Saturday, 30 November 2019

Vance picks up 18th career shutout for Huskies

Jessica Vance makes one of her 21 saves in goal for the Huskies.
    Jessica Vance just continues to cement herself as one of the all-time greats in the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey program.
    On Saturday at Merlis Belsher Place, Vance turned away all 21 shots she faced to back the Huskies to a 1-0 victory over the Mount Royal University Cougars before 556 spectators. The fourth-year netminder earned her 18th career regular season shutout with the win.
    Besides holding the team record for career regular season shutouts with the Huskies, Vance now sits alone in third spot for the most career shutouts in the history of the Canada West Conference. 
Jessica Vance has 18 career regular season shutouts for the Huskies.
    Vance is one shutout ahead of former University of Manitoba Bisons goalie Stacey Corfield, who collected 17 shutouts over five seasons from 2005 to 2010.
    “It is pretty good I guess,” said Vance, who is in her third season with the Huskies. “Just going into every game, my goal is to get the team the win.
    “It is nice to have that individual side along with it. All that matters is we get the wins, and hopefully, our team can go far this year.”
    During her career with the Huskies, Vance has appeared in 51 regular games posting a 33-12-5 record, a 1.11 goals against average and a .951 save percentage to go with her 18 shutouts. The 22-year-old Prince Albert, Sask., product has the second most regular season victories in the history of the Huskies women’s hockey program.
Cougars LW Tianna Ko and Huskies G Jessica Vance collide.
    She has the fifth most regular season career saves in team history at 1,095 and has played the fourth most career minutes in goal in regular season action at 3,071.
    “I know about it, but I just try not to play attention,” said Vance about her milestones. “I think knowing it just gives me confidence.
    “I try not to think about it during the game or anything like that. I just want to get the win for my team.”
    In Saturday’s win over the Cougars, Vance showed how good her focus was as the only shot she had to face in the first period came off a breakaway.
Leah Bohlken had the Huskies only goal on Saturday.
    With just under five minutes to play in the opening frame, the Huskies first power play of the contest expired, and the Cougars were able to pass the puck up to defender Tori Williams as she stepped out of the penalty box. She was serving a minor infraction for holding.
    Williams jetted up ice, but was stoned by Vance on the scoring opportunity.
    Huskies fifth-year offensive defender Leah Bohlken said that bailout stop was big for her team. The Huskies held a 12-1 edge in shots on goal over the opening 20 minutes and the domination would have gone for naught has the Cougars scored on their one breakaway chance.
    “If the puck ends up in the back of the net, it kind of takes your momentum right down,” said Bohlken. “To have her (Williams) pop out of the box there and get the puck and Vance made that huge save, that just continues on the momentum and makes it even stronger.
The Huskies celebrate Leah Bohlken’s goal.
    “That is like a huge pick me up for everyone after she makes a save like that. It was a good chance that Jess stopped.”
    Just 14 seconds into the second, Bohlken wired home her fourth of the season on a midrange drive to give the host side a 1-0 lead.
    After Bohlken’s goal, the Cougars hit another gear trying to find the equalizer.
    Vance stopped 12 shots in the second period and eight shots in the third to preserve the shutout win for the Huskies. She said she didn’t expect the game to swing like it did.
    “I’ve never played in a game like that before,” said Vance. “That was pretty crazy.
    “You just have to stay focused. That is obviously something that I work on. It worked out good for me today.”
    Bohlken said she has been impressed with the milestones Vance continues to accumulate with the team.
Bailee Bourassa jets into the offensive zone for the Huskies.
    “She has been a huge part of this team obviously,” said Bohlken. “With her getting shutouts, it means we only have to score one goal.
    “That is huge for anybody in our league. Goals are hard to come by. With her getting those shutouts, that helps us each and every game, because it means we don’t have to score as many goals to win.
    “Watching her through her successes, everybody is behind her. Every time she does well, I know she always gets a tap on the pads from everyone, and we are all really supportive and happy that she is doing so well.”
    Zoe DeBeauville turned away 21 shots to take the setback in goal for the Cougars, who fell to 8-8 to sit fifth in the Canada West Conference.
    The Huskies have won three straight games to improve to 9-4-2-1.
Zoe DeBeauville makes one of her 21 stops in goal for the Cougars.
    They are tied with the University of Alberta Pandas (10-6) for second and third in the Canada West standings with 29 standing points.
    The Pandas compiled their 29 points on nine regulation victories and one extra time win. The Huskies collected their 29 points on eight regulation victories, one extra time win and three extra time losses.
    The two squads sit four standings points behind the University of Calgary Dinos for first place and are only seven standings points ahead of the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns for sixth place.
    The Huskies are departing on that note for their exam and Christmas break.
    “Knowing that the conference is so tight, if we keep playing how we can, it is in our hands basically,” said Vance. “It is how tight it is.
The Huskies celebrate their win on Saturday.
    “We come away with a couple of wins on lots of the weekends we can finish first. It is anyone’s hands.”
    Bohlken believes her team has to be happy with how things have gone leading up the exam and Christmas break.
    “I think it has been really good,” said Bohlken. “Going into the Christmas break, this is definitely what we wanted was to come off the weekend with a sweep.
    “Any weekend where you can get a sweep is huge. Sitting tied for second, honestly right now, that doesn’t mean a whole lot, because you lose two games and you can fall to sixth. We know that after the break we have to pick up right where we left off here.
    “It is a really nice momentum builder here, and as long as we keep going the way that we are going, I think we are going to peak at the right time.”
    The Huskies return to action on Jan. 3 in the new year, when they travel to Edmonton to face the Pandas.

