Yes, folks, at long last hockey season is upon us! Tonight, the SJHL season begins with five games on the schedule.
My press pass is here, and while I’m not going to be covering the game tonight here in the Battlefords against Kindersley, I’m looking forward to following the games on the radio and maybe even getting out to cover one in the coming weeks, in between municipal election coverage.
And may I just say that if there was ever a year in which Saskatchewan sports fans are looking forward to the return of hockey, it is this season! Usually, the return of hockey depresses the heck out of people because it means winter’s coming. But I think fans simply want something to get their minds off the Canadian Football League.
Honestly, the entire CFL product — and I’m not just referring to the terrible 1 win-10 loss Saskatchewan Roughriders — has been awful this season. Lousy officiating, endless senseless penalties, and too many delaying video reviews and decisions by league officials at head office have made the whole sport unwatchable, and the TV ratings reflect it. The CFL is getting killed in the TV ratings by the Blue Jays and by the NFL, and even by World Cup of Hockey pre-tournament games! And it’s all because the product is lousy.
The Riders in particular have been a gong show, due to rules violations and bizarre player moves (ie. signing notorious anti-Semitic social media troll Khalif Mitchell, and now letting him go). If it wasn’t for the fact that this was the last season for the beloved old stadium, with everyone wanting to see the place before they tear it down, attendance would be far worse than it is. This team is so far out of the race now that it’s a waste of time tuning in, and there are still seven more games to go. Seven utterly meaningless joke contests – the season ticket holders won’t be impressed.
As for the fan mood in Saskatchewan, people here are just plain depressed and want this season over with. It’s a contrast to last season, where anger prevailed and everyone wanted everyone fired. Most don’t even have the energy to be mad at coach/GM Chris Jones anymore for all his roster moves — they’re just exhausted. Lately, the press has been trying to drum up interest in whether or not QB Darian Durant should be re-signed or traded, but people are too exhausted for that whole issue, too.
I think there will be interest in the final CFL game in old Mosaic Stadium as well as the “trial run” game at the new stadium between the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina. Beyond that, fans are spent. They simply want to see this football season hauled to the dump, finally.
But hockey season offers new and fresh hope. I think sports fans in Regina are actually more enthused about the Regina Pats right now than the ‘Riders, because of all the predictions about how good a team they’re going to have in the WHL. The bottom line is a lot of people are looking forward to hockey season, not just myself.
Also starting up very quickly is the World Cup of Hockey, and for some reason I’m pumped up about this tournament. Maybe it’s because I’m feeling nostalgic for those Summit Series and those Canada Cup tournaments that had taken place years before. It has been a long time since we’ve had a tournament like this happen in the month of September, going back all the way to 2004.
You may recall what happened back then: Canada indeed won the World Cup of Hockey, and then the very next day the lockout started that ended up wiping out the entire NHL season. So that kind of killed the fans’ enthusiasm for this tournament right there.
Of course, the main complaint out here in the West is that all the World Cup games will be going on in Toronto, at Air Canada Centre, with no games being hosted outside of there at all (except for these meaningless pre-tournament “friendlies”).
It seems strange that organizers would set it up this way. Then again, many aspects of this tournament are strange (under-23 squads, etc.).
Anyway, the bottom line is hockey is back, and for suffering Canadian football fans it cannot come back soon enough.
I just thought I would add an update about the sports action from around here. Today, the SJHL Showcase is on in Warman, so I am following the Battlefords North Stars’ progress there this week. The team was also in action on the road this weekend. Here is a link to my story about the two North Stars SJHL games in Nipawin and Flin Flon, although I feel I should point out I was not actually at the games.
Instead, I wrote this story entirely based on SJHL online score sheets and Craig Beauchemin’s radio play-by-play — which, I should note, got bumped on Saturday night to FM 93.3 The Rock because rights holders CJNB 1050 were airing the game featuring the pathetic Saskatchewan Roughriders against the BC Lions. Honestly, it is the ‘Riders who deserve to be bumped, because they are awful. 46-20 was the final score on Saturday.
