoon’s edge was further trimmed to 10-8 in the third quarter, when the Riot scored a single on a 17-yard missed field goal by kicker Morgan Turner.
    Early in the fourth quarter, the Valkyries defence came up with a goal-line stand to prevent the Riot from going ahead.
    Late in the fourth quarter, the Riot went ahead 14-10 on a one-yard touchdown run by Starkey that capped a 10-play drive that covered 59 yards.
    The Valkyries attempted a two-minute drill drive to retake the lead, but the drive stalled, when Eyolfson was sacked for a big loss by Riot linebacker Adrienne Zuck.
    Zuck had another sack in the final seconds of the frame, when the Valkyries were trying to find a miracle play to go ahead.
    The win allowed the Riot to capture their second straight WWCFL title and third in team history. Regina finished with a 7-0 overall record to create the first undefeated season in team history.
    The Valkyries, who were 4-3 overall, claimed the WWCFL championship the five other times it has been handed out winning four straight crowns from 2011 to 2014 and one in 2016.
    In the aftermath of Sunday’s clash, Twitter was filled with posts saying how great the game was as well as passing on congratulations to the Riot.
    The game was shown on Access 7 in Regina, and it will likely be rebroadcast to allow more opportunities for people in Access 7s viewing area to see the encounter.
    Sunday’s contest has created some buzz in Saskatchewan for how great the WWCFL game can be.
    Both sides have strong coaching staffs with Olivier Eddie heading up the Riot and Pat Barry heading up the Valkyries.
    Both clubs are led by star quarterback in veteran Aimee Kowalski of the Riot and Eyolfson, who is still a youngster at age 20, guiding the Valkyries.
    There will be some interesting storylines to follow next season. The Manitoba Fearless improved greatly and proved they can play with the Riot and Valkyries. Will progression of the Fearless continue next season?
    The Valkyries are expected to get running back Samantha Matheson back from injury, and Dyck, who returned from injury to kick in the playoffs to perform kicking duties, is expected to return to a receiver spot with the Valkyries next season. Both have shown they are special players, and it will interesting to see if they can recreate their big performances of the past.
    The possibilities of what the WWCFL can hold in the future are endless.

Blades’ Florchuk may be steal for Capitals

The Capitals drafted Blades LW Eric Florchuk.
    When the Washington Capitals look back on the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, they might look back on their selection of Eric Florchuk as a steal.
    The Capitals picked the 18-year-old left-winger from the Saskatoon Blades in the seventh round and 217th overall in the NHL Entry Draft, which wrapped up Saturday in Dallas, Texas. Florchuk was the last player picked in the NHL Entry Draft.
    In the NFL, the final selection of the NFL Draft is dubbed with the title “Mr. Irrelevant.” The “Mr. Irrelevant” in the NFL actually gets invited along with his family to spend a week at Newport Beach, Calif., during the summer after the draft.
    The festivities include enjoying a golf tournament, a regatta, a roast where advice is given to the new draftee and a ceremony where the draftee is presented the Lowsman Trophy. The trophy mimics the Heisman Trophy, but it depicts a player fumbling the football.
    While Florchuk won’t get to spend a week having fun in Newport Beach, Calif., he has legitimate potential to an impact player for the Capitals someday.
    The Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., product was selected in the first round and 13th overall in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft by the Victoria Royals. As a 16-year-old rookie in 2016-17, Florchuk appeared in 51 regular season games with the Royals collecting three goals and six assists.
    In his sophomore campaign last season, Florchuk had seven goals, 21 assists and a plus-10 rating in the plus-minus department playing his first 43 games with the Royals. He was acquired by the Blades shortly before the WHL trade deadline.
    Playing on a youthful Saskatoon roster, Florchuk saw increased ice time and played in a number of different situations for the Blades. He posted nine goals, 13 assists and a plus-one rating in 28 regular season appearances with the Blades.
    He first turned heads in Saskatoon in his first home game with the Blades on Jan. 20, when he tipped home a shot from linemate Kirby Dach for the overtime winner in a 4-3 victory over the Memorial Cup hosting Regina Pats.
    Florchuk, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 173 pounds, still has a lot of potential to grow and his best days in the WHL are ahead of him. He will likely become one of the Blades top forwards, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he shaped up into being a good pro.

Raiders’ Fonstad off to Les Canadiens

The Canadiens drafted Raiders RW Cole Fonstad (#24).
    Cole Fonstad has been one of the Prince Albert Raiders most dynamic players the past two season, and his efforts were rewarded with an NHL Entry Draft selection.
    The 18-year-old right-winger was selected by the Montreal Canadiens in the fifth round and 128th overall in the NHL Entry Draft, which wrapped up Saturday in Dallas, Texas. Fonstad played his first two regular season games with the Raiders as a 15-year-old call up in the 2015-16 campaign.
    In 143 career regular season games with the Raiders, Fonstad has piled up 32 goals and 68 assists. The Estevan, Sask., product has a breakthrough season this past campaign appearing in all of the Raiders 72 regular season games collecting 21 goals and 52 assists.
    He added four goals and an assist in the post-season for the Raiders, who fell in a heartbreaking best-of-seven first round playoff series 5-4 in Game 7 to the Moose Jaw Warriors.
    As Fonstad stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 162 pounds, there is always a fear that he might not get the call from an NHL club due to the fact his isn’t bigger from a physical stature perspective. During his time with the Raiders, the Estevan, Sask., product has never been afraid to go into the greasy areas on the ice.
    On the character side, the members of the Prince Albert Northern Bears female midget AAA team say he is a good guy, so that reference is good enough for me to go forward on that front.
    Fonstad is one of those players you have to get out and watch while he is still in the WHL.