Banged up Huskies win eight straight

Andrew Johnson had a goal and two assists for the Huskies on Saturday.
    The U of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team have mastered overcoming the injury bug as well as their opponents.
    On Saturday, the Huskies won their eighth straight game downing the Mount Royal University Cougars 3-2 at the Flames Community Arena in Calgary, Alta.
    The Huskies won Saturday’s game dressing just 17 skaters, which is one under the full complement of 18. Those out of the lineup with various ailments included defencemen Colby Harmsworth and Cody Spagrud along with forwards Jordan Tkatch, Donovan Neuls, Kohl Bauml and Wyatt Johnson.
    Fifth-year forward Andrew Johnson was in on all of the Huskies goals collecting one goal and two assists in the win.
    He gave the Huskies a 1-0 lead in the first period and setup linemate Levi Cable for the squad’s second goal at the 2:07 mark of the second to give the visitors a 2-0 edge.
Taran Kozun made 26 saves in goal for the Huskies on Saturday.
    Rookie forward Sean Richards scored for the Cougars before the second period ended to cut the Huskies lead to 2-1.
    At the 7:27 mark of the third, Johnson set up linemate Layne Young to put the Huskies up 3-1.
Richards set up linemate Chris Gerrie for a Cougars goal that cut the Huskies lead to 3-2 with 1:42 remaining in the third period. The Cougars were unable to net the equalizer after that tally.
    Taran Kozun made 26 saves to pick up with win in goal for the Huskies. The Huskies are tied with the U of Calgary Dinos for the second and third place spots in the Canada West Conference with identical 11-3-2 records.
    Wyatt Hoflin turned away 34 shots to take the setback in goal for the Cougars, who drop to 10-4-0-2 and sit fourth in Canada West.
    The Huskies will now have lots of time to try and get healthy as they head into their exam and Christmas break. They return to action on Saturday, Jan. 3 in the new year when they host the U of Alberta Golden Bears (14-2) at 7 p.m. at Merlis Belsher Place.

Machart named overall MVP for Huskies football

Adam Machart was named the Huskies overall team MVP.
    If you are in the running for the Hec Crighton Trophy, it is almost an automatic you will be the team MVP for your U Sports football program.
    After a record season, running back Adam Machart was named the overall most valuable player for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team at the team’s award banquet held Friday night at the Hilton Garden Inn.
    Machart carried the ball 156 times for 1,330 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 20 passes for 204 yards and three touchdowns.
    He set a Huskies team record for most rushing yards in a regular season and most combined yards in one regular season at 1,534.
    He was a Canada West all-star, a unanimous selection as the Canada West player of the year and a U Sports all-Canadian all-star. Thanks to being the Canada West player of the year, Machart was in the running for the Hec Crighton Trophy as the most outstanding player in U Sports football.
    The Hec Crighton ultimately went to University of Western Ontario Mustangs quarterback Chris Merchant.
    The Huskies team offensive most valuable player award went to quarterback Mason Nyhus. In his third year of eligibility and first year starting for the team, Nyhus completed 138-of-228 passes for 1,739 yards, 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions during the regular season.
Nelson Lokombo, right, was the Huskies defensive MVP.
    Defensive back Nelson Lokombo claimed the Presidents’ Trophy as the U Sports defensive player of the year this season. Naturally, Lokombo was named the Huskies defensive player of the year.
    Lokombo topped the Huskies with four interceptions, and he returned two of those interceptions for touchdowns during the regular season.
    The Abbotsford, B.C., product posted 23.5 total tackles, 2.5 sacks and four pass breakups during the regular campaign as well.
    Lokombo was a Canada West all-star, the Canada West defensive player of the year and a first team all-Canadian all-star.
    Defensive tackle Evan Machibroda claimed the Huskies team award as lineman of the year. The fifth-year veteran piled up 22 total tackles, five sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery during the regular season.
    Machibroda was a Canada West all-star, the most outstanding lineman in Canada West and a first team all-Canadian all-star.
Ramsey Derbas was the Huskies freshman of the year.
    Outside linebacker Ramsey Derbas was a unanimous selection for rookie of the year in Canada West, and he took the Huskies freshman of the year award. The 18-year-old led the Huskies with 43 total tackles to go along with an interception and a half sack.
    Fourth-year running back Jace Peters captured honours as the Huskies special teams play of the year.
    Fourth-year defensive back Clovis Lumeka was named the Huskies most improved player.
    Outside linebacker Ben Whiting captured the Huskies coaches award. In his fifth and final season with the Huskies, Whiting finished third on the team with 39.5 total tackles.
    The Huskies finished second in the Canada West Conference regular season standings this season with a 5-3 record.
    They downed the U of Alberta Golden Bears 28-23 in a Canada West semifinal match before falling 29-4 to the eventual Vanier Cup champion U of Calgary Dinos in the Canada West final.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Stars’ Kliewer relishes Team Sask. silver at nationals