Incredibly, the backup Lions QB who started and did so well in taking the ‘Riders apart on Saturday, Jonathan Jennings, had actually been given a tryout by the Roughriders down in Florida a year ago! But the geniuses running the Riders passed up on him to go with Tino Sunseri, and Seth Doege!!
This brilliant decision-making, my friends, is exactly the reason why ex-GM Brendan Taman and ex-head coach Corey Chamblin are out of jobs today. And while on the subject of Florida, I notice the Miami Dolphins fired their head coach Joe Philbin today, right after they had gone to London, England and lost to the Jets — and his record this season was 1-3! By contrast, here in Saskatchewan they waited until the team dropped to 0-9 before the people on high finally did something about it.
Finally, some work-related news. The good news is I am no longer “Temporary Interim Sports Reporter” at the newspaper.
The bad news is I am now simply “Interim Sports Reporter” as it is increasingly obvious there is nothing “temporary” about this situation. Once again, apologies to Northwest region sports fans. I clearly am going to be doing the sports beat for a while yet.
I have an announcement to make. In honour of the fact that I am now “Temporary Interim Sports Reporter” for the coming couple of weeks, I have decided to completely turn over my blog to sports for the duration.
This will be until my “interim” tag is lifted and I can go back to covering news — I expect Oct. 1 or whereabouts. Then I’ll go back to posting what I normally post.
That means, for now, (a) no coverage of the election, and (b) no coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival — although I notice eTalk and ET Canada, and Citytv, seem to be doing a good enough job of their live feeds. In fact, I notice Tanya Kim is with Citytv now, doing their red carpet coverage.
Bottom line for me, though, is I have nothing to add about the film festival anyway because I’m not there. Maybe I’ll go to The Martian or Black Mass or these other films when they hit the cinemas later on.
As for my whereabouts, I am covering the SJHL hockey season beginning tonight at the Civic Centre when the Battlefords North Stars host the Kindersley Klippers. The North Stars will also be on the road tomorrow in Kindersley, but I will not be at that one, it’s too far away.
As an aside, this is one year in particular when everyone is really, really happy to see hockey back, because this football season has been a BUST.
It’s not just CFL season that is a bust, it’s also the CIS season! Tonight’s big university contest is between the Rams and Huskies in Saskatoon. Of course, both teams are 0-2. So yeah, it has been a big disappointment for everyone.
As for other football news — only in Saskatchewan is there a quarterback controversy for a lousy 1-10 football team!
Veteran QB Kevin Glenn will start for the Saskatchewan Roughriders against the Ottawa RedBlacks, much to the consternation of fans who want to see the Riders develop young QB Brett Smith.
People, get off the ledge. This Riders season is a write off, and it really doesn’t matter who plays. Smith has had enough playing time as it is and will likely get even more once the team is officially eliminated. As for Glenn, he is your best chance at winning right now and probably your best chance of evaluating the receivers and other talent on offence. On top of that, he’s still getting paid, so you might as well make him earn a paycheck in the meantime.
Overall, this silly “QB controversy” means little in the grand scheme of things and getting all worked up about it is not worth the effort. It’s just more pointless drama being cooked up to maintain what little interest fans have left in this season. Folks here need to settle down and quit drinking so much Pilsner, already.
Just want to let people know that I am yet again on assignment, covering hockey. In fact, by the end of this weekend I will have covered so much hockey that I may not want to cover a hockey game ever again.
- This is my weekend to work, which means tonight and tomorrow I am at the Civic Centre to cover the first round Survivor Series between the Battlefords North Stars and Estevan Bruins.
- On Sunday, I will cover the Midget AAA playoff game three between the Battlefords Stars and Saskatoon Contacts. Last night was game one at the Civic Centre and the Contacts won 5-4 in the second overtime, in a game in which they were badly outshot and in which they were down 3-0 at one point. Sometimes playoff hockey is not fair, and this was one of those nights.
- As well, I am supposed to find the time to cover the Midget female AAA playoff game between the Battlefords Sharks and the PA Bears. The problem is that game runs up right against the North Stars and the Bruins, plus there’s some other event going on the same evening that I am meant to cover as well. Anyway, I’ll simply need to figure out a way to be in three places at once. No big deal.
