Saturday, 30 May 2020

Hermann will always cherish year as Hilltops starter

Club celebrates 2019 CJFL title season with ring day

Tyler Hermann, left, shows his championship ring to his father, Craig. 
    Tyler Hermann’s one campaign as the Saskatoon Hilltops starting quarterback turned into a dream season.
    After being a reserve quarterback for four years, Hermann was tabbed with taking the controls of the Hilltops offence for his fifth and final campaign with the club. While there were growing pains in the first four weeks of the season, Hermann signal called the Hilltops to a perfect 12-0 record to capture the Canadian Bowl and become CJFL champions for a sixth straight year.
    The Hilltops downed the host Langley Rams 11-6 last November in the CJFL title game to win a 22nd national title.
    Hermann had a good personal campaign too in 2019 completing 123-of-192 passes for 1,908 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions appearing in all of his club’s eight regular season games.
Tyler Hermann, left, receives his championship ring.
    “It was awesome,” said Hermann, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 205 pounds. “That is something I will have for the rest of my life.
    “It is one of those priceless memories that I will look back, and I will just cherish every moment of it. I remember at the end of the season I was almost sad thinking back. I should have been happy.
    “I remembered that this was the end of something that was such a big part of my life and all friendships I made along the way. This was a spectacular year.”
    On Saturday on the practice field outside the Hilltops clubhouse, Hermann received his championship ring at the team’s ring ceremony.
Tyler Hermann, left, and Jesse McNabb show off their rings.
    Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Hilltops ring ceremony was a modified one.
    Usually, the Hilltops ring ceremony is a social event that brings together their CJFL championship team from the previous season as part of a reunion night.
    With government regulations currently in place to combat COVID-19, the Hilltops ultimately did a ring ceremony to give a nod to their 2019 season with a group of six players, who were in their final campaign with the team in 2019.
    The graduating players that made it out included Hermann, Connor Graham, Tristan Hering, Logan Kelsey-Stern, Ryder Klisowsky and Jesse McNabb.
    Team officials will distribute the rest of the championship rings to the 2019 title winning team.
    With that noted, Hermann was happy with the reunion that did happen considering the circumstances that surround the current day.
Jesse McNabb, left, gets his championship ring.
    “We usually do it right after May camp too, so there is a little buzz around the new season,” said Hermann, who recently turned 23-years-old. “Everyone is kind of chatting.
    “It is definitely different. I like the way they did it having the fifth year guys here. Those are the guys we traveled our whole five years together with, and we shared such similar experiences kind of starting as that rookie and then finishing the way we did.
    “That is good enough for me. That is really all you can expect in times like this is something like that.”
Jesse McNabb checks out his championship ring.
    McNabb’s eyes got really big, when he opened his ring box and saw his championship ring. The star defensive tackle, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 245 pounds, said a big part of the 2019 campaign was gutting out a 4-0 start.
    The Hilltops had a huge turnover in their starting ranks, and many players were adjusting to new roles.
    The venerable CJFL club opened the season with three straight road victories. The Hilltops took their home opener 28-21 over their provincial rivals the Regina Thunder thanks to a touchdown with under a minute to play.
    The home win over the Thunder and a 24-22 win in Week 3 over the Huskies in Edmonton required fourth-quarter comebacks.
    “It was big, because it really showed the character of the team,” said McNabb, who recorded 26.5 total tackles and three sacks for the Hilltops in the 2019 regular season. “We weren’t just rolling through everyone like some teams in the past have.
Jesse McNabb shows off his championship rings.
    “It was more hard fought games. It was really good for the group morale to see that we could get through the tough times together. As the season went on, things developed better, and it was good.”
    On Aug. 25, 2019 at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Hilltops legendary head coach Tom Sargeant picked up his 200th career victory in a 34-16 win over the host Thunder.
    Sargeant later moved past retired Regina Rams head coach Frank McCrystal to become the all-time leader in head coaching victories in Canada’s amateur post-secondary football ranks.
    After the Hilltops won their sixth straight CJFL championship, Sargeant’s career record sat a 210-30-2 including action in the CJFL regular season and post-season.
Ryder Klisowsky shows off his five championship rings.
    McCrystal had a 208-104-2 record in the regular season and post-season in both the CJFL and U Sports. He was the head coach of the Regina Rams from 1984 to 2014, and they played 15 seasons in the CJFL and 16 campaigns in U Sports over that time as the University of Regina Rams.
    McNabb said helping Sargeant get those milestones was a sweet part of the campaign.
    “It was great just to be able to do that for him and get things done right and then be able to lift him up in B.C. at the end of the year and give him the trophy,” said the 22-year-old McNabb.
    Hilltops linebacker Jadyn Pingue was named the CJFL defensive player of the year for his efforts during the 2019 season.
    The Hilltops have also captured the Canadian Bowl in nine out of the last 10 seasons to become CJFL champions.
Ryder Klisowsky, left, and Logan Kelsey-Stern enjoy ring day.
    The 12-0 campaign in 2019 followed up the Hilltops posting an 11-0 overall mark in their 2018 CJFL title winning season.
    The Hilltops 2019 CJFL championship rings have the initials “J.F.” written on the side to honour late former star Hilltops linebacker Justin Filteau. Filteau, who played for the Hilltops from 2010 to 2014, passed away in a plane crash on June 1, 2019.
    The 2019 rings, which were designed by the Hilltops graduating players, contain 22 sapphires symbolizing the club’s 22 CJFL championships. The word “trust” is written on the underside of the ring to recognize the trust the Hilltops players had in their teammates over the course of the season.
    There are six Canadian Bowl trophies on the side and six sapphires on the top of the ring to symbolize the Hilltops sixth consecutive Canadian Bowl championship win.
    “Obviously, it is beautiful, and it is something to be proud of,” said Hermann. “When I look at it, I just kind of think of the comradery of the team.”

