Only a couple weeks left in the regular season…. unless Mother Nature keeps forcing games to be postponed, then who knows how long the regular season could go for.
Jokes aside, this has been a great month of hockey. It’s not over yet, either!
Take 1: Scoreboard watching is so much fun. The league’s website setup makes it really easy to track games in real-time. To those that do online scoring, you do an amazing job. Keep up the great work. Online scoring is another example of how many great volunteers the MJHL has. It’s not an easy thing to do. There are a lot of moving pieces and the people who do it do it well.
Take 2: I don’t know which team started using GIFs of their players after goals, but it’s a great idea. All teams should do it. I have no idea how you make a GIF or even what it’s called (is it pronounced JIFF or GIFF). Anyway, the more teams promote their players and the more fans see players without their helmets, the better.
Take 3: Have to say a big thank you to the fans that have come back in waves to games. Looking around the league, it’s clear that MJHL has been missed and fans really love going to games. I think a lot of younger fans have fallen in love with their team again. Having players go to schools, having youngsters on the ice between periods and more makes our league special. Fans appreciate it and it shows. I can’t wait to see some attendance numbers for playoffs.
Take 4: Congratulations to Will Hambley of the Steinbach Pistons on getting a scholarship to Western Michigan University. Hambley joins a growing list of Pistons who have committed this season. I was lucky to chat with Will a bit and something that doesn’t get talked about is just how crazy some stories are. Hambley, for example, talked about being at a camp in Alberta and it not working out, so he hopped on a plane home to the East Coast, only to get a call that Steinbach wanted him. So, he got on another plane to head to Manitoba, landed, and went straight to the rink where a pre-season game was set to be played. The dedication of so many players, the love of the game, the sacrifice it takes to land an opportunity then make the most of it is truly special. There are more stories like that out there and as more MJHL players get NCAA Division 1, 3, or CIS commitments, we’ll hear more of them. I can’t wait.
Take 5: On March 9th, 2020, basketball player Rudy Gobert did a press conference. As he was leaving, he jokingly touched all the microphones and cell phones in front of him. He tested positive the next day. I was blown away when I found out that was 2 years ago. How can it feel like 10 years and yesterday all at the same time?
Take 6: You really have to feel for the bus companies with these gas prices. Wow. I have a small idea of how it all works but with prices going up like this, companies and teams are going to suffer the wrath. It’s not cheap going around the province in a massive vehicle. I wonder if the league looks back at re-seeding after round 2 and would like a do-over. Staying in division kind of always made more sense to me anyway, but my guess is teams would like the guaranteed shorter travel until the league final.
Take 7: If there is a cross-over starting in round two, is it cheaper to drive to and from, or is it more cost-efficient to stay overnight? Playing two games back-to-back is not bad and I think the players would prefer to have two home games followed by two road games with two days off in between. Then you go one-one-one from games 5-7.
Take 8: I really thought the OCN Blizzard were going to do it. I thought they were going to defy the odds and make the playoffs. What a good run they had. Boy, that building would have been rocking in round one. Even though they fell just a little short, they should be very proud. I think long-term, that push will help that team form a bond going forward. Here’s hoping they can have a lot of returning guys to grow again next year. To the graduating players, play hard the rest of the way, you never know who’s watching. Best of luck.
Take 9: Two playoff matchups are set in the league and I can’t wait to follow along. Coming up in a few weeks, we’ll have a special MJHL Playoff Preview and breaking down the series between Winkler and Winnipeg, as well as Virden and Waywayseecappo is going to be a lot of fun.
Take 10: I think next year we need to bring back the MJHL Podcast. A weekly podcast breaking down the weekend, some top stories, get into discussion about the league and the game of hockey. I’d like to see Kevin Pauls and Jake Maurice get a chance to do something like that. Bring in special guests like broadcasters from around the league, former players, current players and coaches, plus more. Let’s get that going again!
Take 11: Congrats to the MJHL Award winners this year. A hat tip to all the nominees as well. Predicting who will be nominated is always tough but picking who will win is even tougher! This year, I went 3/6. Not bad. 50% is passing. Not a great average but not a failure. Now, we are looking forward to the team awards/banquets.
Take 12: Legendary broadcaster Harry Neale turned 85 this week. So many hockey fans have their favorite broadcasters and for me, it was Bob Cole and Harry Neale. They were the voices of Hockey Night in Canada. I remember growing up thinking they lived in the arena and how cool that must have been. So many legendary calls from overtime winning goals to big fights, Harry Neale’s voice can still be heard in the minds of many. Cheers to the legend and to his part in many hockey memories.