GoFundMe campaign started for Vandervlis

Hurricanes C Ryan Vandervlis reacts to a goal in April of 2017.
    The road to recovery for Lethbridge Hurricanes centre Ryan Vandervlis appears it is going to be a long one.
    On June 15, Hurricanes captain Jordy Bellerive, Vandervlis and former team member Matt Alfaro, who currently plays for the University of Calgary Dinos, were all involved in a mishap at the family home of former Hurricanes captain Tyler Wong just west of Calgary. Wong was hosting nine of his friends at the family residence, and they were planning to go golfing and camping the next day.
    There was an explosion from the campfire that was started that night at the Wong residence. Bellerive, 19, and Alfaro, 21, sustained burns to their upper bodies and Vandervlis, 20, sustained burns to the front of his body and was placed in a medically induced coma. Vandervlis was taken off dialysis on June 18.
    Bellerive and Alfaro are slated to have relatively short roads to recovery, but the same can’t be said for Vandervlis, who sustained critical injuries. The Red Deer, Alta., product is facing months of recovery and multiple surgeries. He is slated to enter his overage campaign in the upcoming WHL season, but hockey is the furthest thing from the minds of his family and friends.
    A GoFundMe page has been started to assist Vandervlis and his family as the WHL veteran goes through his lengthy recovery process. The campaign set a goal of raising $25,000 and over $45,400 has been raise so far.
    Vandervlis’s billet mom, Meghan Calder, gave a lengthy description of extend Vandervlis has made to leave a positive impact on the community of Lethbridge.
    Should donations exceed the actual cost of recovery, the excess amount in full will be donated in full to a not for profit organization of Vandervlis’s choice.
    In 162 regular season games played over four seasons with the Hurricanes, Vandervlis had collected 30 goals and 37 assists.
    Those looking to donate to the GoFundMe campaign for Vandervlis can do so by clicking right here.

’Riders voice shares alcohol battle story with Leader-Post

    Saskatchewan Roughriders play-by-play voice Rod Pedersen shared his story of recovering from alcohol addiction noting it almost cost him his role with the CFL team.
    Pedersen, who is now sober, has shared his personal experiences in the media in a number of instances over the past couple of years. In a recent video interview with the Regina Leader-Post, Pedersen said he was suspended from work due to his alcohol addiction and it almost cost him his livelihood.
    Even fans of opposing teams have to admit Pedersen’s road to recovery has been an amazing one. Pedersen has stirred the pot to get fans all rambunctious on the CFL circuit over the years.
    The Leader-Post video interview can be found right here.