Netminder returns to Saskatoon with extra jump

Arden Kliewer turns away a shot in the Saskatoon Stars goal.
    The highlights seem to be coming fast to Saskatoon Stars netminder Arden Kliewer.
    Playing in her final season of eligibility in the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League, Kliewer committed to join the University of Regina Cougars women’s hockey team in the U Sports ranks near the middle of October.
    On Nov. 16, she became just the second netminder to record 40 or more career SFMAAAHL regular season wins. Kliewer made 20 stops to back the Stars to a 2-0 victory over the Weyburn Richardson Pioneer Gold Wings at Merlis Belsher Place.
    The 17-year-old’s biggest high likely came before that milestone 40th victory.
    Kliewer helped Team Saskatchewan win its first medal ever at the National Women’s under-18 Championship, which was held in Winkler and Morden, Man.
    In a semifinal contest that was held in Morden, on Nov. 8, Kliewer made 25 saves to back Saskatchewan to a 3-1 victory over Ontario Blue. That win allowed Saskatchewan to advance to the gold medal game for the first time in the history of that event.
Arden Kliewer has 41 career SFMAAAHL regular season wins.
    Playing in the gold medal final one day later in Winkler in front of a national television audience on TSN, Kliewer had a sensational game turning away 32-of-34 shots sent her way against Ontario Red. Ontario Red still managed to prevail with a 3-1 victory that included a goal into an empty net.
Saskatchewan’s silver medal finish was still a big memory for Kliewer as well as playing in that championship final.
    “It was pretty big,” said Kliewer. “It felt watermelon size.
    “I was kind of feeling it that whole week, and I just carried on and tried to do what I could to keep my team in it.”
    Kliewer admitted that championship final might have been one of the best games she’s ever played.
    “I probably say it was,” said Kliewer, who stands 5-foot-8. “I think I stayed pretty consistent throughout the whole week.”
Arden Kliewer has played in lots of big games with the Stars.
    Kliewer said there was a huge pride from the players on the Saskatchewan side about what they were able to accomplish. Due to the fact Saskatchewan had never won a medal at the National Women’s under-18 Championship, Kliewer said no one outside of her team expected her squad to be a factor at that event.
    “The expectations just were for us were to everyone to buy into what the coaches were telling us,” said Kliewer. “We might not have been the most skilled players out there, but we bought in to what the coaches told us.
    “Going in there, nobody had expectations for Team Sask. It was all just personal expectations for us. We just wanted to come back with a medal, and that is what we did.”
    When Saskatchewan won its semifinal game, Kliewer said it was hard to explain the emotional high she and her teammates had knowing they would play in the gold medal game.
    “Obviously, it was an unreal experience,” said Kliewer. “I don’t even have words to describe it.
Arden Kliewer is the leader on a younger Stars team this season.
    “It was just insane like after we won that semifinal game knowing that, hey, we were coming home with a medal no matter what. It was a really good feeling.”
    Kliewer is no stranger to big games. She helped the Stars win the SFMAAAHL title in each of the past two seasons and qualify for the Esso Cup female midget AAA national championship tournament.
    The Stars made the championship game of the 2018 Esso Cup falling 2-1 to the Alberta-based St. Albert Slash.
    This season, Kliewer is protecting the Stars as they go through a rebuild. The Stars returned only nine players from last year’s team and graduated the bulk of their best players. 
    They are being guided by a new coaching staff. Robin Ulrich took over as head coach from Greg Slobodzian, and Kori Herner and Jason Schneider are the new assistant coaches. Schneider is actually a returning assistant coach having been with the Stars for four seasons from 2014 to 2018.
Arden Kliewer stood out for Team Saskatchewan.
    “It has just been a little bit different for myself just the role that I am in,” said Kliewer, who is in her fourth full season in the SFMAAAHL. “I’m in a little bit more of a leadership role this year versus last year.
    “It has just been about kind of helping those new girls understand this league and know what it takes to play in this league.”
    Ulrich, who was the interim head coach for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team in 2016-17, said Kliewer’s importance to the Stars couldn’t be understated.
    “She (Kliewer) is just a great leader for our team,” said Ulrich. “It is one of the cases where we kind of told her if we could do the Roberto Luongo thing and give her a letter we would for sure.
    “It is great having somebody with that kind strong back in goal that you know she is going to give you a good consistent effort every single night. I think ever since she came back from U18s it has just been at another level. That is huge for us as a program.”
Arden Kliewer (#30) has helped steady a younger Stars defence.
    Ulrich was pleased to see Kliewer have an outstanding showing at the National Women’s under-18 Championship with Team Saskatchewan.
    “You love to see when your kids get exposed on the national stage like that and to have Sask. have the tournament they had and part of that was due to her play that is just exciting,” said Ulrich. “It makes you super proud, and you’re just excited for her and the opportunity and showing her ability at the national level on the biggest stage is huge.”
    During her SFMAAAHL career, Kliewer has posted a 41-10 record, a 1.77 goals against average, a .921 save percentage and 11 shutouts in regular season play. Only current U of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s team netminder Jessica Vance has more career regular season wins than Kliewer.
    Vance picked up 48 career victories playing for her hometown Prince Albert Northern Bears from 2010 to 2015.
    So far this season with the Stars, Kliewer has posted a 3-6 record, a 2.78 goals against average, a .913 save percentage and one shutout. 
Arden Kliewer gives a rebuilding Stars team a chance to win every night.
    The Stars have built 5-7-2 regular season mark to sit fourth in the SFMAAAHL after going 4-2 in the month of November.
    They received a huge confidence boost win last Saturday, when Kliewer made 33 saves in a 2-1 victory over the Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats at Merlis Belsher Place. The Wildcats have jumped out to a 9-1 start and sit second in the SFMAAAHL.
    “I think it helps us a lot for sure,” said Kliewer. “(It) definitely does give us quite a bit more confidence.”
    The Stars resume regular season play on Dec. 14, when they host the Bears at 2:15 p.m. at Merlis Belsher Place.
    When the 2019-20 campaign concludes, Kliewer is happy she will be able to keep playing in the U Sports ranks with the Cougars.
Netminder Arden Kliewer and the Stars celebrate their win last Saturday.
    “I’m super excited to have that opportunity,” said Kliewer. “I’m a little bit nervous but definitely excited to be able to go play there.”