Soyko takes her talents to the Pandas, other notes


    Abby Soyko has found a new hockey home with the most storied women’s program in the history of U Sports.
    On Thursday, the University of Alberta Pandas, who have won the most U Sports national women’s hockey championships at eight, announced Soyko has committed to joining the Edmonton-based squad for the start of the 2020-21 campaign.
    The Prince Albert, Sask., product originally committed to joining the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns women’s hockey team in January along with her sister Alli. Abby and Alli are two parts of triplet siblings.
Abby Soyko in action with the Bears in October of 2018.
    On April 20, the University of Lethbridge cut both the men’s and women’s Pronghorns hockey teams citing a lack of provincial government funding.
    Due to that development, the two 18-year-olds became free agents with the ability to join any other post-secondary team of their choosing.
    On Thursday, it became official that Abby was going to be a member of the Pandas.
Alli found a new hockey home too. On Thursday, the Red Deer College Queens women’s hockey team, who play out of the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association ranks, announced Alli had committed to joining their program.
    Both Abby and Alli played major roles in helping the Prince Albert Northern Bears win the Saskatchewan Female Under-18 AAA Hockey League championship in 2016-17 and win a Western Regional playdown series to advance to the Esso Cup national championship tournament.
    Abby would be viewed as the big catch due to her scoring prowess. She is the quintessential power forward.
    She played for the Bears for five seasons from 2014 to 2019 appearing in 136 regular season games piling up 65 goals and 63 assists for 128 points. She is the ninth all-time leading scorer in the history of the SFU18AAAHL and the Bears all-time leader in goals and points.
    Abby is tied for the Bears all-time regular season record in career assists with Kaitlin Willoughby, who went on to star and become the second all-time leading scorer for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team in the U Sports ranks.
    Abby was also the Bears captain in her final season with that team.

    Last season, Abby and Alli played for the Northern Alberta Xtreme Female Prep team in Devon, Alta.
    Due to their late October birthday, they had exhausted their under-18 AAA eligibility, but still needed to finish their Grade 12 studies in high school.
    Abby was the leading scorer for the Xtreme this past season posting 14 goals and 13 assists for 27 points in 23 games.
Alli Soyko in action for the Bears in November of 2018.
    She will be a big addition to the Pandas, who won the Canada West title last season. The Pandas didn’t get a chance to play a game at the U Sports national championship tournament in Charlottetown, P.E.I., which was called off after two games due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Alli will be a strong addition to a team at the Canadian college level, and she also has all the physical tools to play at the university level possibly one day.
    In her final season with the Bears in 2018-19, Alli recorded career highs in all offensive categories with four goals and 12 assists for 16 points in 26 regular season games.
    She had another solid campaign this past season with the Xtreme posting five goals and 10 assists for 15 points in 23 games.
    Last season, the Queens fell 3-2 in double overtime in a series deciding Game 3 to the NAIT Ooks in an Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference semifinal series.
    Both Abby and Alli will be great additions to their respective teams.

  • On Thursday, the Boston Marathon, which was scheduled for Sept. 14, was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has originally been slated for April 20 before being pushed back to Sept. 14. This will mark the first time in history the Boston Marathon has been cancelled after running for 124 consecutive years.
  • On Friday, the DUBNetwork, which is a website platform dedicated to covering the WHL, announced it was taking a step back and stopping coverage due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Run by chief executive officer Paul Figler, the DUBNetwork has been in operation since 2015.
  • On Friday, long time Medicine Hat, Alta., radio broadcaster Jim Duce announced he will be retiring. Duce has been on the radio waves for 47 years. He currently works for CHAT 94.5, and his final day on air will be Friday, June 26.
    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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Thursday, 28 May 2020

