Take 1: Monday is Thanksgiving and for families around the league who have opened their homes to players, it’s a special time as it really brings everyone closer together. It’s especially unique for the American players who may be experiencing Thanksgiving in Canada for the first time, which is a month or so earlier than their used to. Many billets will also do an American Thanksgiving for them, so everyone wins multiple times.
Take 2: Out of all the food made during Thanksgiving, two must haves are stuffing and mashed potatoes. Yams can take a walk as can cranberries. There’s just no room on the table for them. Or onions.
Take 3: This is also a time you’ll see players out either picking up food donations, helping sort or packing food hampers. I’ve talked to many players over the years and it’s things like helping food banks that really stick with them. They see the needs in the communities, and they step up to help. It’s a bonding experience as well for the players. Keep an eye on MJHL social media’s for all the great photos and details.
Take 4: Congratulations to the first MJHL commit of 2023/24, Luke MacKenzie of the Virden Oil Capitals. Luke will be heading to Canisius University and suiting up for the Golden Griffins. He spent last year with the Southwest Cougars in the MU18AAA hockey league. This year, he’s already scored twice and added three assists for five points in six games. It’ll be the first of many similar announcements coming out over the next few months.
Take 5: There have been a few but we need to see more big saves in the Plays of the Week. Even then, goalies don’t get the credit they deserve a lot of the time. As a former goalie said to me the other day, it’s not always how big a save is but the timing of it. Sometimes the biggest save may be routine but if it’s late in a one goal game, it becomes massive. Broadcasters should have a save of the game every time they’re on Flo Hockey.
Take 6: The 13 Manitoba Junior Hockey League teams have combined for 58 games as of today. They’ve also combined for 757 penalty minutes. The most is the Selkirk Steelers with 115 and two teams are tied for the least amount, the Winnipeg Blues and the OCN Blizzard at just 24 PIM.
Take 7: Dauphin Kings forward Gabriel Bugeaud is tied for the rookie scoring lead with 5 points in 5 games. He was born in 2005. A number of 2006 players are near the top of the list like Virden’s Bryce Bryant, Niverville’s Nathan Brown and more. Want to feel even older? Brody Green from the Winnipeg Blues has 4 points in 4 games, and he was born in 2007!
Take 8: There are many new faces across the MJHL and with that will come some wonderful rounds of Rookie Idol and rookie poems. Those are two staples of long bus rides after wins. They are exactly what they sound like. First-year players, veterans, and the coaching staff are treated to some memorial performances for either good or not good reasons. It’s all great fun. Lots of laughs, lots of cheers, and sometimes, versions of songs you can never unhear. I bet if you ask anyone who’s played in the MJHL what song they did for Rookie Idol, they’ll remember.
Take 9: The MJHL Showcase is quickly coming up. I’m really glad the league went back to regular season game play involving all players and not just selected individuals from each team. So many guys do the little things every game that scouts notice and help make a difference. The heart and soul of many teams may not put up the biggest numbers, but they block a shot, they make a hit, they do something to help the team win. There’s a place for selected events but for these particular few days, every MJHL player should be involved. Get tickets not just for your favorite team, but for as many of the games as you can watch. Make a whole day of it with the family. You’re in for some great entertainment.
Take 10: If you have Twitter/X, make sure you follow @MJRefs. They post the game officials before every game. It’s a little detail but it’s an important one. It’s great to highlight the officials and it’s also neat to see how many former players are officials now. Without refs, we wouldn’t have hockey. It’s important to celebrate the family, that is the stripes. Younger hockey players need to be doing officiating as a side job when they’re not playing hockey. It gives them a different view of the game, helps get them on the ice more working on their skating, plus they could fall in love with it and make it a career. Manitoba needs more high-quality officials.
Take 11: Super cool the Waywayseecappo Wolverine players that live in Russell get to attend a Newcomers Reception. They get introduced to people from the community and welcomed with open arms. Speaking of the Wolverines, get used to seeing the name Jesiah Bennett. He’s going to keep doing some big things for the club and the league.
Take 12: Winkler is the lone team without a loss of any kind on their record. Only two players who have made it into games are without a point. Talk about balance!
Take 13: I want to give a shoutout to the crews and community of La Broquerie. The HyLife Centre is the home of the Pistons this season and they have done so great learning and adjusting on the fly to what it takes to have MJHL hockey multiple times a week. There are a lot of moving pieces behind the scenes that fans don’t see. It takes a lot of hands to make something like that possible. Hopefully people can appreciate the work they’ve put in and away teams feel they’re treated well, too.