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Sunday, 24 June 2018

Ticket price hike won’t help Huskies sell out new rink

    It appears the University of Saskatchewan Huskies hockey teams believe they have a ticket buying public that is dying to see their games like the WHL champion Swift Current Broncos.
    If you plan to see the Huskies hockey teams hit the ice for their inaugural campaign in their brand new rink in Merlis Belsher Place, be prepared to shell out more money.
    Last season in the final campaign at the ancient Rutherford Rink, you could see either Huskies hockey team play for $13 a seat for an adult ticket. Only 845 tickets could be sold for each game in the 88-year-old facility.
    Ticket prices will be more in the Huskies new rink, which will seat 3,437 spectators when it is fully completed. For the first season at Merlis Belsher Place, the seats in the end behind one of the nets won’t be in place.
    Under the current season ticket packages that are being sold for the new facility, the best per game value goes if you purchase a bundle for all men’s and women’s games for $400. For those 28 contests, you will be shelling out about $14.28 per seat per game.
    A regular season ticket to see either just the men’s games or the women’s games is worth $240. For 14 regular season dates, that works out to about $17.14 per seat.
    A VIP club seat to see all the games for either the men’s team or the women’s team is set at $365. For 14 regular season games, that works out to about $26.07 per seat.
    These new per seat prices are creeping up to mirror the pricing in rinks for major junior hockey. They will be on the high end compared to pricing against other hockey teams in U Sports.
    The Huskies new rink also has real luxury box seating and those start at $699 for the season.
    If there is a demand to see a team play, that team has all the power to increase ticket prices. Looking back at last season at the Rutherford Rink, the largest home attendance was listed at 505 for a 2-1 Huskies men’s playoff loss to the University of Calgary Dinos on February 23. The largest home attendance for a women’s game was 389 for a 2-1 Huskies home playoff victory over the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds on February 24.
    Both of those figures are well short of selling out Rutherford at $13 a seat for an adult ticket.
    If anyone says ticket sales are going well for the new rink, I would be very skeptical. I will take an “I will believe it when I see it” stance here.
    The realist wouldn’t envision attendances of under 500 per game at the Rutherford translating into crowds of over 3,000 per game with increased pricing at Merlis Belsher Place.
    In recent years at Rutherford, sellouts were limited to playoff games for the men’s hockey team, especially if they were hosting the Canada West Championship series.
    The largest listed crowd to see the Huskies women’s team at Rutherford was 791 spectators on March 1, 2014, when they dropped Game 2 of the Canada West Championship series 2-1 to the University of Regina Cougars in quadruple overtime.
Gritty forward Parker Thomas has been featured on Huskies hockey ads.
    It is believed the largest paid attendance for a female hockey game in Saskatchewan not including contests involving the Canadian national team program was when the Prince Albert Northern Bears drew an estimated 1,200 spectators to the Art Hauser Center in Prince Albert on April 1, 2017. That night, the Bears defeated the Hartney, Man., based Westman Wildcats 7-6 to lock up victory in a female midget AAA Western regional playdown series.
    It is a safe estimate to say at least three out of the eight clubs in the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League outdraw the Huskies women’s hockey team and the University of Regina Cougars women’s hockey team for that matter on a regular basis.
    In another head scratcher move, the initial advertisements for season ticket packages featured Kaitlin Willoughby, who is the now graduated star captain of the Huskies women’s team. In sports marketing, you normally feature players that will be playing for your team in the upcoming season on advertisements unless you are going to have a night to honour a former player or retire their number.
    While covering games in the WHL playoffs, I discussed that with a number of people who worked for teams on that circuit, and they agreed with that observation.
Goalie Jessica Vance has been featured in Huskies hockey ads.
    For the last little while, advertisements for the Huskies hockey teams have often featured gritty forward Parker Thomas, who will enter his fifth season for the men’s team, and star netminder Jessica Vance, who will enter her third season of eligibility with the women’s team.
    There is opportunity for the Huskies to grow their ticket base for their hockey teams. I know I have come across a number of people that said they wouldn’t attend a Huskies hockey game until they moved out of Rutherford, because that facility had numerous deficiencies. To be honest, it is surprising that Rutherford hasn’t been condemned.
    I have come across a number of people who were upset when the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades fired Dean Brockman as head coach, when the Blades regular season wrapped up in March. It is possible those ticket buyers would be interested in going to see another high level hockey product.
    The staff in Huskie Athletics does employ a number of people who used to work on the WHL circuit including Michael Jenkins, Sean Gilchrist, Luke Anderson and Samantha Erhardt. Their presence will help the Huskies sell tickets.
Will the Huskies draw bigger crowds playing in a new rink?
    With that said, it should be noted decisions in universities are often made by committee involving various people in the institution, so that creates the possibility of speed bumps in trying to do anything.
    One thing that can’t be denied is U Sports hockey on the men’s and women’s side is a great product. With that said, even a great product is only worth what a market will pay to see it.

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Saturday, 23 June 2018

Rageahol runs through Rider Nation when Roughriders lose

Head coach and GM Chris Jones, centre, and the Roughriders lost a bad one.
    It is almost comical the way rageahol runs through Rider Nation when the Saskatchewan Roughriders lose.
    On June 15, the Roughriders opened the CFL regular season with a 27-19 victory over the defending Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts in the friendly confines of Mosaic Stadium. Everything was great, and Roughriders fans seemed to have visions of a memorable campaign ending in a Grey Cup triumph.
    On Thursday, the Roughriders played their second regular season game traveling to Ottawa to face the host Redblacks. Before 24,224 spectators at TD Place Stadium, the Redblacks rolled to a 40-17 victory.
    The Redblacks played great, but the Roughriders put on one of their classic stinkers. It seems like Saskatchewan is good for three of those a season even in championship campaigns.
    All of a sudden, it seems like a huge vocal group of Roughriders fans collectively push the panic button. The comments on sports talk radio and social media lines seems to be similar every time the Roughriders lose.
    There are calls for players to be traded and coaches and managers to be fired. At times, it seems like no one is immune to criticism in the Roughriders organization.
    If you search hard enough, you will probably find blame getting spread to the waterboy, Gainer the Gopher and the Rider Cheer Team.
    When you look at the schedule, the Roughriders were heading into a buzz saw in their match with the Redblacks.
Charleston Hughes (#39) and the Roughriders had a rough day in Ottawa.
    Saskatchewan was going into that contest on a short week with five off days between games and had to travel. Ottawa had a bye to start the 2018 campaign resulting in the benefit of an extra week to prepare for Saskatchewan.
    In most incidents where that type of situation occurs in professional football, a blowout occurs where the club with the extra rest wins by a lopsided score.
    For those that are part of Roughriders organization, it becomes a daily part of life seeing fans react in extremes with their emotions. The players try not to get too caught up in how the fans react and work on getting better for the next game.
    Thursday’s loss made me flashback to a bad setback the Roughriders had in the 2008 CFL season. On Oct. 13, 2008, the Roughriders were heading to Calgary to play the host Stampeder at McMahon Stadium.
    Both teams went head-to-head 10 days earlier at Taylor Field in Regina, where the Roughriders pulled out a 37-34 victory.
    Both clubs were sporting 9-5 records and the winner would sit alone in first place in the West Division. The squad that lost would fall in a three-way tie for second to fourth in the division with the Edmonton Eskimos and British Columbia Lions, who were both 9-6.
    It felt like the clash on Oct. 13, 2008 at McMahon Stadium was over minutes into the first quarter. The Stampeders romped past the Roughriders by a 42-5 final score.
    At the time, I had a number of friends who were playing for the Roughriders. After the game, I visited with a few of them outside the stadium where they boarded the bus.
Rider Nation had a tough day in Calgary on October 13, 2008.
    One friend, who was a fan favourite and a regular starter, came to me and he said he didn’t know why the team played so flat. He said everyone was pumped up and motivated for the game and the wheels basically fell off.
    The social media platform Facebook was still fairly new at this time and a lot more basic than it is now. My friend mentioned early in the season he went into Facebook after a loss and there were 30 direct messages waiting for him.
    He pretty much knew most of the messages would be negative so he selected all of them and hit delete. He expected he would have to do the same thing after that loss to the Stampeders.
    My friend on the team said you just had to correct mistakes and move on as nothing could be done to change the outcome of that defeat to the Stampeders.
    To show how long ago that was, most professional squads and high level amateur teams didn’t have policies regarding social media. Twitter was around but wasn’t widely used and Instagram didn’t exist.
    In the current day, most of the fans do their social media venting on Twitter and Facebook. There might be some harsh words in the comments section in the pictures teams post on their Instagram sites, but that isn’t a regular place where displeasure is shown.
    On a side note, I remember one other friend taking that loss in 2008 hard in Roughriders special teams coach Alex Smith. He came out of the stadium door, said “hi” and walked aimlessly into the distance.
    To this day, I think he came back to one of the two team busses, but I am not sure.
Members of Rider Nation leave McMahon Stadium on October 13, 2008.
    Whether it be 2008, 1958, 1968 or 2018, fans in Saskatchewan seem to project getting too high emotionally when the Roughriders win and too low emotionally when they lose.
    What seems to be forgotten is that when the Roughriders win, they still aren’t going to be the second coming of Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers NFL dynasty teams. When the Roughriders lose, they won’t be the current day version of the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers sad sack NFL expansion team.
    All that matters is the 2018 CFL season still young.
    The Roughriders get to go out and try to be a little bit better in their next game on June 30, when they host the Montreal Alouettes (0-2) at 7 p.m. at Mosaic Stadium.