Uh, hi, folks. The reason I have been MIA for the past few days has been because I have been busy covering sports, mostly hockey.
Tonight, I am writing the story on the Battlefords North Stars road trip to the southeast, which means listening to the radio and looking at the score sheets online while I write something up. Tonight they are playing Estevan Bruins and the game is boring so far, with no scoring.
On Friday I covered a game in the Saskatchewan Prairie Hockey League, or SPHL. It’s senior hockey, but I like to call it the Good Ol’ Boys League because that’s what it really is — rough and tumble hockey with plenty of fights. Anyway, Meota beat Spiritwood 11-3.
Then on Saturday I was totally busy. Not only did I cover the Midget AAA female hockey game between Battleford Sharks and the Prince Albert A&W Bears at Battleford Arena, but earlier in the day I drove out to Cut Knife to cover the nomination meeting for the federal Liberals in Battlefords-Lloydminster. You can read that story here.
So anyway, the bottom line is I have been busy, but I have been able to catch the NFL games today, including that crazy finish in Seattle. Now fans of the Green Bay Packers know exactly what life is like for Saskatchewan Roughriders fans, because that was bad, folks.
That is it for now, I have an SJHL hockey story to finish.
Work update: as you can no doubt tell from reading that piece on the Roughriders, I have been filling in on the sports desk for the last several days, and this situation will go on for another week after this.
To that end, I am pleased to announce that, for now, I am covering the SJHL again!
I wrote this piece on the North Stars-Humboldt game and must also brave the cold to go to the games between Battlefords and Weyburn tonight and on Sunday at the Civic Centre. A week ago, I also covered the infamous “Friday Night Fights” game versus Yorkton which saw players and coaches suspended due to all the fighting that happened.
Also, I should point out I have no life and will be on assignment next week for three nights in a row, and I really hope the weather warms up at least a little because I am sick of having to remove snow from the top of my car all the time. Ideas about cheap sun vacation deals are welcome. Anyway, that is all for now.
For a while it looked like the hockey season was going to last quite a bit longer around here. But the midget Stars lost in the league finals to Notre Dame a week ago, so they’re out; then on Friday the North Stars lost to Melville in the SJHL playoff semifinals, so they’re out.
Last night, I went down to Wilkie to see the Outlaws win the North Saskatchewan River Hockey League title in game 7 over St. Walburg in a wild game. At least that is some good hockey news for the area. Look for some good photos from that one in the paper.
That Wilkie game was basically the last hurrah, the last gasp, for hockey season around here. A lot of people were not ready for the season to end this suddenly for the top teams and leagues in the Battlefords. There were a lot of high hopes in this area for the two Stars teams, but that is the way things go a lot of the time.
Now we enter the annual “black hole” of life in Saskatchewan where people are reduced to sitting at home waiting for the Riders to come back. This is what happens, folks, when you are in a place with no MLB team. It is, no doubt, the biggest downside to living here.
Usually, this is also the time of year when fans are supposed to get excited about the coming NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, but it sure looks like enthusiasm is muted for that, too. The only Canadian team that is in the playoffs is the Montreal Canadiens, and it sure looks like that will be it, just one team from Canada, given the latest Leafs woes. And the closest NHL team to this area, the Edmonton Oilers, are a shambles.
Anyway, that is the only big time hockey we can look forward to around here — the TV kind. Life has turned boring in a big hurry.
It is once again Hockey Night in Saskatchewan! Tonight and tomorrow night, the Battlefords North Stars are in Melville up against the Millionaires in SJHL semifinal action. The Mils are up two games to none and tonight’s game is basically a must-win for the North Stars. So far, the story of the series has been Melville netminder Isaiah Plett, who has stood on his head.
The North Stars have this big reputation, though, for being an awesome road team and a great comeback team, so we shall see if that holds up.
This series, plus the Yorkton-Humboldt matchup, represent the highest level of junior hockey still going on in Saskatchewan after all our WHL teams bowed out of the first round. In fact, it was an epic disaster as the division champion Regina Pats went down in four games.
So the SJHL is basically all that is left. We can say this about the North Stars; no matter what happens, they outlasted the Swift Current Broncos and that means a lot to people here.