Hilltops bottle drive shifts to form with less contact

Janice Kozun stands by items collected for the Hilltops bottle drive.
    The Saskatoon Hilltops had to make a slight audible on their fundraising bottle drive to make it a better fit for these coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic times.
    The Hilltops plan to donate a portion of the funds they raise through the bottle drive to the Saskatoon Food Bank and the Friendship Inn, and the remainder of the funds raised will go to the football club as it navigates its way through the pandemic.
    Originally, the Hilltops planned to have their players out canvassing Saskatoon neighbourhoods on Saturday for bottles while wearing gloves and masks.
    After having continuing discussions with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, the Hilltops have changed how their bottle drive will be conducted so it involves the least amount of contact as possible. They outlined the procedures they would follow on a post they made on their Facebook page early Thursday morning.
    The bottle began on Thursday, where the public dropped off bottles in the parking lot next to the Hilltops clubhouse patio. Team directors were on hand to accept the recyclables from donors.
All sorts of bottles were collected at the Hilltops bottle drive.
    The drive continues on Friday. Those looking to donate to the Hilltops bottle drive can drop items off at the OK Tire location on 610 Circle Drive from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    Bagged cans and bottles can be dropped off at Door #8, and Hilltops former punting great and president elect Rod Janzen will be on site to accept and store donations.
    On Saturday, bagged cans and bottles can be dropped off at ABC Canada from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 1802 Quebec Avenue. Those looking to participate in the Saturday drop off are asked to enter the ABC Canada parking lot on the east side of the building using the 40th Street and 1st Avenue access.
    For those who are unable to drop off recyclables, the Hilltops will be able to pick them up from your home. Those looking to get their recyclables picked up are asked to contact someone they know from the team or to send the Hilltops a direct message through their Facebook page, which can be found by clicking right here.
    The Hilltops will collect recyclables from the curb or walkways of people’s homes to ensure proper social distancing guidelines are followed.
The items collected Thursday for the Hilltops bottle drive.
    All volunteers will be wearing masks and gloves through this process. All donations will be sorted after a mandatory quarantine period.
    The Hilltops are looking to keep adding to their storied tradition.
    In 2019, the Hilltops posted a 12-0 overall record and went undefeated for a second straight season. The undefeated campaign was particularly impressive as the Hilltops dealt with a high turnover in starters from their 2018 CJFL championship team.
    The Hilltops claimed their sixth straight CJFL title downing the host Langley Rams in an 11-6 defensive slugfest in Langley, B.C., to retain possession of the Canadian Bowl trophy.
    The Hilltops have captured the Canadian Bowl in nine out of the last 10 seasons to become CJFL champions.

Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame calls Jones Konihowski


    Diane Jones Konihowski is a University of Saskatchewan Huskies legend, and she is going to be given her place in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
    On Wednesday, Jones Konihowski was announced as an inductee for the 2020-21 class for Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the induction ceremony is expected to take place at some point in 2021.
    After graduating from Aden Bowman Collegiate in 1969, Jones Konihowski was a member of the U of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s track and field team for five seasons between 1969 and 1975. She didn’t compete for the Huskies during the 1972-73 campaign due to competing in the Olympics.
    Back when Jones Konihowski was a member of the Huskies, the school’s women’s teams were known as the Huskiettes.
    Jones Konihowski was a member of Canada’s team that took part in Summer Games held Aug. 26 to Sept. 11, 1972 in Munich, Germany.
    During her five campaigns with the Huskies, she helped the U of S women’s track team win three Canada West Conference titles, and captured 12 individual gold medals and set conference records in four events.
    Jones Konihowski claimed the Mary Ethel Cartwright Trophy as the female athlete of the year at U of S in 1974 and 1975.
    Internationally, Jones Konihowski is best remembered as a star in the pentathlon. She won gold in the pentathlon at the 1975 Pan-Am Games in Mexico City, the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton and the 1979 Pan-Am Games in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
    At her peak, Jones Konihowski was ranked #1 in the world in the pentathlon.
    At the 1972 Olympics, Jones Konihowski was 10th in the pentathlon.
    She competed at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal finishing sixth in the pentathlon and 11th in the long jump.
    Jones Konihowski was named to Canada’s team for the 1980 Summer Olympics held in Moscow in the former Soviet Union, and she was a favourite to win gold in the pentathlon at those games.
    Due to Canada joining the international boycott of those games due to Soviet military action in Afghanistan, she was denied the chance to partake in that event. In a meet held three weeks after those games, Jones Konihowski defeated all the Olympic medalists.
    She was a co-winner of Canada’s female athlete of the year in 1975 and won the award again in 1978.
    While still a competitive athlete in her prime, Jones Konihowski was named a member of the Order of Canada in 1978. She was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Saskatoon Sports Hall of Fame in 1986.
    Jones Konihowski was a Chef de Mission of the Canadian team at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
    She is married to John Konihowski, who is an alumnus of the Huskies football team and the Huskies men’s track and field team. He played nine seasons in the CFL from 1974 to 1982 with the Edmonton Eskimos and Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
    The two are members of the University of Saskatchewan Athletic Wall of Fame.
Jones Konihowski, who is now 69-years-old, enters Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame with a very impressive class.
    Entering the Hall along with Jones Konihowski in the athlete category are basketball star Steve Nash, Sonja Gaudet in wheelchair curling, Jackie Barrett in Special Olympics weightlifting, show jumper Eric Lamaze and his horse named Hickstead and golfer Lorie Kane.
    Going into the Hall as builders are Sheldon Kennedy and Willie O’Ree in hockey, Duncan Campbell in wheelchair rugby, Judy Kent in sport administration and Ross Powless in lacrosse.

    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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    If you like what you see here, you might want to donate to the cause to keep independent media like this blog going. Should you choose to help out, feel free to click on the DONATE button in the upper right corner. Thank you for stopping in.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Sports will be “the wild west” when action resumes