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Monday, 25 November 2019

Where does football in Canada go from here?

CFL needs to work with U Sports and CJFL

Andrew Harris (#33) is a Bombers Grey Cup hero.
    During the month of November, it seems like all the warm and fuzzy feelings come out for Canada’s brand of three-down football.
    In the CFL, the celebrations are well underway in Winnipeg, Man. The city’s storied Blue Bombers ended a 29-year title drought downing the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 33-12 in the Grey Cup in Calgary, Alta., on Sunday.
    The festival atmosphere of Grey Cup week renews interest in the Canadian game for a short period of time. A total of 35,439 spectators attended the Grey Cup in Calgary at McMahon Stadium.
    On Saturday, the University of Calgary Dinos ended a national title drought of their own that dated back 24 years. They downed the University of Montreal Carabins 27-13 to win the Vanier Cup as U Sports national champions in Quebec City, Quebec.
    A total of 8,376 spectators turned out at Telus Stadium on the campus of the Universite Laval and the host Rouge et Or weren’t in that title game.
    On Nov. 16, the Saskatoon Hilltops won a sixth straight CJFL title downing the host Langley Rams 11-6 in the Canadian Bowl. The Rams showed they built a team that could slug it out with the venerable Hilltops, but the legendary Saskatoon side found a way to pull out a tight defensive slugfest.
Cody Fajardo (#7) fires a pass downfield.
    While the championship weekends help the various Canadian football leagues end off on a high note, those leagues are not immune to the challenges all sports face in Canada. The biggest one of those challenges is holding interest.
    Sports blogger Patti Dawn Swansson has tracked CFL attendances all season and noted attendance only increased in Calgary and Montreal on the nine-team circuit.
    By her numbers, the Saskatchewan Roughriders attracted the most fans on the campaign but still saw an overall attendance decrease of 12,005 from the 2018 campaign.
    The Roughriders had just one sellout in the 2019 campaign and that was for the Labour Day Classic as a packed house of 33,356 spectators jammed into Mosaic Stadium to see the host side down the Bombers 19-17 on Sept. 1.
    When these two sides met in the same venue for the CFL’s West final on Nov. 17, a sellout was reported by some outlets, but the contest was just short of a sellout. A total of 33,300 spectators turned out to see The Bombers down the Roughriders 20-13.
Roughriders safety Mike Edem (#15) bears down on a hit.
    In football at all levels of Canada for about the past four years, it is known that when the weather turns slightly bad the people tend to stay away. Slightly bad means sunny conditions and a temperature of 10 C.
    The province of Saskatchewan is viewed as the place where football is king. The reputation no long translates into guaranteed ticket buyers.
    When the University of Saskatchewan Huskies downed the visiting University of Alberta Golden Bears 28-23 in a Canada West semifinal game on Nov. 2, the attendance at Griffiths Stadium was 1,191 spectators. There was a time when playoff home dates at U of S meant a minimum crowd of 4,000.
    When the Hilltops hosted the Prairie Football Conference final on Oct. 27, a total of 491 spectators turned out at Saskatoon Minor Football Field to see their 30-14 victory over the Edmonton Huskies. There was a time when PFC final contests meant the stands at SMF Field were packed and people were sitting the grass or snow covered hills that circled the facility.
The CFL and football in Canada is challenged with bringing out fans.
    At the CFL level, the big elephant in the room are lofty ticket prices. There are too many tickets in CFL stadiums that cost around $100, and that includes most seats in the lower sections between the 20 yard lines.
    Once you start charging $70 per ticket for a CFL game that becomes a barrier for people going to games. They start looking for other avenues to use their disposable income, and hence interest in the game itself goes down.
    That lack of interest inevitably filters down to the U Sports and CJFL levels.
    In the markets of Toronto, Ont., and Vancouver, B.C., specifically, there is a view you aren’t playing real tackle football unless you are playing the four down, 11-versus-11 game played in the United States.
Adam Machart is one of the stars in U Sports football.
    The other elephant in the room is the specter of the concussion injury, which does filter families into signing their children up for other sporting options. That still happens even with moves being made in tackle football to make the game safer.
    As Canada becomes more culturally diverse, sports like soccer, basketball and lacrosse start drawing bigger appeal. Soccer and basketball have big worldwide cultural appeal.
    There are even spots in Saskatoon where you can see cricket being played.
    Last Thursday, The Canadian Press ran a story from Donna Spencer where CFL commission Randy Ambrosie said he wants to pair the Grey Cup up with the Vanier Cup as early as next season. That was done in 2007 and 2012 in Toronto and 2011 in Vancouver.
    Justin Dunk of 3DownNation wrote last Thursday he expects the next Vanier Cup to be played at Griffiths Stadium on the U of S campus, if the pairing occurs.
    So far, there hasn’t been any talk from Huskie Athletics about bringing next year’s Vanier Cup to Saskatoon, and if that does happen, it opens up the can of worms and pressure of making the Huskies football team good enough to get to that event as a host team.
    Still, U Sports doesn’t have a television contract. Due to TSN being the rights holder for CFL broadcasts, TSN would be smart and go into its old back of tricks from the late 1980s and early 1990s in getting U Sports back on TV.
Ben Abrook (#32) is one of the top players in the CJFL.
    When TSN was in its formative years, U Sports was one of the networks staples. On the football front, you could go back to televising a national game of the week before showing the semifinal bowls and Vanier Cup title game.
    If both CFL and U Sports were broadcast by the same network, that allows opportunities for the TSN crew to track the U Sports prospects coming up the ranks before they join the CFL.
    TSN should potentially look at picking up CJFL games too in order to track prospects on that circuit. The CJFL has had a strong role of keeping players that don’t go to university in the sports.
    The CFL would benefit from working closer with the CJFL, which is often ignored, to grow the overall game.
    To show how the profile of the CJFL isn’t where it needs to be. The Canadian Press wire service covered the U Sports semifinal bowls and Vanier Cup, but hasn’t had any interest for a lengthy period of time in covering the CJFL title game.
    While football in Canada has lots of challenges, its spot in the country would be strengthened if the CFL, U Sports and CJFL found a way to be able to all work together. That is also easier said than done.

