Take 1: I know it was a couple of weeks ago, but I want to go back to the MJHL/SJHL Showcase and what a great event it was. I can’t remember ever seeing so many scouts and coaches from programs in one place like that. The players didn’t disappoint. Sure, the results for Manitoba weren’t what we were hoping for but there were 6 high-quality, entertaining, good games. The league staff were amazing, the people behind the scenes were awesome and it was a great couple of days.
Take 2: There was a ton of talent on both sides, but a few players really jumped out and will get or at least should get long looks from programs. Nolan Nenow and Parker Scherr of Portage, Cody Gudnason of Neepawa, Sean Williams from Waywayseecappo was dynamite, David Cote of Steinbach, Elliot Perreault of the Freeze, Roux Bazin and Nolan Chastko from Virden, Quincy Supprien from the Blizzard, Jordan Bax of Dauphin, Dalton Andrew of Winkler, Matt Moreira of Selkirk was a ton of fun to watch, Micheal DeBrito of Niverville, and that’s just to name a few. Every player that wore black, white or red should be proud of what they did and every one of them managed to do something to make themselves stand out.
Take 3: This week we celebrated National Girls and Women in Sports Day. Sticking with Showcase, Leah Hextall led the broadcasts for the 18U games both days. Having Leah be a part of it means a lot, especially to young girls who want to one day do what she does. I think of Lua Pauls, daughter of the voice of the Nighthawks, Kevin. Lua gives a lot of her time to watching hockey at all levels, keeping stats, learning phrases and one day could be the next great female broadcaster. Lua is just one example of what a bright future women have in broadcasting. Her work is even more impressive given who she’s stuck next to for most Nighthawks broadcasts, (Kevin would absolutely agree with that).
Take 4: Last take about the Showcase. On the Wednesday for the first game, there were a couple of school classes that came to watch. During the National Anthem, all the kids started singing. I mean singing! They were fantastic. It was something that even now thinking about it gives me goosebumps. There are times when we’re lucky enough to know we’re witnessing something special and that was one.
Take 5: Officials have it tough. I’m as hard as anyone on them at times. One thing you can’t argue with is just how tough they are. I was talking to a linesperson this week and asked him about a discussion he was having with a player. The guy rolled up his sleeve to show off a massive, dark bruise he got from being hit with a puck on a dump-in. He said that he yelled for the player to be mindful of where he was, and he ended up hitting him anyway. He said it happens a lot even though they try their best to get out of the way. Officials get banged up, bruised, and every time they get knocked down, they get back up. We may not always see eye-to-eye with the stripes, but you’ve got to admire their dedication and love of what they do. There are a lot of times we can all agree they do not get paid enough.
Take 6: February, is I Love To Read Month. Check out the MJHL and team social media to see players in schools reading to kids. It means so much to everyone involved. Kids talk about it for weeks. They come to games because they know a player and they want to cheer for him. The players get out in the community and it’s just great. It happens every year but it’s not something we should ever take for granted. There’s maybe a kid in that class that will one day wear that jersey and go back to read to the next generation of MJHL’ers.
Take 7: The Waywayseecappo Wolverines wore special jersey’s recently in memory of Addison Mitchell. Addison visited the Wolverines dressing room in September. Sadly, the brave, strong, amazing 9-year-old lost her battle. The Wolverines proudly wear helmet decals in her memory. They went one step further, having Addison-inspired jerseys for a game. Addison’s favorite color was the inspiration for the jersey color. All the jerseys were auctioned off with all the proceeds going to Cancer Care Manitoba and Expanding Cancer Care Centre in Russel. The Wolverines also donated one of their Addison Mitchell jerseys to the Birtle Elementary School to hang up on their memory wall for Addison.
Take 8: There are 91 days until the start of the Centennial Cup. 91 days! There are so many questions that will be answered between now and then. All the scoreboard watching, all the point collecting, all the debate… it will (mostly) be over in 91 days.
Take 9: The battle for the last playoff spots in the respective divisions is going to come right down to the wire. You have to think that all the teams involved are viewing it as playoff-style hockey now. It’s cliché but it’s cliché for a reason, because it’s true. The points around teams are just as important as the two up for grabs in the game they’re focused on playing. Players will have to block it out. Coaches will say they block it out, but you can probably find the MJHL Standings tab on their phones. It’s funny how some of us can struggle with basic math until it’s about points and playoffs, then we all turn into Will Hunting. If you don’t know that reference, make sure you’re 18 and watch the movie Good Will Hunting.
Take 10: There are some rinks in the MJHL where the broadcasters are mixed in or in an area where there can be lots of people passing by or standing around. People, please leave the broadcasters an area to work. It’s hard keeping up with the action, the last thing they want is to have conversations going on around them or being poked or asked questions. Give them some space. Wait till after the period and the headset comes off to talk to them. It’s a simple act that gets taken advantage of at times and goes overlooked. They’re doing a job, respect it.
Take 11: Really good job to the MJHL teams bringing in some incredible speakers to events this year. It’s so cool to see some of the names that are spending evenings with MJHL teams. Teams really work hard to put on a great evening for supporters so to have some big names on the bill, it says a lot. Great job to the people who make galas or events happen.
Take 12: Something to think about or take note of the next time you’re at a game, which team has the best music? Being an in-arena DJ is a bit of an art. You have to have things lined up for your team but also, have to be prepared if the other team does something. Could you imagine having your goal song go when they score on you? That would be a tough pill to swallow. Warmup music is generally picked by the veteran players, same with the goal song. But the music after whistles, that’s all the volunteer manning the playlist. Which team does it the best? Keep a closer ear out next time and have your say. Think they’d take requests? I want more songs about Zamboni’s.
Take 13: With snow and overall winter making its return to Manitoba, it’s a great time to say thank you to the unsung heroes of the MJHL and winter sports all over: The bus drivers. While the rest of us are on our phones, listening to whatever or sleeping, they’re grinding away through weather and sketchy roads. They make it so we don’t have to worry. After almost every road trip, you’ll hear more than a handful of players thank the driver for getting them to the arena. Some will come in to watch games while others will catch some sleep where they can but if you ever see them in the rink or sitting in the bus in the parking lot, give them a wave and a thank you.