As usual I will be on Twitter, tweeting the final scores again as I have been doing all playoffs. That is it for now.
I covered the first two SJHL playoff games at home involving the Battlefords North Stars, and as you can tell from the story I filed, the local fans were a little shocked. Fortunately, the North Stars swept the two games in Estevan, including in overtime Wednesday, and can advance to the league semifinals with a win tonight. All in all, playoff fever is hitting the Battlefords in a big way and I fully expect bigger and bigger crowds at the Civic Centre to see the exciting Canalta Cup action.
Saturday was my busiest day as I also covered the Battlefords Stars as they beat Prince Albert to reach the Sask. midget AAA finals, which starts against Notre Dame Argos this weekend. One good news story from the team is that Spencer Bast has just signed a deal with Kamloops of the WHL.
The other game that day was a charity hockey game involving the Saskatchewan Roughriders to raise money for Battlefords Minor Football. Several Riders players including Chris Getzlaf, Chris Milo and others were there trying their best to play hockey. The autograph sessions drew big crowds and long lineups last week. Needless to say, it was the most excitement sports fans have seen here all year. On top of that was the North Stars SJHL playoff game so Saturday was a long day.
There is some other sports activity happening this weekend — the University Cup is on this weekend in Saskatoon, which is good because it will give hockey fans there something to do now that the Blades are kaput for the season. Of course, there is also the NCAA basketball tournament going on, though I guess everyone’s brackets are already busted.
Just today Duke got beat, and I notice Kansas is losing right now to Eastern Kentucky. If the Jayhawks lose and Andrew Wiggins bows out, what will TSN do now?
Anyway, I thought I would simply update you about how busy I was in recent weeks. In addition to all this riveting sports coverage at the Civic Centre, I was at several city and town council meetings and also covered the provincial budget. Next week, the provincial finance minister Ken Krawetz will be in the Battlefords, so there will be even more coverage of that. In short, I have no life.
The last three weeks have been ridiculous and I most definitely need this break, just to save my sanity. Now that I finally have some time on my hands, expect me to finally post more of my rants here.
I took in all the sights at the convention hall where they had all the Hockey Hall of Fame items. The items there included several old jerseys, the NHL awards, and of course the Stanley Cup. The lineup of fans to have their picture taken with the Stanley Cup was VERY long.
I wrote a big column for the paper this week about sports trophies, with the recent Grey Cup tour coming to our area. Well, that column has proved pretty timely given that the Stanley Cup is also in the region.
I was there when Marty McSorley and Mark Napier were signing autographs. They had the outdoor rinks going as well, and you could see Ron MacLean doing interviews for TV at one of them. All in all, the winter weather conditions could not have been better — you could walk outside without getting your face frozen. This is the way winter ought to be, but seldom is, in this part of the world.
It’s weekends like this one, as well as last weekend, that remind me how big a hockey fan I am. Last Saturday I covered the Battlefords North Stars 40th Anniversary Alumni Weekend, where four decades of Battlefords SJHL players took part in an alumni game at the Civic Centre. Later that evening I covered the North Stars game against Yorkton; the North Stars won the game 3-1.
Tonight, the North Stars were slated to be in St. Walburg for a game against Notre Dame as part of their Hockey Day in Saskatchewan celebrations. Due to be there as well is the Stanley Cup on the heels of its stop in Lloydminster today.
I’ve really enjoyed both last weekend and today as well, being around the sights and sounds of the sport of hockey at the grassroots level. This has gone a long way towards weaning me off my usual Saturday-afternoon football fix. Believe me, given how big a football fan I am, that is a tough task in itself.
We are officially into the dead season as far as hockey is concerned where I am. The playoffs have been over for the local teams here for a long time. Both the local SJHL and AAA midget teams exited the first round, and then the Saskatoon Blades down the highway made life even more miserable for their WHL fans by collapsing in the first round to Medicine Hat. Now they are waiting for the Memorial Cup to start and that won’t happen until May.
The only top-level hockey going on right now in the province at the junior level are the SJHL Canalta Cup finals between the Humboldt Broncos and Yorkton Terriers, but is it ever news when Humboldt is in a league final? They seem to be there every year.
