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MJHL announces official partnership with InStat Hockey

WINNIPEG, MB – The Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) is excited to officially announced a video analysis and statistical data partnership with InStat Hockey for the 2021-2022 season.

InStat is used by league and federation offices, coaches, scouts and management as a data and communication tool assisting in coaching processes, player development, statistical analysis, and video scouting. At the team level, coaches and players can receive detailed game-by-game analytical reports, player shifts, and emailed web links to all corresponding to data-specific video.

“We are extremely excited to add InStat Hockey as an official partner for the upcoming season,” said MJHL Commissioner, Kevin Saurette. “InStat will provide valuable development benefits for players, team staff and on-ice officials while allowing for enhanced exposure opportunities for our athletes.”  It will also provide teams with an advanced tool to better analyze player and team performance by way of detailed video and advanced statistics.”

With InStat, coaches will receive team statistics and individual player data for each game, including time on ice, shots, scoring chances, faceoffs, hits, saves, and more advanced stats such as CORSI and xG. The league and its teams will also have the ability to use the video of teams and players from various professional, collegiate, junior and youth programs worldwide, for the purpose of scouting and player development.

“The MJHL is a premier junior hockey league and a leader when it comes to player development and technological enhancements, and we are confident that our services will only support in the growth and development of not just the players, but also the coaches and on-ice officials,” InStat Director of North America, Mark Yates explained.

“This new partnership with the league, after teams this past season were able to use InStat during the pandemic, just goes to show the value and the trust they have in our product and how we can be an asset to the players and teams individually, and the league as a whole,” Yates continued.

Benefits of the MJHL – InStat Partnership:

  • MJHL Coaches receive full statistical / video breakdown of every MJHL game
  • MJHL Coaches receive post-game analytical reports
  • MJHL Coaches receive pre-scout analytical reports
  • MJHL Coaches can watch and use NHL clips as a coaching/development tool
  • MJHL Coaches receive access to all leagues (any game video/stats/clips available to review)
  • Players provided their own player page + NHL team and player pages
  • Players receive a one-page, individual, analytical report after each game
  • Players will receive direct video links to their important actions and all shifts
  • Players can create their own highlights by clipping videos, creating their own playlists and sharing or downloading videos
  • Players can watch NHL players to learn from the best and develop their own game
  • Maximum player exposure to NHL, CHL, NCAA D-I, D-III, and USports teams
  • All clients at the levels above will have direct access to the MJHL teams and players
  • InStat’s partnership with RinkNet means seamless access for scouts to view MJHL player video (from InStat) directly from a player’s RinkNet profile
  • On-ice Officials receive the capability to enter the platform and review their performance(s)
  • On-ice Officials receive video links to their actions, calls and a full post-game report via email
  • MJHL League Office to receive access to the platform for the purposes of discipline review, marketing / promotion, player / coach development, etc.

Please stay tuned for further exciting announcements in the days to come.

InStat Sport, founded in 2007, is a leading provider of performance analysis services in football/soccer, basketball and ice hockey. Ice hockey clients of InStat range from the top North American and European professional, collegiate, junior and youth hockey leagues and teams in both men’s and women’s hockey. For more information regarding the InStat platform and range of services, visit www.instatsport.com

About the MJHL

The Manitoba Junior Hockey League is one of ten Junior ‘A’ Hockey Leagues in Canada and is a proud member of the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL). The CJHL is an association of ten Junior ‘A’ leagues in Canada. The MJHL exists to provide the best hockey development opportunities for players.

Our goal is to develop players and ultimately have them develop into solid citizens who make a positive contribution to their community. Communities with a Junior ‘A’ hockey club generate their spirit in and around the community arena facilities. The goal of the MJHL is to provide its fans, communities and supporters with the best possible hockey product through dedication to improvement in all areas of the game both on and off the ice.

Mission Statement

To provide each MJHL player with an elite hockey development experience with a strong emphasis on education and positive citizenship. To deliver exciting Junior ‘A’ hockey action to fans throughout the province and enhance Manitoba communities in the spirit of sports excellence and goodwill.

MJHL Job Posting | Kings Marketing & Business Mgr.