Reaction to Cherry story has been gross

A Don Cherry video.
    My gut tells me Don Cherry’s departure from Hockey Night in Canada will be a non-story by Dec. 2.
    It has quieted down, but it still has some legs. The coverage of the fallout has been gross, and I don’t think the story was good for anyone on any level.
    Heck, I didn’t even want to say anything on this subject, but I thought enough time had passed to add in my views.
    When you think about it, Cherry’s falling out on Saturday’s national hockey broadcast, which is run by Rogers and Sportnet, does not directly affect how each individual in Canada conducts their day-to-day lives.
    Of course, Cherry appeared on his final Coach’s Corner with sidekick Ron MacLean on Nov. 9. The 85-year-old Cherry went on a rant where he wanted to see people in Canada wear poppies leading up to and on Remembrance Day as a show of respect for the military personnel who fought and died for the freedoms people in Canada enjoy.
    His rant included the words “you people,” which automatically makes way too many think of incoming immigrants in these overly sensitive times where Donald Trump is the president of the United States.
    When I saw the video from Coach’s Corner, I rightly or wrongly didn’t have a problem with it. I did think Cherry might face troubles for saying the words “you people.” Of course, he was dumped on Nov. 11, which happened to be Remembrance Day.
    Had Cherry said “everybody” instead of “you people” in his rant, he would have been back on Coach’s Corner on Nov. 16. People in the general public that spent way too much time following the fallout would have whole piles of free time back.
    He said he should have said “everybody” in place of “you people” and wanted to explain that on air to make things right on what would have been the Nov. 16 edition of Coach’s Corner.
    My late father was from Cherry’s generation, and that is usually as close to an apology as you get from people that grew up in that generation. I have a hard time remembering a moment my late father apologized for anything he did wrong.
    I myself was good with the course of action Cherry wanted to take.
    Still, Cherry said what he said and the right and left wings of society jumped on the story putting their spin on it. A least everything was just a war of words on that front.
An item from Don Cherry’s height as a pitch man in the 1990s.
    Now the Cherry story includes multiple themes like racism, left wing versus right wing political thinking, respect for veterans, stereotypes of hockey being just a white male sport and double standards.
    Of course, issues of hockey having the stereotype of being a while male sport and double standards hit the forefront when Jess Allen from CTV’s “The Social” made a rant on the Nov. 12 edition of that talk show.
    Allen said hockey players were white boys who were bullies and had affluent parents who poured money into their playing careers. She got to walk away from her rant with what I considered was a weak apology and no further repercussions, but that is accepted double standard of the way the North American world works.
    On the left wing, Cherry is painted as a racist bigot who should be given the death penalty, and those that don’t think along those lines are absolutely wrong and should be treated as sub-humans. On the right wing, Cherry is a martyred hero that stands beside military veterans, and those that don’t think along those lines are absolutely wrong and should be treated as sub-humans.
    I have seen a few pieces from veteran sports reporters, who have careers that span decades, take runs at Cherry. Cherry did say a lot of things that got him in hot water over the years, so there are lots of opportunities to revisit old hurts.
    Those veteran sports reporters came off sounding like they had an ax to grind more over the fact Cherry made millions on his media career and there was a tinge of jealousy due to the fact he had the forum to say what he said.
    As far as money matters go, the Toronto Star on May 29, 2011 ran a story where Cherry said he gave much of his money to charity, but he didn’t want to discuss that aspect of himself seeing that as an actual uncomfortable bit of self-promotion.
Another Don Cherry video.
    After his Hockey Night in Canada ouster, I saw Cherry do interviews with Fox News and The Rebel media outlets, where he steered away from leading questions. Both wanted to make Cherry an example of the left wing out to destroy a good guy.
    For myself, I believe the current world in North America is a bit too sensitive and Cherry made an error in speaking. While he often said in interviews over the years he expected to say something that would go too far, the fallout of his departure became more than it should have been.
    He is doing a podcast now. I can’t see him ever being on a mainstream media broadcast again due to the fact he is 85-years-old. His age is a bigger draw back than what he says.
    I haven’t watched Coach’s Corner as avidly like I did 10 years ago. I rarely saw the segment over the past decade.
    When I did watch, Cherry looked old. He would ramble off into nowhere.
    I have friends who have encountered Cherry in recent years, and they say he is old. When he was on the road, he would often miss sponsor events in order to go to his hotel room to rest.
    I agree with the notion Cherry was allowed to keep going on for too long, and that happened due to ratings.
    When all is said and done, you get this sad mess that has occurred over the past two weeks and it seems the moves everyone makes are all different shades of wrong.