Will the Hilltops get to enjoy another CJFL title win in 2020?
    The sports world will likely have a “wild west” look when leagues and teams return to action in the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
    In North America, we’ve received a small glimpse of the differences with the return of UFC and NASCAR. The UFC has held fight cards in venues without fans and NASCAR had held race nights at tracks without fans.
    Also during NASCAR races, it is easy to see most of the people in the pit crews and working around the track are wearing protective masks. Even drivers don protective masks after they remove their race car helmets after the night’s action wraps up.
    Both circuits seem to be trying to squeeze as much action in on a tightened schedule. The NASCAR Cup Series is closing the month of May running five races in a period of 15 days.
    The five race run started on May 17 with The Real Heroes 400 at the Darlington Raceway in Darlington, S.C., and will conclude on Sunday with the Food City presents the Supermarket Heroes 500 at the Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn.
    Some of the premier soccer leagues are going in Europe and the Korean Baseball Organization is running in South Korea. The KBO is starting to collect a North American following.
Will Brendon LaBatte (#57) and the Roughriders fire fast out of the gate?
    In North America, tentative plans have come out to see restarts of the 2019-20 NHL and NBA campaigns, while MLB is working to get its season off the ground.
    Outside of the professional leagues, sports like minor baseball and softball are looking to have modified seasons running likely in July and August. Much of that return to action depends on the loosening of regional restrictions.
    The CFL is hoping to hit the field in September with a shortened season.
    The Canada West Conference in U Sports has already put forward tentative plans for modified shortened schedules. The CJFL is hoping to play a modified shortened slate.
    Junior hockey at the major junior and junior A ranks might ultimately end up playing shortened schedules.
    The NHL said on Tuesday it will jump right into playoffs with a 24-team format to be played in hub cities. With the NHL having paused action on March 12, it is wide open how this post-season could play out.
    The dates of these games haven’t been determined, but there is hope of a return in August.
    With that extended break, any trends from the regular season have to be thrown out the window. Whoever jells first will have the advantage.
    It will become clear quickly which players stayed in shape over the break and which did not.
How will Jesse Kuntz and the Huskies looking in 2020?
    Maybe goaltending will make the difference. This might be the perfect set up for a team like the Montreal Canadiens who had a 31-31-9 regular season record to ride star netminder Carey Price to a title run.
    Montreal is slated to face the Pittsburgh Penguins in a best-of-five qualifying round series.
    The NBA is talking about returning to play in July at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida. The plans of how play is to resume are still more on the loose side.
    There has been talk of a 16-team playoff format or group stage play like World Cup soccer involving 20 to 24 teams followed by playoffs.
    It is still possible all of that circuit’s teams could return. The NBA was the first league in North America to pause its season back on March 11.
    All of the teams would be housed in hotels near the complex. Again, any trends from the regular season can be thrown out the window with that long of a layoff.
    The teams with the most talented players will likely have the edge, which mean LeBron James might lift the Los Angeles Lakers, who had the second best regular season record at 49-14, to the NBA crown.
    At the moment, MLB is hoping to play an 82-game regular season, but the league and the MLB Players Association can’t agree on the issue of player compensation. Thanks to that deadlock, no one is predicting a start date.
How will Collin Shirley and the Huskies fair in a shortened season?
    In Canada, the football seasons are looking like they will be a sprint. The CFL is hoping for an eight-game regular season while Canada West is hoping for a five-game regular season and the CJFL wants to get in a four or five game regular season.
    The team that can catch fire fast will do well. Teams that bring back most of their rosters from the previous season might have a head start in doing well.
    That could favour teams like the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the defending Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers or the Calgary Stampeders. On the Stampeders front, you know star quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell will be ready to go.
    The CFL is looking to play their game in hub cities, which adds a new dimension to the mix too.
    Due to the shortened seasons, it is possible there will be players in the CFL, Canada West Conference and the CJFL who decide not to play.
    In the CFL, players coming from either the United States or across Canada have to question if the shortened season is worth the travel.
    In the Canada West Conference and the CJFL, players might elect to sit out a season to stay home and help their families ride out the COVID-19 pandemic. They might elect to work at a place of employment and continue to train for the prospects of a full season in 2021.
    Of course, the prospects of work are hampered by the self-imposed recession/depression created by the world to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. With that noted, a player might definitely take a year off, if they have a job.
Will Jessica Vance get to show her greatness again in 2020-21?
    The University of Saskatchewan Huskies and University of Regina Rams football teams might not see some of their out of province recruits this season. Some of the out of province returnees might elect to not return this season too.
    The six-time defending CJFL champion Saskatoon Hilltops and their main rivals the Regina Thunder mainly recruit in Saskatchewan. Still, some players on both of those squads may elect not to show due to the current state of the world.
    If players know they are going to be down on the lower end of a practice roster in a shortened 2020 campaign, those player might use that reason to elect to pass on this season and comeback in 2021.
    The teams in other sports in the Canada West Conference are in the same boat. Just looking at the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s and women’s hockey teams, basketball teams, soccer teams and volleyball teams, you wonder which veterans will elect not to return this season due to how world events have played out.
    You wonder which recruits will elect to come this season or hold off for a better world outlook in 2021.
    Of course, all athletes can do in any league is train for now. At the moment, the medical health officials have all the power as to when sports will return.
Will the Saskatoon Blades and Prince Albert Raiders battle in 2020-21?
    That alone produces constant chronic stress for athletes and all those involved with leagues and teams along with minor sports bodies.
    Heck, media outlets don’t know how they will be covering these events when they return to action. There might be a lot of press conferences done online via Zoom.
    Still, it would be great if things worked out that “the wild west” frontier in sports could play out. Just think about all the unpredictable storylines that could be remember for years from a sports season that would be unlike any other.