Courtesy of Dauphin Kings

The Dauphin Kings are now accepting applications for the position of Marketing & Business Manager.

Dauphin Kings Marketing & Business Manager is responsible for managing and developing the team’s strategic marketing plan, partnerships, fundraising, promotions, game day operations, advertising, and events on behalf of the franchise. The Marketing & Business Manager will report directly to Director of Marketing of the board and work closely with the General Manager and coaching staff to ensure the team is being promoted to an optimal level. It is very important the Marketing & Business Manager creates opportunities for the team to work with other organizations in Dauphin and the Parkland region, to build strong partnerships within these communities.

Reports to: Director of Marketing – Dauphin Kings Board of Directors

Job Duties/Responsibilities: Create and manage a marketing and business strategy around the Dauphin Kings to achieve expected outcomes in the following areas:

  1. Sponsorship, Advertising & Ticket Sales:
  • Responsible for sponsorship, sponsor servicing, advertising, and developing corporate partnerships.
  • Responsible for achieving established sales goals and budgets.
  • Develop, write and present corporate sponsorship proposals to prospective partners.
  • Create new sales inventory or modify existing collateral as required.

2. Team Promotions & Marketing

  • Work with local media, write press releases to maximize exposure.
  • Assist with all non-hockey functions- take a co-chair, or the lead, in Par 3, Comedy Night, Tractor Lotto
  • Website management and social media marketing plans.
  • Build the brand and image of the Dauphin Kings in the community and among its peers in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.
  • Oversee Season Ticket sales, marketing strategies, data base, follow ups and deliveries.
  • Lead roll on 50/50 with lotteries and game day operations
  • Work in conjunction with the Manitoba Junior Hockey League to promote league corporate sponsorship.

3. Community Networking

  • Work with community organizations to promote the “Kings in the Community” program in Dauphin and the Parkland region.
  • Promote community activities as required.
  • Respond to fan and partnership requests.

4. Game Day Operations

  • Recruit and manage volunteers to optimize the fan experience.
    o Staff volunteers for the day, 6/7 on-ice players, etc.
  • Manage game day preparations and coordination of game day events.
  • PA and Video Scripting, Pre-game testing in arena, Promotion Equipment, Balancing, reconciling and depositing cash.

Assets Required

  • Strong project management and writing/editing skills.
  • Ability to communicate clearly and effectively with individuals or groups of people.
  • Sports enthusiast, energetic, creative.
  • Self-motivated and able to work independently on multiple projects and tasks in a fast-paced environment.
  • Positive attitude and a strong commitment to the franchise.
  • Passionate about hockey and making a difference in your community.
  • Must be able to work evenings, weekends and holidays as required.

Compensation: Base salary + commission
Estimated start date: July 5, 2021
Please send resume and cover letter no later than June 4th, 2021 to:
Dauphin Kings Director of Marketing: Ron Hedley- rhedley17@gmail.com

MJHL summer programs and season planning update

WINNIPEG, MB – The Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL), and its 12 member organizations, are currently making all necessary preparations for the 2021-2022 season which includes full season schedule planning with multiple options.

The MJHL will continue to work with Sport Manitoba, Hockey Manitoba, Government and Public Health Officials to ensure that all necessary safety precautions and guidelines are in place to commence the 2021/22 season in September safely and responsibly. The expectation with the current vaccine rollout timelines within the province is that MJHL fans will be permitted to attend and support MJHL Hockey come September – More specific schedule details to follow in the coming weeks.

The MJHL Spring Development Program has been ongoing since April 4th, which has allowed MJHL players the opportunity to return to the ice for fun and skill development sessions to benefit their overall mental, physical, social and developmental well-being. The Program follows current public health orders and will run into the latter half of May.  To date, 45 + on-ice development group sessions have been completed.

Planning continues for the MJHL Prospect Development Camp (2005/2004 Manitoba born MJHL Prospects) and the MJHL Draft Prospect Camp (2006 Manitoba born 2022 MJHL Draft Prospects) which will take place in Winnipeg from July 14 -18. Player invitations have been sent with registrations filling up quickly.

The 2021 MJHL AGM is planned to be held virtually on Thursday, June 3rd.