Awards loss by Rams’ Cross a “ho-hum” thing

Rams LB Nick Cross (#9) runs down Thunderbirds QB Cole Meyer.
    University of Regina Rams linebacker Nick Cross had a bit of an awkward week.
    During the 2017 U Sports football season, Cross entered his rookie campaign for the Rams starting at outside linebacker right out of high school. He appeared in all eight of the Rams regular season games recording 46 tackles, three tackles for a loss including a sack, two pass break ups, a forced fumble and an interception.
    For his efforts, he was awarded the Peter Gorman Trophy as the U Sports rookie of the year and a second team U Sports all-Canadian all-star.
    On Wednesday, Cross was stripped of both of those honours by U Sports due to testing positive for cannabis. The graduate of Regina’s Dr. Martin LeBoldus High School was subjected to a random drug test following the Rams final regular season game on Oct. 28, 2017, when they dropped a 44-15 decision to the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in Vancouver.
    While cannabis will soon be legal, it is still on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited list. It will still be a banned substance during the U Sports competitive season when it becomes legal.
    Cross was suspended two months, and he became fully active to return to team activities on Jan. 4.
    Before being suspended, Cross appeared in the Rams 28-21 Canada West semifinal playoff loss to the Thunderbirds in Vancouver on Nov. 4, 2017.
    Cross was also stripped of his Canada West rookie-of-the-year award and his Canada West all-star honour.
    The Canada West reward the rookie of the year award to University of Calgary Dinos offensive lineman Tyler Packer and the all-star award at linebacker to Cyril Iwanegbe, who is also from the Dinos.
    At the U Sports national level, quarterback Tre Ford of the University of Waterloo Warriors became the new rookie of the year. The second team U Sports all-Canadian all-star award at linebacker went to Bailey Feltmate of the Acadia University Axemen.
    Of course, Cross tested positive for a drug that doesn’t enhance on field performance. If he battles with mental health issues regarding anxiety, it is possible cannabis might help him get calm before a game, so that technically would help improve performance.
    There would have been a time in the late 1990s and the early 2000s, when this would have been a more major story. In Saskatoon, the sanctions against Cross would have been well known due to the fact he played for the Rams, the Rams had an intense rivalry with Saskatoon and there were more people in the mainstream media that would track such a story.
    The fans in Saskatoon would be out in full force to heckle the Rams the next time they played the University of Saskatchewan Huskies at Griffiths Stadium, and Cross would have been a target. The rivalry between Saskatoon and Regina was very heated back then.
    These days, there likely aren’t very many people in the general public in Saskatoon who know Cross is. The news of the sanctions against him are pretty much “ho-hum” thing.
    A year ago, Rams linebacker Michael Stefanovic removed himself from the 2017 CFL Draft after an alleged doping violation. On May 4, 2017, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) announced that a urine sample provided by Stefanovic during the CFL’s western regional combine in Regina on March 23, 2017 revealed the presence of drostanolone, which is a prohibited anabolic agent.
    At the time, a violation of the CCES’s anti-doping rules had not been confirmed, but the news about Stefanovic was disclosed due to the fact he was eligible for the CFL Draft.
    On October 23, 2017, the CCES confirmed Stefanovic’s doping violation. He was given a sanction of four years ineligibility from sport. He is ineligible to participate in any capacity with any sport signatory to the Canadian Anti-Doping Program including training with teammates.
    The news around Stefanovic barely made a ripple outside of Regina. Thanks to the fact he had exhausted his U Sports eligibility at the time of his drug infraction, there were very few follow up pieces if any in the mainstream media when his suspension was announced.
    It is highly unlikely Stefanovic would play any sort of competitive sport again, so there wouldn’t be any motivation to do any follow story in most media outlets.
    If what happened Stefanovic occurred in the late 1990s or early 2000s, that would have added fuel to the fire for Saskatoon fans to heckle the Rams.
    Also during that period of time if members of any Huskies teams went through situations like Cross and Stefanovic experienced, the Huskies teams would receive biting heckles by fans in Regina when they arrived in the Saskatchewan capital for road games.
    In the grand scheme of things, what Stefanovic was found guilty of was likely worse than what Cross was found guilty of. Cross’s infraction will likely be more of a small bump in the road.
    Thanks to the fact U Sports doesn’t have as high of a profile as it once did due to the media cut era of today, stories like the situations involving Cross and Stefanovic will be viewed as minor and will likely be quickly forgotten.