Bears slated to get Esso Cup in 2021, other notes

The Bears have been named the hosts of the 2021 Esso Cup.
    The heartbreak the Prince Albert Northern Bears experienced in March was alleviated a bit on Wednesday.
    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hockey Canada elected effective March 13 to cancel all its sanctioned activities for the rest of the 2019-20 campaign. That meant the cancellation of all Hockey Canada sanctioned national championship tournaments including the Esso Cup female AAA under-18 national championship tournament slated to be held in Prince Albert in April.
    Of course, the Bears were set to play in that event as the tournament’s host. The Bears deserved to host nationals as they have been one of the strongest female under-18 programs in Saskatchewan dating back to the inaugural season of the Saskatchewan Female Under-18 Hockey League in 2006-07.
    The Bears won league titles in 2009 and 2017 and appeared in the 2017 Esso Cup. They also have a loyal following in “Hockey Town North.”
    On Wednesday, Hockey Canada announced the Bears will be the host team for the 2021 Esso Cup. Lloydminster was originally slated to host the tournament in 2021, but the centre that sits on the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan will now host the Esso Cup in 2022.
    The Lloydminster Steelers, who play out of the Alberta Female Hockey League under-18 ranks, will be the host team for the 2022 Esso Cup.
Jessie Herner, left, and Brooklyn Anderson won’t play in the 2021 Esso Cup.
    Big kudos should go to Hockey Canada for making this decision. The Bears lost the chance to host the Esso Cup through no fault of their own in 2020.
    In this case, it feels like justice will be served, if Prince Albert hosts Esso Cup in 2021. Of course, there is still an uncertain fear the COVID-19 pandemic could wipe out a 2020-21 winter sports season.
    With that noted, five Bears players exhausted their under-18 eligibility after last season came to an abrupt end in captain Brooklyn Anderson, Jasper Desmarais, Jessie Herner, Tori MacDonald and Lauren Willoughby. On top of that, defender McKenzie Mayo, who could play one more year for the Bears, is slated to join the Trinity Western University Spartans women’s hockey team for the 2020-21 campaign.
    That group of six was denied of the chance to play at the Esso Cup in their home rink this past April due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They won’t get that opportunity back, and that is unfortunate.
    Still, it is a great thing that the Bears will get another chance to host Esso Cup, and you can be sure their organization and the Prince Albert community will put on a great show.

  • Hockey Canada also announced on Wednesday all its summer camps for national teams have been cancelled through to Sept. 1 due the COVID-19 pandemic. Hockey Canada will offer virtual camps for prospects for the under-18 women’s team, the national women’s development team, the goaltender development camp, the national male under-17 programs, and the national men’s junior team. The Program of Excellence coach seminar will be delivered in an online format too.
  • With the NHL officially declaring an end to the regular season for the 2019-20 campaign, Edmonton Oilers centre Leon Draisaitl became the winner of the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer. The 24-year-old product from Germany appeared in 71 regular season games with the Oilers piling up 43 goals and 67 assists for 110 points. Draisaitl became the first alumnus of the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders to become the NHL’s regular season scoring champion and the first player from Germany to capture the NHL’s scoring title. Draisaitl played two seasons for the Raiders from 2012 to 2014.
  •  Jackson Caller, who is a former defenceman with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades, has committed to play for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds men’s hockey team in the U Sports ranks. Caller played about two-and-a-half seasons with the Blades from 2016 to 2018. Last season, he played as an overage in the junior A ranks with the Vernon Vipers of the British Columbia Hockey League. In 55 regular season games with the Vipers, Caller netted five goals and 12 assists.
  • On Tuesday, it was announced the Prince Albert Exhibition Summer Fair won’t be held this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was slated to run July 28 to Aug. 1.
  • On Tuesday, it was announced Prince Albert’s Polkafest won’t be held this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Polkafest is usually held in late August.
  • On Wednesday, the Western Canadian Baseball League announced its 2020 season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision to cancel the campaign was a unanimous one from the league’s board of governors. The WCBL is a wood bat summer league that consists of teams in Saskatchewan and Alberta who are made up of players from the university ranks in the United States and Canada.
  • With having to work from home due to all the shutdowns with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic starting on March 11, the data I’ve used on my mobile phone from the start of March up to today has been my lowest usage since I have ever owned a mobile phone.
  • On Wednesday, the Walt Disney Co. announced plans to reopen its Walt Disney World theme park in Florida in phases beginning on July 11. The reopening plan awaits the approval of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
  • On Sunday, the Wyant Group Raceway in Saskatoon announced it is still hoping to hold a local stock car racing season with hopes of a season opening race in early August.
  • The University of Regina Cougars women’s hockey team took up the #SocialDistancingChallenge. Spread out seemingly all over the place, the Cougars players put together a fun pass the puck video from a number of different locations.
    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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    If you like what you see here, you might want to donate to the cause to keep independent media like this blog going. Should you choose to help out, feel free to click on the DONATE button in the upper right corner. Thank you for stopping in.