The MJHL would like to thank the amazing partners, organizations, staff, players, volunteers, and the entire MJHL community for their vital support and commitment during these unprecedented times – The Future is Bright for the MJHL.

Please stay tuned for exciting announcements still to come.

MJHL Podcast Feature | Ed Belfour

MJHL Podcast Episode 32, featuring Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender, Ed Belfour.

Ed joined the podcast to chat about playing in the MJHL for Winkler, earning a scholarship to UND, winning the Stanley Cup with Dallas and much more.

Belfour spent three seasons in the MJHL playing for the Winkler Flyers before earning an NCAA Division 1 scholarship to the University of North Dakota. The top goaltender in the MJHL receives the Ed Belfour Trophy on a yearly basis.

For more, listen to the full MJHL Podcast interview hosted by Erik Swar.  The MJHL Podcast takes you inside the league each week with recaps, stories, interviews, rankings, and weekend previews. The MJHL Podcast is available on all major platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.

MJHL launches spring development program

WINNIPEG, MB – The Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) has announced the launch of a spring development program geared towards current MJHL Players located in Manitoba beginning Tuesday, April 6th.

The MJHL spring development program will provide MJHL players the opportunity to return to the ice in a safe, structured and sensible manner with a strong focus on fun and development.

“We are excited to launch this program, within the parameters of Public Health Orders and Return to Play Guidelines, to help ensure our athletes have the opportunity during this time to return to the game they love and for their overall mental, physical, social and developmental well-being,” shared Kevin Saurette, MJHL Commissioner.

The spring development program will consist of 12-16 on-ice development sessions per group throughout April and into May with groups operating separately in Winnipeg, Portage la Prairie and Virden.

The MJHL will continue to monitor and adjust to public health orders. Please stay tuned for further exciting announcements to come.

About the MJHL

The Manitoba Junior Hockey League is one of ten Junior ‘A’ Hockey Leagues in Canada and is a proud member of the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL). The CJHL is an association of ten Junior ‘A’ leagues in Canada. The MJHL exists to provide the best hockey development opportunities for players.

Our goal is to develop players and ultimately have them develop into solid citizens who make a positive contribution to their community. Communities with a Junior ‘A’ hockey club generate their spirit in and around the community arena facilities. The goal of the MJHL is to provide its fans, communities and supporters with the best possible hockey product through dedication to improvement in all areas of the game both on and off the ice.

Mission Statement

To provide each MJHL player with an elite hockey development experience with a strong emphasis on education and positive citizenship. To deliver exciting Junior ‘A’ hockey action to fans throughout the province and enhance Manitoba communities in the spirit of sports excellence and goodwill.

MJHL Podcast Feature | Leah Hextall

MJHL Podcast Episode 32, featuring TV Host/Play by Play Announcer, Leah Hextall.

Leah joins to chat about her recent call of the NCAA Tournament, her pursuit of becoming a full-time play by play announcer along with her story of making history in March of 2020.

For more, listen to the full MJHL Podcast interview hosted by Erik Swar.  The MJHL Podcast takes you inside the league each week with recaps, stories, interviews, rankings, and weekend previews. The MJHL Podcast is available on all major platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.

Humboldt Broncos | Remembrance & Reflection

Courtesy of Canadian Junior Hockey League

CALGARY, Alta. – With time, as they say, embraces in aiding the healing process.

Tuesday marks three years since the horrific events of April 6, 2018 that rocked the Humboldt Broncos and all of the hockey world.

The Canadian Junior Hockey League reflects on this sombre occasion that gutted the Broncos organization, their loved ones and family members as well as the town of Humboldt, Sask.

In these unprecedented times, with the entire globe continuing to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the CJHL, along with the each of its members, including the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League as well as its partner, Hockey Canada, and the entire hockey world pauses today to reflect and fondly remember everyone effected as a result of the tragedy.

To the families, the entire CJHL remains steadfast in its continued remembrance and support to each and everyone, including the Broncos organization, who continue to deal with it all as time marches on.

To the first responders, who remained vigilant and contributed with valour and steadfast dedication, we thank you for all your efforts, which continue today in dealing with current global events.

