Then, I thought about a bit more. Corporate support is a big deal for Junior ‘A’ hockey now and I think they’d raise more than enough to make it viable and I think they could draw 750-1000 fans a night to boot.
That’s right in line with the top half of teams in the SJHL and what they are drawing, at the moment.
In recent years, as I’ve thought about potential new markets for Junior ‘A’ hockey in Saskatchewan; communities like White City, Pilot Butte, and Warman come immediately to mind. However, the corporate support in those towns may not be enough to sustain the team over the long haul.
Regina, definitely, has it and there is enough money to go around during the winter time for the Pats, Cougars, and a Junior ‘A’ club. The Cooperators Centre is also a fantastic venue. In fact, it’s perfect.
It may also be a good thing to have a team in the provincial capital just for exposure purposes. It used to be that a Junior ‘A’ team gets lost in the shuffle of a bigger city; but publicity can be garnered so many different ways now as compared to ten or twenty years ago. And, again, I come back to the corporate support. While ticket sales are important, sponsors are a bigger factor than ever before and I don’t think securing them in Regina would be a major hurdle. When sponsors see value in Regina, I think that would then translate to the other league centres. Just my two bits.
In the immediate aftermath of the SJHL/MJHL Showcase, it’s worth noting that former Flin Flon goalie Devin Buffalo has been nominated for the Hobey Baker Award, which goes to the top NCAA player of the year. He’s one of 74 finalists and fans are eligible to vote.
At Christmas, I was involved in a discussion with a couple of astute SJHL followers and we were debating the best goalies we’ve seen play. I’ve been around the SJHL since 2001 and came up with a list that I’ve never shared. Perhaps now is the time and place with the news on Buffalo being selected as a Hobey finalist. FIrst of all, I left out championship calibre goalies like Taylor Nelson, Kale Thomson, Matt Hrynkiw, and Taryn Kotchorek because I’m not sure I ever got a chance to really see how great they were due to the fact the teams in front of them were such powerhouses. You can’t win without good goaltending, so they deserve to be in the conversation. It’s also not their fault their teams didn’t need them to be their best player.
But, here’s my list:
Brett Bothwell (Yorkton) - dominating goalie on a team that dominated.
Sean Connors (Kindersley) - true definition of a ringer.
Kevin Dziaduck (Yorkton) - preceded Bothwell, played big in big games.
Devin Buffalo (Flin Flon) - had the Bombers won a title, he maybe would go to the top of the list.
AJ Whiffen (Weyburn) - his teams were always better because he was on them.
Travis Bosch (Melville) - ridiculously good on a team that fell short.
Anthony Heuer (Melville) - similar to Bosch in that he came up from Junior ‘B’ and stole games.
Mitch Kilgore (Weyburn) - speaking of stealing games, Kilgore ranks up there too.
Justin Pesony (Battlefords) - solid workhorse, great character.
Alex Gagnon (Humboldt, La Ronge) - when Bob Beatty moved from Humboldt to La Ronge, he made sure Gagnon went with him. You don’t need to know any more.
Brenden Cuthbert (Weyburn) - tall, skinny kid won the RBC for the Wings in 2005.
Joe O’Brien, Davis Jones, Dan Bauer (Nipawin) - all played at different times and all were similar in that they starred on excellent clubs.
Matt Weninger (Kindersley, Flin Flon) - could be higher on the list, but fell short in the playoffs.
Devin Peters (Yorkton) - maybe the most underappreciated goalie I’ve seen in this league.
Russel Monette (Weyburn) - also could be higher on the list, but couldn’t lead the Wings past the powerhouse Yorkton teams.
Kris Joyce (La Ronge) - there were many nights he was the only good thing about the Ice Wolves, and hid the fact that the team really wasn’t all that impressive at all.
Chance Gieni (Notre Dame) - best puck handling goalie I’ve seen.
Jack Burgardt (Weyburn) - reliable. I don’t think I ever saw him play a bad game.
Evan Weninger (Kindersley) - consistent. In his third year with Nebraska-Omaha, but was eligible to still be in the SJHL up until this year.
(Follow Mike on Twitter @SourceMike)