Monday, 25 May 2020

Hilltops to hold bottle drive fundraiser, ring ceremony

Hilltops players show off their rings following the 2018 ring ceremony. 
    The Saskatoon Hilltops are calling a few audibles as they navigate their way through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
    The COVID-19 pandemic is creating big challenges economically in the sports world at all levels. Even the venerable and storied Hilltops, who are the six-time defending CJFL champions, are not the immune to those challenges.
    As a result, the Hilltops are open to all options when it comes to fundraising for the club. On Saturday, the Hilltops will be running a bottle drive to raise funds for the team.
    From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, the Hilltops players will be canvassing the neighbourhoods across Saskatoon to pick up bottles. Everyone who will be out collecting bottles will be wearing gloves and masks to make sure they are being safe throughout the process.
    Fans and supporters can also drop off bottles from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday at ABC Canada at 1802 Quebec Avenue.
Jadyn Pingue was named the CJFL’s top defensive player in 2019.
    The Hillltops will also be hosting their ring ceremony on Saturday on the practice field next to their clubhouse to present their 2019 squad with their CJFL championship rings.
    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hilltops ring ceremony will look a lot different than it has in past years. It is being held on the practice field to make it easier to keep social distancing.
    Players and coaches will cycle through the practice field area over a two-hour period starting at 2 p.m. in order to keep the numbers of the group below Saskatchewan Health Authority guidelines.
    In past years, team members would receive their CJFL championship rings at a social function.
    From March 19 to May 1, the Hilltops suspended operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic and even closed their clubhouse to all personnel.
    They had a Football Night Banquet fundraiser slated for April 3, but that even was indefinitely postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    The Hilltops also had to nix their annual spring camp that was slated to be held around the first weekend of this month because of the pandemic as well.
    The Hilltops are still working on what action will look like in their six-team Prairie Football Conference and in the CJFL as a whole in 2020.
Hilltops HC Tom Sargeant upped his career wins total to 210.
    It is expected the regular season will be an abbreviated one.
    In 2019, the Hilltops posted a 12-0 overall record and went undefeated for a second straight season. The undefeated campaign was particularly impressive as the Hilltops dealt with a high turnover in starters from their 2018 CJFL championship team.
    The Hilltops claimed their sixth straight CJFL title downing the host Langley Rams in an 11-6 defensive slugfest to retain possession of the Canadian Bowl trophy.
    The Hilltops have captured the Canadian Bowl in nine out of the last 10 seasons to become CJFL champions.
    During the 2019 season, Hilltops linebacker Jadyn Pingue was named the CJFL’s most outstanding defensive player.
    Hilltops legendary head coach Tom Sargeant picked up his 200th career victory in a 34-16 win over the host Regina Thunder on Aug. 25, 2019 at Mosaic Stadium.
    Sargeant later moved past retired Regina Rams head coach Frank McCrystal to become the all-time leader in head coaching victories in Canada’s amateur post-secondary football ranks.
    After the Hilltops won their sixth straight CJFL championship, Sargeant’s career record sat a 210-30-2 including action in the CJFL regular season and post-season.
The Hilltops celebrate a touchdown during the 2019 campaign.
    McCrystal had a 208-104-2 record in the regular season and post-season in both the CJFL and U Sports. He was the head coach of the Regina Rams from 1984 to 2014, and they played 15 seasons in the CJFL and 16 campaigns in U Sports over that time as the University of Regina Rams.
    At the conclusion of the 2019 campaign, the Hilltops had won their last 31 overall games in a row including action in the regular season and post-season.
    They had won their 29 straight games in a row on the road and claimed victory in a CJFL record 20 straight post-season games.
    The Hilltops played the 2019 campaign in honour of the memory of Justin Filteau, who starred at linebacker for the team from 2010 to 2014. Filteau passed away in a plane crash on June 1, 2019.
    The Hilltops players wore decals on their helmets last season to remember Filteau.

Blades, Rattlers, SaskTel Centre join in COVID-19 fundraiser

    The WHL’s Saskatoon Blades, the Saskatchewan Rattlers of the Canadian Elite Basketball League and the SaskTel Centre are joining forces to raise funds for COVID-19 pandemic relief.
    On Saturday, the three organizations will host a “Super Sports Saturday,” which is a one-day virtual event that feature a storied game from each team.
    On that day, people will be able by a link to see an online stream of either the Rattlers CEBL championship win over the Hamilton Honey Badgers on Aug. 25, 2019 or the Blades round robin victory in the 2013 Memorial Cup tournament over the Halifax Mooseheads, which was held on May 19 of that year.
    The game streams will include behind the scenes team content and interviews.
    Fans will have the chance to win prizes from the Blades, Rattlers and the SaskTel Centre.
    Supporters will be part of “virtual crowd” and the teams are hoping to attract enough views that would surpass the SaskTel Centre’s all-time attendance record of 16,874 set at Metallica’s concert in 2018.
    The purchase price to buy into each game is $2, which means you can see both games for $4. All funds raised through this initiative will go to COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts.
    Those looking to by these game streams can do so through the Blades website, which can be accessed by clicking right here.

Wedding bells ring for Huskies alum Thiessen, other notes

Garrett Thiessen, right, and Danielle Empey, centre, got married on Saturday.
    Anyone that passed by Mayfair United Church around the lunch hour on Saturday got to see a heartwarming moment in front of the building.
    Inside the church, Garrett Thiessen, who played defence for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team for four seasons from 2010 to 2014, and Danielle Empey said their wedding vows. They got married in wedding ceremony witnessed by a small group including parents, a best man and a maid of honour.
    When the newlyweds walked out of the front doors of the church, they were saluted by family and friends with a lengthy car parade that drove past them.
    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the couple couldn’t have the wedding they originally planned due to restrictions on large gatherings. Despite the pandemic circumstances, they still wanted to go ahead with their wedding ceremony.
    They were pretty ecstatic to see the creative way their family and friends came together to celebrate their big day.