Eliminating Beardy’s Blackhawks an unforced error


    Shock waves were sent through Saskatchewan’s minor hockey world, when the Saskatchewan Hockey Association announced its realignment for the boys’ midget AAA and AA levels.
    On Nov. 12, the SHA announced the Beardy’s and Okemasis Cree Nation, which is located 80 kilometres north of Saskatoon, will no longer have midget AAA and AA boys’ teams starting next season.
    It was also announced the Notre Dame Argos midget AAA club and the midget AA club in Unity would be no more as well.
    On the midget AAA side, new teams will be established in Warman and Estevan.
    With those decisions, the Beardy’s Blackhawks midget teams will be no more. The Blackhawks midget AAA program has been in existence for 25 years, and it was the only midget AAA program that is First Nations run.
    Over the last three years, the SHA has been review bantam and midget hockey at the female level along with the male and female AA and AAA leagues. Male midget AAA leagues were given until Oct. 1 to reapply to continue to play in their respective league.
    The SHA said the criteria for keeping or acquiring a AAA team revolved around local coaching resources, billeting options for players, a billeting co-ordinator, an educational consultant, a written working agreement with a local high school for players to attend and a midget AA team to provide a source for affiliate players.
    The 12 teams that will be part of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League next season graded as being better than Beardy’s on that criteria.
    The decision seemed to be a curious one, because the Blackhawks programs have never done anything to warrant their elimination. Actually, their elimination is something that doesn’t need to happen at all.
    For myself at the midget AAA level, I believe general manager Mel Parenteau and head coach Dale Grayston have run an outstanding program for decades. The Blackhawks have always been that one program where players from a First Nations background play together with those of a non-First Nations background in harmony.
    The Blackhawks have traditionally had strong showings on the ice and produced a number of high quality players and outstanding young men. Two of the best known from that group are former NHL forwards Linden Vey and Dwight King.
    When you head out to Beardy’s and Okemasis’ Cree Nation for games, you’re greeted by a warm and welcoming community that is proud of its culture. Players that play for the Blackhawks see that culture in a whole new light and it is a distinctly positive and uplifting light.
    In a current climate in North America where racial tension run high, what the Blackhawks program offers is something that can’t be lost.
    Long before work went into reconciliation, the Blackhawks were one example of how humanity can be a better version of itself.
    I am also aware that reversing a decision is highly unlikely. As long as general manager Kelly McClintock has been involved with the SHA and that spans over two decades, it seems like the mind has been made up once a decision has been made and things go full steam ahead with that decision.
    CBC has gone to town doing great work on this story.
    Craig McCallum talked about how playing one season with Beardy’s in the 2006-07 campaign was a life-changing experience. Following that campaign, he went on to be a standout forward with the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings and Prince Albert Raiders and U Sports’ University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team.
    The story on McCallum can be found by clicking right here.
    McClintock was interviewed by CBC, and he got into specifics about the decision. That piece can be found by clicking right here.

Messier named to Canada’s female under-18 team

Ashley Messier in action with the Stars last season.
    Ashley Messier, who is an alumna of the Saskatoon Stars female midget AAA team, will play for Canada’s under-18 women’s team.
    Messier was one of 23 players named to the Canadian team’s roster on Monday. The Canadian team will play in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s under-18 women’s world championship, which will run from Dec. 26 to Jan. 2 in the new year in Bratislava in Slovakia.
    Messier now plays for the Selects Hockey Academy in Rochester, New York, for her Grade 12 year. She has officially signed with the Cornell University Big Red women’s hockey team and will join the powerhouse NCAA program at the start of next season.
    From 2016 to 2019, Messier played three seasons with the Stars piling up 11 goals and 58 assists for 69 points in 84 regular season games as an offensive defender.
    She helped the Stars reach the championship game of the Esso Cup female midget AAA national championship tournament in April of 2018. The Stars fell 2-1 to the Alberta-based St. Albert Slash, but Messier was named the top defender of the tournament.
    Last season with the Stars, Messier, who is from Wilcox, Sask., recorded five goals and 27 assist to help the Stars post their best regular season record ever at 27-1 to top the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League standings.
    The Stars again advanced to Esso Cup and finished fourth.
    Messier was named the Colleen Sostorics top defender of the SFMAAAHL last season and a first team SFMAAAHL all-star. She was a second SFMAAAHL all-star in 2017-18.
    Messier, who stands 5-foot-3, helped Team Saskatchewan advance to the final of the National Women’s under-18 Champion held last Saturday in Winkler, Man. Team Saskatchewan fell in the title game to Team Ontario Red 3-1.
    The silver medal win was Saskatchewan’s best finish at the event that contains provincial under-18 women’s hockey teams from across the country. The 17-year-old Messier was named the most valuable player of the tournament.
    Annie-Liese King, who is a defender for the Notre Dame Hounds female midget AAA team, was the only other Saskatchewan product named to Canada’s under-18 women’s team. King is from Regina.