Driving everyone crazy in the meantime is the weather. We were snowed under again yesterday and that wreaked havoc on the province’s roads. Plus, the minus temperatures continue. By comparison, Las Vegas is 24 C, Phoenix is 27 C, and beautiful balmy Cancun, Mexico is 28 C.
So here we are in Saskatchewan, where hockey has been over for several weeks in a lot of places, and we are getting hockey weather: cold and snow. I guess we should look on the bright side, because we aren’t getting floods. Yet.
It’s days like the last two that have me thinking about southern Ontario yet again and how much better life was there, because they rarely see this sort of mayhem in April. But then I keep on reminding myself about how things have changed and how a lot of familiar places are no longer there.
On that note…
Heard the bad news a while ago about the Brampton Battalion in the OHL. They announced their move to North Bay some time ago and last week was their last game in Brampton, as they lost in overtime 1-0 to Sudbury in the playoffs. My connection to the Battalion is from the days when I used to cover games for Rogers Television when I was reporting for their local news. I was in the press box many times at what is now Powerade Centre, aka “the Bunker”, covering the team.
I remember interviewing such players as Rostislav Klesla and Raffi Torres back in the day — I am really going back in time here.
Oddly enough, both those guys ended up playing for the Phoenix Coyotes. I noticed that just this week Torres was traded again for the umpteenth time to San Jose.
As for the Battalion moving, it’s great for North Bay, but it’s really too bad for the hockey fans in Brampton. The writing was on the wall for a long time, though. Even when I covered them, few people outside the city limits cared, which was a shame because they had a pretty exciting team to watch. It’s yet another junior hockey failure in the GTA, which is too bad for OHL fans who live there — and there are some fans.
Brampton fans will still have a local team to cheer for when the Central Hockey League arrives next season, and the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads play at the Hershey Centre just down the road, but it will be a big change for the fans because they just aren’t the Battalion.
Here’s a piece written for Yahoo! Sports by one of the Battalion’s biggest fans, and I link to it mainly because I personally know some of the people he mentioned in the piece. Also, here’s another piece written in tribute to the team.
Good luck in North Bay, guys, and thanks for the memories.
Seriously, life here just got really boring.
Hi, again. With our resident sports guy down in Mexico, I am doing the SJHL beat this week. Tonight, I’m covering the Battlefords North Stars versus the Nipawin Hawks. Saturday, the North Stars host Weyburn. I’ve also been writing a few stories this week for the sports pages on SJHL and other hockey happenings. There is never a dull moment covering this sport.
Meanwhile, folks in the national sports media in this country, assigned to cover a certain league that I absolutely refuse to mention by name because I am so annoyed with them, continue to waste their time reporting on fruitless negotiations. Can you imagine these big-league hockey reporters with these networks, stuck tracking down the negotiators and following them to these hotels where they haggle it out behind closed doors? Then, at the end of the day, these reporters get a grand total of one minute of comment from somebody important as he walks out the door!! What a life!
Seriously, I am not missing the ^^^ season at all. I am having way too much fun following the SJHL and sitting in the press box at the Civic Centre, drinking hot chocolate and taking lots of pictures for the newspaper. Occasionally, I’m able to get good photos of someone moving in on net and scoring a big goal.
Also, remind me to rant and rave soon about the World Junior Hockey Championships coming up in Ufa, Russia. I have a few choice words to say about the ungodly hours in which we are asked to get up in the morning to watch Team Canada play on TSN. That, of course, is assuming you even bother to wake up so early at all. Whoever made up the schedule really has a sense of humor, not. That’s all.
UPDATE: For those wondering what the final score was on tonight’s game, the North Stars came back from a 1-0 first-period deficit to beat the Hawks, 3-1.
I thought all you regular NHL beat reporters should know that while you are stuck covering the latest lockout negotiations, I will be covering an actual hockey game tonight.
I will be in the press box at the Civic Centre covering the SJHL game between the Battlefords North Stars and Melfort Mustangs. Compared to you NHL folks, I definitely have the better of the deal.
As for my thoughts on coping with the lockout, I wrote my latest newspaper column on it and you can see that here.