  • On Thursday, the UFC announced the Fight Night card schedule for June 20 at the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon was cancelled due to restrictions on public gatherings and travel imposed by the Canadian federal government and Saskatchewan provincial government. The government restrictions are in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The UFC has managed to host fight cards recently without fans in the United States in the state of Florida.
  • On Friday, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team announced former players Matthew Baraniuk and Samwel Uko passed away in separate incidents. Baraniuk played one season for the Huskies as a running back in 2017. Uko played one season for the Huskies at running back during their Canada West Championship winning campaign in 2018.
  • On Friday, Chad Wolf, who is the acting secretary for homeland security in the United States, signed a measure to allow foreign born professional athletes to enter that country exempt from travel restrictions. At the moment in Canada, anyone entering the country including professional athletes must self-isolate for two weeks.
  • On Saturday, A story was posted on the Gordie Howe Sports Complex website where I caught up with Saskatoon product Devon McCullough, who is a pitcher for Canada’s national men’s softball team. McCullough recalled the thrill of being the winning pitcher in a 10-5 comeback victory for Canada over New Zealand in the title game of the 2015 International Softball Federation Men’s world championship tournament. That title game was played at Bob Van Impe Stadium, which was McCullough’s home park for a number of different levels of the game. The story can be found by clicking right here
    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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Saturday, 23 May 2020

COVID-19 pandemic pushes people’s limits

Ultimate test in being comfortable with being uncomfortable

Looking into downtown Saskatoon back on March 22.
    The clichΓ© “learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable” has been stretched to the limit in the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
    Over social media lines, the battleground of people confronting each other regarding how the pandemic is being handled gets so toxic at times that I am almost afraid to write a column on the subject. You begin to wonder if it is even worth sharing your feelings or opinions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
    It seems if you do, you have to be prepared to fight someone physically in a UFC octagon ring.
    The whole shutdown of all non-essential services and activities across most of the world is something the world has never seen before in its history, and a number of other pandemics have ripped through the world in its history. In North American, we have been facing this reality since shutdowns started to occur on March 11.
    Sweden and Brazil are just two places that haven’t observed lockdown measures so far.
    Even as I write this piece, I wonder if I should be putting out how I feel. I am not even sure it will help in the discussion.
    I have taken to the idea that the COVID-19 pandemic is a traumatic event, and everyone will deal with how they react to this event differently. The only thing I can equate the pandemic too is a death in the family, where everyone in the family reacts to the death in their own way.
    There are people out there who believe the world’s reaction to the pandemic is a complete overreaction. There are others that believe we all need to stay locked up in our homes and avoid interacting with all other humans for the next four years.
    You have predictions from some we should be over this in six weeks or two months, and that includes a handful of medical professionals who say we should start getting back to normal.
    You have other health officials, who seem to be in the main seats of influence, at first saying at the start of the pandemic this will go on for 18 months to two years. 
Merlis Belsher Place functions as field hospital in waiting.
    Now, it seems those same people are saying this could go on for three to four years, and they seem to have a total disregard for the economy and a whole host of other spinoff health problems that will result if we live in shutdowns for that long.
    It feels like the there is a major battle going on between the health officials and the economists. At the moment, it feels like World Health Organization as a body rules most of the world and has free reign to dictate what the world does.
    No matter what happens, the reality for myself and likely most who read this piece is we do not control the strings of power. All we can do is roll with the punches and do our best on a day-to-day basis to make our way in this crazy world.
    You just try to put your head down and stay in your lane as best you can while the world sorts itself out.
    That was the truth before the pandemic. That is a more pronounced truth now.
    While I myself have no power to influence anything, I still believe there needs to be accountability in every facet of life. Of course, people and organizations do earn leeway when they conduct themselves in a responsible matter over a period of time.
    That includes health officials and people in political power that make decisions.
    I should give background about why I say health officials just so it is out front that what I write may be coloured.
    As I grew up, my experiences with family doctors weren’t the greatest. It seemed from the time I was born up through my university years, I would often get sick often due to bronchitis, and all the family doctors would do is give me prescriptions that didn’t work.
    It felt like I often had to fight off any illness on my own. Over my life, I have made friends here and there, who have admitted to basically firing their family doctor after experiencing the same sort of thing.
    That all changed when I moved to Medicine Hat, Alta., when Bill Ruzycki became my family doctor. Ruzycki was also the team doctor for the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers, who were the WHL team I was covering as a beat writer for the Medicine Hat News.
    Any time I needed a prescription or wasn’t well when I lived in Medicine Hat from 2004 to 2014, everything Ruzycki prescribed to me worked. I also didn’t get sick with a physical illness that often during my time in the Hat too.
Signs like this are visible at Saskatoon facilities.
    The thought crossed my mind, “Why is he so much better than any other medical doctor I’ve ever had?”
    I just hoped he would never retire.
    Since moving to Saskatoon in the summer of 2014, the doctor I have seen at one specific medical clinic has been fine. I haven’t had to see him for anything serious.
    Still, I have kind of kept in the back of my mind which doctors I would see in Saskatoon if I “really” got sick. Those doctors also happen to work as doctors for sports teams I have covered.
    I also have had some family members who have felt the pitfall of “mistakes” from the medical system where no one was held accountable. Because doctors get cleared of some mishaps doesn’t mean the mishap never happened.
    Unfortunately, that has coloured my view of the medical system.
    No matter what arguments are presented to me about why we need to do what we do in this COVID-19 pandemic, I am still always asking in my head, “Are we doing the right thing?”
    For one, I always think any new data that might have been collected on this thing over the last two months isn’t being used. It feels like the first apocalyptic models are viewed as the only correct way to interpret things.
    It also feels like anyone that raises a different view from the medical profession gets discredited right away. When that happens, I draw parallels to dealing with the “mistakes” that have occurred to members of my family who were in the medical system dealing with an ailment.
    Did a mistake happen somewhere regarding COVID-19?
    It is also human nature that once people obtain power they don’t want to give it up, and I believe that could include people calling the shots in the medical community. It seems fear about how easily COVID-19 can be transmitted is being weaponized for political motives.
    I should also note I don’t have any trust for United States President Donald Trump either. It seems like anyone even thinks about questioning the direction we are headed in is automatically slated as a Trump supporter.
    It is possible to question both and wonder if both are doing bad jobs.
    To me, it feels like the whole story with this COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t come out yet. I believe it is a threat. Where it fits in with other threats, the true information on that front may never come out.
    As we deal with this chronic stress situation that has no end date, it feels like there are people out there that believe once the pandemic passes life with return in North America to what it was on March 10. Due to the fact the world has gone into a self-imposed recession that might already be a depression, we won’t see that world from March 10 for a very long time.
    Also, it seems like people believe governments will just take care of society as we sit in our homes and wait for this to pass. I almost laugh at that thought.
    When this is over, the tax rates are going to go through the roof at least with all the bailout programs rolled out in Canada.
Malls reopened in Saskatoon this week including Midtown Plaze seen here.
    For those starting out in the current world, you need to be a police officer, firefighter or health care worked to be ensured of always having a job with a reliable steady income.
    This whole situation is not easy and is uncomfortable.
     It will be interesting to see how the world looks back on this period of time two or three years down the road.
    Since almost all of us are not in position to call the shots, all we can do is look after our mental well-being on a day-to-day basis and remain in the present as much as possible.
    Along the way, we should try our best to be nicer to each other too including to those that see things from a different viewpoint.