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Friday, 22 June 2018

Riot versus Valkyries – the title showdown the WWCFL was waiting for

Amy Kowalski (#12) calls out signals for the Riot against the Valkyries.
    It seems only fitting there will finally be a Western Women’s Canadian Football League championship game between the Regina Riot and the Saskatoon Valkyries.
    Since the WWCFL played its inaugural season in 2011, the Riot and Valkyries have the powerhouse clubs on the circuit combining to win all seven WWCFL titles that have been handed out to date. The Valkyries won the first four titles from 2011 to 2014 and a fifth championship in 2016. The Riot won it all in 2015 and last year.
    In last year’s championship final held at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, the Riot bombed the Calgary Rage 53-0 to capture the WWCFL crown.
    On Sunday, the Riots host the Valkyries in this year’s WWCFL championship game set for 3 p.m. at Mosaic Stadium in Regina. Pre-game festivities begin with a party at Confederation Park outside the stadium at 1 p.m.
    This year’s WWCFL title game meeting between the defending champion Riot and the Valkyries was made possible by a change in the playoff format. Normally, teams played through their conference to get to the league’s championship game, but the semifinal was played in a cross conference format this year.
    The change was made to create the possibility of having a final that featured a match between the Riot and Valkyries assuming they would be the league’s two best clubs once again. The two clubs have battled in a number of competitive and tight games, and there are hopes that history will repeat itself on Sunday.
    In the seven previous WWCFL championship games, the closest game occurred in 2013 in Regina, when the Valkyries downed the Lethbridge Steel 27-13. The other six title clashes were lopsided blowouts.
    The greatest battle that occurred between the Riot and Valkyries occurred on June 28, 2015 in the Prairie Conference title game in Regina at Taylor Field. The Riot slowly built a 28-7 lead in the fourth quarter only for the Valkyries to storm back and go ahead 29-28.
Valkyries QB Alex Eyolfson (#15) fires a pass behind Shelby Payne’s block.
    With 15 seconds to play in the contest, Riot kicker Morgan Turner booted a 12 yard field goal into a strong wind to give Regina a 31-29 victory.
    In last year’s Prairie Conference final, the Riot downed the Valkyries 34-24 in an entertaining clash in what would be the final competitive tackle football game ever played at Taylor Field before it was demolished.
    The Riot enter this year’s contest sporting a 6-0 overall record, while the Valkyries are 4-2 overall. Regina claimed both head-to-head encounters with Saskatoon this year.
    On May 12 at Griffiths Stadium in Saskatoon, the Riot downed the Valkyries 28-7. On June 3 at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, the Riot slipped past the Valkyries 21-16.
    Both teams had their share of adversity. For head coach Olivier Eddie and his Riot, they had to at first try and avoid some rust. They had an unexpected bye week during the regular season when the Winnipeg Wolfpack elected to suspend operations for the 2018 campaign and won that encounter via forfeit.
    With the Wolfpack out of the playoff picture, the Riot received a bye through the first round of the post-season.
    Before they were to host the Edmonton Storm in a league semifinal, a Riot team van was stolen that contained the club’s game day informs.
    The Riot wore the uniforms the Canadian Junior Football League’s Regina Thunder for the WWCFL semifinal clash with the Storm last Sunday. The Riot romped to a 45-9 victory.
    The stolen van and the club’s uniforms were recovered earlier this week, and the Riot are expected to wear their regular gear in the WWCFL title game.
    For head coach Pat Barry and his Valkyries, they had to play through a number of injuries this season and overcome some key departures from last season. As a result, some younger players gained a pile of experience, while some veterans were moved to new positions to fill holes and gained new experience as a result.
    The Valkyries received a big scare in their WWCFL quarter-final match, when they just slipped past the much improved Manitoba Fearless 16-13. Following the win over the Fearless, the Valkyries traveled to Calgary on June 16 and downed the Rage 30-6 in a WWCFL semifinal contest.
The Valkyries D tracks down Riot RB Mallory Starkey (#7).
    Both sides have numerous talented players to rely on. The Riot offence is guided by star quarterback Aimee Kowalski, while veteran linebacker Adrienne Zuck helps steady the defence.
    Defensive back and kick returner Payton Kuster stepped into the spotlight in last year’s WWCFL title game returning two punts for touchdowns in the Riot’s win over the Rage.
    The Valkyries offence has been guided by quarterback Alex Eyolfson and received a big season from running back Sarah Wright. Veteran linebacker Denise Kolosky has been a key leader on defence.
    Saskatoon received a huge boost when Carly Dyck returned from injury to resume her duties in the kicking game in the semifinal win over the Rage.
    The elements are there to help make this year’s WWCFL championship game a classic.

