For the first time in seven seasons the Neepawa Natives have qualified for the MJHL post-season and everyone associated with the organization couldn’t be more thrilled.
Natives, who made the playoffs with a win in their final regular-season game, now take on No. 1 ranked Steinbach Pistons.
“That last game was unbelievable,” said GM Myles Cathcart. “It was just like the old days. The place was packed. The fans were loud. There had to be more than 1,000 in our rink. It was a great atmosphere.”
“It’s fun times for us now,” he said with a laugh. “It’s kind of like the old days for those of us who have been here for a while. Making the playoffs. Having games in spring. It’s just unreal for us.”
Cathcart’s association with the Natives run deep. He was a member of the original Natives, and over the years has held a number of roles. By his own admission, the franchise has faced, and overcome its share of adversity.
“It’s been a very long process for our organization,” he said. “It’s been a process getting back to where we are competitive; to where players want to be here and not want to leave. Making the playoffs helps us from both recruiting players to approaching sponsors and advertisers.”
“Making the playoffs really shows growth in the right direction for us.”
Cathcart vividly remembers the days when the Natives entered the MJHL and iced a competitive team on a yearly basis. The Natives, under then coach Don MacGillivray, last advanced to the league final in the mid-90s, losing to St. James Canadians. (MacGillivrary is now an assistant coach with Brandon Wheat Kings, after an outstanding career in the MJHL.)
“When our team does well, the community is excited,” said Cathcart. “A lot of great people put in a lot of hard work to get the team where it is today. Both on the ice and off the ice. The community of Neepawa has always supported their Natives.
“Now, by making the playoffs, we can give something back to them with exciting, competitive hockey.”
The full MJHL playoff schedule can be seen HERE.