Chiefs’ Beckman takes WHL player of the year honours

    After going on that long winded diatribe, it is time for a quick tidbit on the sports front.
    On Thursday, Saskatoon product Adam Beckman was named the winner of the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as the WHL player of the year. The left-winger, who played through his 18-year-old season with the Spokane Chiefs, topped the WHL in goals (48) and points (107) appearing in 63 regular season games. He had a plus-44 rating to go along with his point totals.
    Last year, Beckman, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 174 pounds, was selected in the third and 75th overall by the Minnesota Wild in the NHL Entry Draft, and he has signed an NHL entry-level contract with the Wild.
    During his career in the WHL spent entirely with the Chiefs, Beckman has appeared in 132 regular season games posting 80 goals, 89 assists and a plus-63 rating.
    The WHL had been rolling out its league awards via an online format, and Beckman’s player of the year award win concluded that rollout.
    For Saskatoon Minor Hockey, it has to be cool to see one of their products take the WHL’s top individual honour.
    Beckman’s Chiefs had a 41-18-4-1 record before the last bit of the WHL regular season and the entire major junior post-season was nixed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The asshole stats and final thought

    The next part of this post will be what I call are “I’m an asshole” statistics.
    I believe I will be viewed as an asshole by a number of people for reporting these statistics.
    I just hope in the future the source these statistics come from doesn’t get shut down. If it does, mainstream outlets will be hooped too, because I believe this is the source they draw COVID-19 numbers from.

  • Since I have typed what will be viewed as a mainly unpopular post, here are some statistics compiled by the Worldometer, which seems to be extremely accurate in counting deaths in real time around the world. At the time this post went live, there were 344,019 deaths due to COVID-19 this year. Also so far this year, Worldometer report there have been 3,239,260 deaths by cancer, 1,971,663 deaths caused by smoking, 986,459 deaths caused by alcohol, 663,030 deaths by HIV/AIDS,  422,947 deaths by suicide, 386,872 deaths by malaria, 192,051 deaths by seasonal flu and 121,909 deaths from mothers giving birth. Just putting that out there.
  • One crazy statistic Worldometer reports in there has been over US$157,691,000,000 spent this year on illegal drugs in the world. Just putting that out there.
  • At the time this post went live, there were six hospitalizations in the province of Saskatchewan due to COVID-19. In Saskatoon, there are 1,266 hospital bed set aside for COVID-19 patients including 250 beds in the field hospital in waiting at Merlis Belsher Place. Just putting that out there.
  • For what it is worth, I like the reopening plan the Government of Saskatchewan has laid out and is following. With all the items I have written in this post that will be disliked, I think Saskatchewan Scott Moe and Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab are doing a good job navigating this whole COVID-19 pandemic. To me, they seem to be the most real out of any of the leaders dealing with this. Of course, not every decision that is made will be the greatest, but I feel fortunate I am living in Saskatchewan through this. Even with what I just wrote, I suspect there will be people that don’t like the fact I wrote this point.
    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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    If you like what you see here, you might want to donate to the cause to keep independent media like this blog going. Should you choose to help out, feel free to click on the DONATE button in the upper right corner. Thank you for stopping in.