Hurricanes fire incident unfortunate accident

Hurricanes captain Jordy Bellerive (#15) was hurt in a campfire mishap.
    Two current members and one alumnus of the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes are still dealing with the after effects of a pretty big scare.
    On June 15, Hurricanes captain Jordy Bellerive, centre Ryan Vandervlis and former team member Matt Alfaro, who currently plays for the University of Calgary Dinos, were all involved in a mishap at the family home of former Hurricanes captain Tyler Wong just west of Calgary. Wong was hosting nine of his friends at the family residence, and they were planning to go golfing and camping the next day.
    There was an explosion from the campfire that was started that night at the Wong residence. Bellerive, 19, and Alfaro, 21, sustained burns to their upper bodies and Vandervlis, 20, sustained burns to the front of his body and was placed in a medically induced coma. Vandervlis was taken off dialysis on Monday.
    A release from the Cochrane RCMP on June 17 stated a substance was placed in the fire pit that caused an explosion.
    Alcohol was ruled out as a contributing factor and there wasn’t any evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
    Hurricanes general manager Peter Anholt held a press conference on Tuesday in Lethbridge to provide an update on the situation. Anholt said there had been inquiries about aiding the Vandervlis family, and he added the Hurricanes will help and aid the Vandervlis family to make that process clearer in the near future.
Dinos F Matt Alfaro was hurt in a campfire mishap.
    On Tuesday, Bellerive released a statement through his Twitter account thanking the public for their support. Alfaro, who spent a lengthy stretch in the WHL with the Kootenay Ice, released a statement through the Dinos Twitter account offering those same thoughts. 
    Anholt also said on Tuesday everyone involved with the Hurricanes was shaken up by what happened including Wong’s parents Julie and Will. Those that have dealt with Anholt over the years know he cares about the players under his watch like they were his own sons.
    The Hurricanes wanted to clarify that the gathering was not a stag or bachelor party.
    What happened with Bellerive, Vandervlis and Alfaro is one of those situations were accidents will happen.
    It is common during the off-season where members of major junior teams will have social gatherings at somebody’s place. The odd time there will be an innocent mishap, and that is just life.
    In most cases, the gathers go off without a hitch.
    By the sounds of things coming out of Lethbridge, Bellerive, Vandervlis and Alfaro will all make full recoveries, and at the end of the day, that is the best news that could be passed along.

Thumbs up to StarPhoenix for following Broncos to Vegas

    A thumbs up has to go to the Saskatoon StarPhoenix this week for sending staff down to Las Vegas to cover the journey of 10 surviving members of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash to Las Vegas.
    Veteran sportswriter Kevin Mitchell and photographer Liam Richards followed the junior A Broncos down to Las Vegas as they attended the NHL Awards on Wednesday night along with taking part in other festivities put on by the NHL
    Darcy Haugen, the Broncos head coach and general manager who died in the April 6 crash, was named the posthumous winner of the NHL’s Willie O’Ree Community Hero award.
    Darcy’s wife, Christina Haugan, accepted the award and gave a rousing acceptance speech.
    The coverage by Mitchell and Richards in following the SJHL Broncos has been outstanding, and it has been something I believe has gone over well in the local community.

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Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Ethier loved being a standout in both softball and hockey