Huskies appear to have great catch in Kendall

Sara Kendall (#4) will play for the Huskies next season.
    The University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team has to be pumped Sara Kendall will be coming aboard next season.
    Kendall is playing out her 17-year-old and final midget AAA campaign with the Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats. The Pontiex, Sask., product currently leads the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League in scoring with nine goals and 12 assists compiled over the Wildcats first 10 games.
    In 65 career regular season games in the SFMAAAHL, Kendall has piled up 37 goals and 32 assists for 69 points.
    She had a beauty game on Sunday helping the Wildcats rebound from their first loss of the season.
    On Saturday, the Wildcats fell 2-1 to the host Saskatoon Stars at Merlis Belsher Place and Kendall was held without a point in that contest.
    Those two teams met again on Sunday at Merlis. Kendall scored her squad’s first two goals and set up the Wildcats third tally that was netted by Brooklyn Rublee.
    The Wildcats claimed a 4-1 victory after Baylee Kirwan scored into an empty net.
    Defender Emily Holmes fired home her fourth goal of the campaign to provide the lone reply for the Stars.
    Amaya Giraudier turned away 24 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Wildcats (9-1). Arden Kliewer turned away 35-of-38 shots to take the setback in goal for the Stars (5-7-2).
    Both teams return to regular season action on Dec. 14. The Wildcats will host the Weyburn Richardson Pioneer Gold Wings at 7:45 p.m. at the Fairview Arena in Swift Current and the Stars host the Prince Albert Northern Bears at 2:15 p.m. at Merlis.
    If Kendall can keep her scoring touch up in the U Sports ranks, she will be a huge addition for the Huskies.

Smith becomes colour commentator for hometown Broncos


    The Chloe Smith is a hockey hero in Swift Current, so it is only nature she should resurface in the game with her hometown WHL team.
    On the ice, Smith starred as a centre with the Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats female midget AAA team from 2013 to 2017 and was the club’s captain in her final campaign with that team. She played the past two seasons with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team before electing to return home to Swift Current.
    On Friday, Smith made her debut as the colour commentator for the audio broadcasts for the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos. The Broncos dropped a 6-0 decision at home to the Regina Pats at the Innovation Credit Union i-Plex.
    She will work as the colour commentator for most Broncos home game broadcasts moving forward along with new Broncos play-by-play voice Craig Beauchemin, who is the team’s broadcast and community relations manager.
Chloe Smith in action with the Wildcats in 2017.
    The Broncos moved to producing their own audio broadcasts of games with online streaming through their website this season. Previously, the audio call of Broncos games was heard on the Eagle 94.1 radio station in Swift Current.
    During her time with the Wildcats, Smith appeared in 110 career regular season games piling up 42 goals and 62 assists for 104 points. She is the 19th all-time leading scorer in the history of the SFMAAAHL.
    Smith played a key role in helping the Wildcats reach the SFMAAAHL title series in 2016. The Wildcats fell in the best-of-five series to the Saskatoon Stars 3-1.
    During her rookie campaign with the Huskies in 2017-18, Smith forever cemented her spot in the team’s history. On Feb. 24, 2018, she scored the winning goal that broke a 1-1 tie and gave the Huskies a 2-1 victory over the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in Game 2 of Canada West semifinal series.
    Smith’s second period goal in that contest allowed the Huskies to sweep the best-of-three series 2-0. That was the final game the Huskies women’s team ever play at the Rutherford Rink, and Smith holds the distinction of being the last member of the Huskies women’s team to score a goal in that facility and score the last women’s playoff series winner in that building.
    Smith appeared in 26 regular season games in 2017-18 collecting three goals and three assists. She skated in 26 regular season game last season collecting three goals and five assists.
    In Swift Current, Mike Bissonette has built a reputation for producing creative signs to show off and support the Broncos during game days. He took a couple of cracks at signs for Smith below with her move to the Broncos broadcasts.