Former elite athlete a Saskatoon Sports Hall of Fame inductee

Trevor Ethier starred in both softball and hockey.
    Trevor Ethier was happy he never had to choose to play just either softball or hockey.
    Growing up in Saskatoon, he played both sports at an elite level. As a pitcher and third baseman in softball, Ethier advanced in his career to become a member of the Canadian national team from 2003 to 2009.
    He helped Canada win gold at the 2003 Pan-American Games and bronze at the 2009 International Softball Federation World Men’s Championships.
    As a right-winger in hockey, Ethier became a member of the Saskatoon Blades playing the compete 1993-94 season with his hometown WHL club helping them advance to the WHL championship series, where they fell in seven games to the eventual Memorial Cup champion Kamloops Blazers.
    Ethier was best remembered for playing four complete seasons with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team from 1996 to 2000. In the history of the Huskies men’s team, Ethier ranks third in all-time goals (75), 14th in all-time assists (82) and seventh in all-time points (157) in regular season play.
    He helped the Huskies win three straight Canada West championships from 1998 to 2000 and appear in three straight U Sports national championship tournaments.
    “I really enjoyed that switch, that transition,” said Ethier. “At that point in time when I was doing both of those sports my entire life, I never wanted to play either one all year round.
    “I was always ready to move on to the next one. I really encourage people to be multi-sport athletes, if they can do that. If it works out for them to continue that as long as they can, I think that is a great way of doing it.”
    On Wednesday at a press conference at the Saskatoon Fieldhouse, the 42-year-old was announced as an inductee for the Saskatoon Sports Hall of Fame class of 2018 in the athlete category. It marks the first time Ethier has been named to any sports Hall of Fame.
    “I’ve just been very excited,” said Ethier. “I’m extremely honoured to be part of such a special group.
    “I’m really thankful to be part of something so special. To be able to play two sports in our great city with all these great people and volunteers, I just think we have always been an amazing host here in Saskatoon.
    “Just the relationships and the friendships that you have built along the way, it has just been pretty special. You take that with you forever.”
    Ethier said he felt fortunate he came up in an era where it was still common for athletes to play multiple sports. These days, specialization is more the norm, where an athlete at an elite level picks one sport and plays it all year round.
Dan Asham, Keith Cote and Dave Elder will enter the hall as builders.
    “During that season whether it was hockey or softball, that was my favourite sport,” said Ethier. “All of a sudden when I was finished, I was ready to switch to the other one and that became my favourite sport at that time.”
    Ethier hopes there will still be some high level athletes in the current day that try to play multiple sports. As far as his career goes, he wouldn’t have made as many memories, if he had specialized.
    In softball, his greatest memory was playing with the Canadian national team for as long as he did.
    In hockey, his best memories were being part of the Blades in the 1993-94 campaign and his career with the Huskies.
    During each of the three straight Canada West championships wins from 1998 to 2000, the Huskies defeated their “forever rivals” the University of Alberta Golden Bears in the conference title series. The Golden Bears bounced back to win the U Sports national title in 1999 and 2000.
    The Huskies hosted U Sports nationals after each of those Canada West title wins, but were never able to capture the University Cup. Looking back, Ethier said there were no regrets in the fact the Huskies weren’t able to capture the top prize in U Sports men’s hockey.
    “Those were fantastic years,” said Ethier. “We had great teams, great coaches.
    “We always had some great rivalries. I think it was just an awesome experience right from the get go to be able to host those championships here and have all those battles with the Bears. It was great.”
    These days, Ethier is heavily involved in coaching softball. On top of coaching at various levels, he has a teaching position at Tommy Douglas Collegiate and a major part of his teaching assignment is working as an instructor at the Tiger Softball Academy.
    “Coaching is great,” said Ethier. “I love to be able to be able to give back in this great game.
    “I get to teach and coach softball all day at my job at Tommy Douglas in the softball academy program. I am also coaching with the junior national team. I am also coaching the Selects U-19 midget team here in Saskatoon as well.
    “I keep pretty busy with all those aspects. Just getting the opportunity to do that is pretty special.”
    Other athletes that are part of the 2018 Saskatoon Sports Hall of Fame class include Mike Anderson, who was an offensive lineman with the 1989 Grey Cup champion Saskatchewan Roughriders and a Saskatoon Hilltops grad, Kris Odegard in racquetball and Viola Yanik in wrestling.
Bob Kinzel, right, helped start the Saskatoon 50-Plus Hockey League.
    Those entering the hall in the builders category include Dan Asham in baseball, Keith Cote in volleyball, Dave Elder in multiple sports, Kerry Tarasoff in curling and Irene Wallace in basketball.
    The University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s teams for track and field that won the U Sports national title in 2003 and 2004 will be inducted under the team category. Those were the last two national championship track teams guided by legendary Huskies track and field head coach Lyle Sanderson, who passed away in February.
    The Saskatoon 50-Plus Hockey League was named the Sports Organization of the Year by the local Hall of Fame.
    The Saskatoon Sports Hall of Fame 33rd annual induction ceremonies will be held on Nov. 3 at TCU Place.

Ring day for 2017 CJFL champion Hilltops

From left, Ryan Turple, James Vause and Jason Price show off their rings. 
    The smiles at the Saskatoon Minor Football Field clubhouse were as wide as they could be.
    On Wednesday, the members of the 2017 Saskatoon Hilltops received their championship rings for winning their fourth straight Canadian Junior Football League championship. The Hilltops posted an 11-1 overall record in the 2017 campaign and dismantled the Windsor AKO Fratmen 56-11 to win the Canadian Bowl as league champions on November 11, 2017 in Windsor, Ont.
    James Vause, who completed his final year of CJFL eligibility playing safety and kicking for the Hilltops in 2017, couldn’t believe how big the new ring looked.
    “It was honestly so big it almost fell out of the box when I opened it,” said Vause. “This is a 5XL. We’ve typically gone 4XLs in the past, so it is pretty massive.
    “I got it on my pinky, and it is basically as big as my pinky right now. It is an unbelievable ring. It is probably my favourite so far.”
    Besides winning the last four straight CJFL championships, the Hilltops have claimed seven out of the last eight league crowns. Overall, the Hilltops have won 20 national junior football titles, with their first championship coming back in 1953 also downing the Fratmen 34-6 at Griffiths Stadium on the University of Saskatchewan campus in Saskatoon.
    Vause wore his three rings from the 2014 to 2016 CJFL championship wins to Wednesday’s ceremony, and the 22-year-old marveled looking at his right hand putting the 2017 ring on his pinky finger to accompany the rings from the previous wins.
Tom Sargeant, right, picks up his 14th CJFL championship ring.
    “It is really cool looking back down on my hand,” said Vause. “We’re the only team that has won four straight.
    “That is even cool in itself the fact that they are all in a row and we broke the record there, where we made history with that championship win. It is just incredibly special.”
    This coming season, Vause and defensive lineman Tom Schnitzler, who also exhausted his CJFL eligibility last season, will travel to Vancouver, B.C., and suit up for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds football team in the U Sports ranks. Vause said the ring ceremony was a special way to cap his time with the Hilltops.
    “It is incredible to go four years and win four,” said Vause. “I’m really blessed that I had that opportunity, and we had such great teams and coaches.
    “I had such a great time with the Hilltops. To come and see the guys again tonight, it just reminded me of how amazing my time there was, and I am really appreciative of that. To end off with a ring is even more special.”
    Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant picked up his 14th CJFL championship ring with the team. He won 11 rings as a head coach, two as an assistant coach and his first as a player back in 1985.

Blades round out coaching staff hiring Marsh

    On Monday, the Saskatoon Blades rounded out their coaching staff hiring Ryan Marsh as an associate coach.
    The 43-year-old from Quesnel, B.C., spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach with the Edmonton Oil Kings. Before joining the WHL ranks with the Oil Kings, Marsh spent time as an assistant coach with the University of Alberta Golden Bears men’s hockey team (2012-2014) in U Sports and the junior A ranks with the Spruce Grove Saints (2006-2010, 2011-12) and the Fort Saskatchewan Traders (2003-06).
    The Golden Bears won the David Johnston University Cup as U Sports national champions in 2014.
    Marsh and first-year Blades head coach Mitch Love are familiar with each other having worked together as assistant coaches with Team Canada Red at the 2016 World under-17 Hockey Challenge.
    “I wanted a guy that the players wanted to play for, a guy the players want to come to work for every day,” said Love in a release. “In all my research from former players that Ryan (Marsh) had coached in Edmonton, everyone had nothing but good things to say about Ryan as a person and a hockey person.
    “That was important because for the last month I’ve been talking about what kind of group we want to be, the culture we want to instill here, and Ryan fit that mold.”
    During his playing days, Marsh was a defenceman in WHL for the Tri-City Americans from 1992 to 1995 appearing in 186 regular season games collecting 16 goals and 29 assists.
    He also played four seasons for the Golden Bears from 1997 to 2001 helping them win U Sports national championships in 1999 and 2000. In the classroom, Marsh picked up his bachelor’s degree in physical education.
    Marsh played his final season of professional hockey in 2001-02 with the Louisiana Ice Gators of the East Coast Hockey League collecting three goals and three assists in 60 regular season games.
    The Blades coaching staff is rounded out by three returning members in assistant coaches Ryan Keller and Jerome Engele, who is a Blades lifer, along with goaltending coach Tim Cheveldae.

Huskies’ grads McFaull and Roach to play pro overseas

Kendall McFaull is set to play hockey overseas.
    Kendall McFaull and Josh Roach are going to get their first taste of playing professional hockey overseas.
    On Tuesday, the MacBeth Report announced McFaull signed a one-year contract with the Belfast Giants (Northern Ireland, U.K. Elite). Last season, the-26-year-old defenceman played his final campaign with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team recording four goals, five assists and a plus-nine rating in the plus-minus department in 27 regular season games.
    McFaull, who has been the Huskies captain for the past three seasons, won the U Sports Dr. Randy Gregg Award for student-athlete community service.
    Away from the rink, McFaull, who graduated from U of S’s mechanical engineering program, has volunteered for various organizations including the Huskie Athletics Academic Council, Huskie homeroom, Saskatoon Minor Hockey and Recess Guardians, which is a program that helps elementary school students learn to interact and develop leadership skills through games and social interaction.
    He was an academic all-Canadian in the 2016-17 campaign.
    During his five seasons with the Huskies from 2013 to 2018, McFaull, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 210 pounds, appeared in 139 regular season games collecting 13 goals, 26 assists and a plus-36 rating.
    Before joining the Huskies, McFaull played four seasons in the WHL with the Moose Jaw Warriors from 2009 to 2013, and he was the team’s captain in his final campaign. He appeared in 269 regular season games with the Warriors recording 16 goals, 39 assists and a minus-one rating.
Josh Roach has also signed on to play overseas for the Giants.
    McFaull will be joined on the Giants by Roach, who was a Huskies teammate. Roach, who also signed a one-year contract with the Giants, finished second overall in scoring for the Canada West conference last season piling up 13 goals and 24 assists in 27 regular season games to go with a plus-19 rating.
    He was a first team Canada West all-star and a second team U Sports all-Canadian all-star. Roach was the sportsmanship and ability award winner for Canada West last season.
    In five complete seasons with the Huskies from 2013 to 2018, Roach, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 190 pounds, appeared in 130 regular season games recording 36 goals, 75 assists and a plus-34 rating.
    Before joining the Huskies, Roach, who will turn 26 in July, spent four seasons playing defence in the junior A ranks from 2009 to 2013 split between the Humboldt Broncos and Flin Flon Bombers. In 203 regular season games divided between the Broncos and Bombers, Roach collected 43 goals and 105 assists.

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