    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Sunday, 24 November 2019

Bombers’ Grey Cup win is a welcomed development

Videos of the Bombers’ Grey Cup wins in 1988 and 1990.
    The Winnipeg Blue Bombers actually won the Grey Cup?
    While never can be a long time, a Bombers Grey Cup win just seemed like something that would never happen again. You almost thought the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets had better odds of winning the Stanley Cup in a 31 team league that the Bombers would have in a nine team league.
    That was exactly what happened on Sunday at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Alta. Playing before 35,439 spectators, the Bombers hammered the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 33-12 to become CFL champions for the first time in 29 years.
    In the win, a proud graduate of Winnipeg’s Oak Park High School Raiders football team in running back Andrew Harris picked up most outstanding player and most outstanding Canadian honours helping his hometown Bombers win the title.
    Harris ran the ball 18 times for 134 yards and one touchdown, and he caught five passes for 35 yards and one touchdown.
Andrew Harris (#33) became a Grey Cup hero for the Bombers.
    Online, emotion was pouring out from Bombers fans who couldn’t contain their joy as they were brought to tears they were so happy.
    It was weird to think that actually happened.
    Once upon a time, that wasn’t the case.
    Way back in 1990, the Bombers were guided by the tandem in general manager “Kindly” Cal Murphy and head coach “Smiling” Mike Riley. Both are still revered figures to this day in the Manitoba capital.
    Under their guidance, the Bomber topped the CFL standings that year with a 12-6 record and hammered the Edmonton Eskimos 50-11 to capture the Grey Cup at B.C. Place in Vancouver, B.C.
    It was joked the Grey Cup game that year was like a Super Bowl, as the NFL title games around that era were usually blowouts. The Bombers win in the 1990 Grey Cup goes down as one of greatest blowouts in the history of the CFL title game.
    The defense containing the likes of Greg Battle, Tyrone Jones, James West, Rod Hill and Less Browne hammered the Eskimos into submission.
A Tom Burgess player card.
    Bombers quarter back Tom Burgess, who was acquired in a trade with the Saskatchewan Roughriders before the 1990 campaign began, had an up and down season. Against the Eskimos in the 1990 Grey Cup, Burgess had one of his finest days in the league as he guided the Bombers offence like he was NFL legend Joe Montana, or Bombers icon Ken Ploen.
    The 1990 win marked the third time the Bombers won the Grey Cup over a second year period and was the 10th CFL championship victory for the Winnipeg franchise.
    At that time, no one knew it would take 29 years for the Bombers to win their 11th Grey Cup.
Between the 1990 and Sunday’s Grey Cup wins, the Bombers advanced to the Grey Cup game five times and came up empty handed in each of those tries.
    Their most hard luck setback arguably came in 2007, when they fell 23-19 to the Saskatchewan Roughriders at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ont.
    Winnipeg went into that contest without star quarterback Kevin Glenn, who broke his arm in the team’s victory one week earlier in the East final.
    Over that span of time, the Bombers had sensational years like their 14-4 campaign in 2001. They had campaigns where they were dreadful going a combined 7-29 in the 1997 and 1998 seasons and 3-15 in the 2013 campaign.
A Less Browne player card.
    Winnipeg fans stayed loyal to their club, but it seemed like a Grey Cup win would be something that just wouldn’t happen. It seemed like fate was against the Bombers, when it came to winning another CFL crown.
    Bombers fans that remembered the Grey Cup wins in 1984, 1988 and 1990 were aging and did their best to pass down stories from those glory days.
    A much smaller amount of Bombers fans remember a previous run of glory years under legendary head coach Bud Grant that saw the Bombers win Grey Cup titles in 1958, 1959, 1961 and 1962.
    Before Sunday’s Grey Cup win, the Bombers had a whole generation of fans that had never seen their team win a CFL title.
    Murphy became a Bombers icon serving as the team’s head coach and general manager during his time with the club from 1983 to 1996. Still, he had a bitter departure from the team following the 1996 campaign.
    Some said for a handful of years after his departure the Bombers were haunted by the “Curse of Cal.”
    I was fortunate enough to become friends with Murphy, after he started residing in Regina, Sask.
    I remember a visit around 2009 where he said he didn’t like that “curse” notion. He had a fond spot in his heart for Winnipeg, and he liked getting back there to do good things in that centre.
A Bombers Grey Cup shirt from 1990.
    Murphy told me any ill feelings were buried in the past long ago, and he wanted to see the Bombers win the Grey Cup again. The Bombers have been handing out the “Cal Murphy Heart of a Legend Award” since 2002.
    While scouting for the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, Murphy always took time to visit with the Bombers fans at the Labour Day Classic games between the Bombers and Roughriders in Regina.
    Murphy passed away in February of 2012 at age 79, but you can bet somewhere out there he was happy giving off his trademark cackle laugh to go along with his huge grin after the Bombers finally won it all again.
    Even this season, it appeared the Bombers jinx when it came to winning the Grey Cup would continue. They entered the campaign as favourites to make and win the Grey Cup, but you were waiting for things to unravel.
    During a 32-16 home win over the B.C. Lions, Bombers star quarterback Matt Nichols was lost for the season due to a shoulder injury, and it seemed like Winnipeg’s title hopes would go down with him.
    Before the CFL’s trade deadline on Oct. 9, the Bombers acquired veteran quarterback Zach Collaros in a trade with the Toronto Argonauts.
Late Bomber GM and HC Cal Murphy.
    Collaros actually began the campaign as the Roughriders starting quarterback. On the Roughriders fourth play of their regular season opener, he suffered a concussion injury on a cheap hit by Tiger-Cats linebacker Simoni Lawrence.
    The Roughriders fell in that June 13 encounter 23-17.
    With Collaros down, Cody Fajardo had a meteoric rise to the pedestal of Roughriders star starting quarterback. Deemed expendable, Collaros was traded to the Argonauts in late July.
    He never took a single snap in Toronto. It seemed like his football days might be over, because he had a history of concussion injuries.
    Unexpectedly, Collaros became the savour of the Bombers season. He was inserted as the starting quarterback in their final regular season game, when they slipped past the Calgary Stampeders 29-28 at I.G. Field in Winnipeg on Oct. 25.
    That allowed the Bombers to finish the regular season with an 11-7 record. Collaros played well in all three of the Bombers post-season victories, which included downing the Roughriders 20-13 in the West final in Regina on Nov. 17.
    Inconceivably, he became a Grey Cup champion with the Bombers completing 17-of-23 passes for 170 yards in Sunday’s CFL championship game. In the process, Collaros prevented the Tiger-Cats, who topped the CFL regular season standings with a 15-3 mark, from winning their first Grey Cup since 1999.
Bombers fans like “The Golden Boy” can soak in their Grey Cup win.
    Overall, the 29 year drought between Grey Cup titles for Bombers fans just wasn’t fair for the support they have shown their club.
    The Bombers and their supporters very much deserved this long awaited Grey Cup title win.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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