With Monday’s announcement on the launch of the proposed Humboldt Broncos Tribute Centre & Memorial, the healing process continues with this extremely worthwhile project, which will help signify the legacy of all those lost or injured on the horrific day.

To learn more, or contribute, to the Humboldt Broncos Tribute Centre & Memorial, kindly visit the project’s website at: broncostributecampaign.com.

We play for them.

#HumboldtStrong – #Broncostribute

MJHL Podcast Feature | Brandt Young

MJHL Podcast Episode 32, featuring Winnipeg ICE defenseman, Brandt Young.

Brandt joins the podcast to discuss playing in the MJHL for the Freeze, his jump to the WHL, time inside the Regina Hub and much more.

For more, listen to the full MJHL Podcast interview hosted by Erik Swar.  The MJHL Podcast takes you inside the league each week with recaps, stories, interviews, rankings, and weekend previews. The MJHL Podcast is available on all major platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.

Six MJHL Alumni featured in NCAA Tournament

The 2021 NCAA Div. I Men’s Ice Hockey Championships get underway on Friday, March 26 with six Manitoba Junior Hockey League Alumni taking part.

The championship playoff format involves four predetermined regional sites with four teams assigned to each site. The regional winners advance to the Men’s Frozen Four. The entire championship uses a single-elimination format.

Click here to see the full tournament schedule.

Tyler Kirkup – Bemidji State University
Virden Oil Capitals 2015-2018
MJHL accolades include leading the league in goal scoring (40) in 2017-19 and being named to the Second All-Star Team.

Jackson Keane – University of North Dakota
Winnipeg Blues 2013-2015
MJHL accolades include the MJHL All-Rookie Team, MJHL Second All-Star Team and winning the Turnbull Cup Championship in 2014.

Riese Gaber – University of North Dakota
Dauphin Kings/Steinbach Pistons 2016-2018
MJHL accolades include the MJHL All-Rookie Team, winning the Turnbull Cup & ANAVET Cup Championships and winning gold with Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge.

Darby Gula – Bemidji State University
Steinbach Pistons 2015-2018
MJHL accolades include the MJHL All-Rookie Team, MJHL First All-Star Team, Turnbull Cup & ANAVET Cup Championships and earning the MJHL’s Top Defenseman in 2017-18.

Tyler Jubenvill – Bemidji State University
Winkler Flyers 2015-2017
Tyler’s MJHL accolades include being named to the MJHL All-Rookie Team and MJHL Second All-Star Team.

Tyler Anderson – St. Cloud State University 
Steinbach Pistons 2015-2018
MJHL accolades include the MJHL’s Second All-Star Team and leading the MJHL in scoring amongst Defenseman.

The MJHL would like to wish our alumni the best of luck as they prepare for the tournament.

Celebrating women in the MJHL | Chelsea Leskiw

Story by Dave Anthony

Chelsea Leskiw – Off-Ice Official, formerly with the Selkirk Steelers and Winnipeg Blues, currently works MJHL Showcase and with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose

The term “for love of the game” gets thrown around a lot but for Chelsea Leskiw, it’s not a saying, it’s a way of hockey life. “I really love the game” she explains. “I love that I get to see it from a different perspective. I get to do the admin for hockey all while watching the game and watching it grow through the community. I like being involved with it off the ice and see it all come together.”

Chelsea breaks down what it means to be an off-ice official and there’s a lot that fans maybe don’t know. “We are basically the timekeeper but for people who think all we do is hit start and stop on the clock, they’re wrong, there’s a lot more to it. We have to be at the rink an hour and a half before the game to start the paperwork for the game sheet, we get the lineup cards from the home and away coaches and then we transfer all that info, we write it into the game sheet. Then we take it all and put it onto the website. Then we get the coach’s signatures and the starters, while that’s all going on, we have to be ready for warmup. We would run the Stats website, so all the starts and stops go onto the website, we’d play the music and the ads, plus the penalty’s, the shots on goal, the time outs… all that little stuff that people think is super simple, but a lot goes into it that people don’t see. The less they know we’re there, the better job we’re doing.”

While working with the Blues, it wasn’t just admin work for Chelsea. “I also did the music, so on top of all the admin duties, I had to do the clock and music at the same time.”

Being an off-ice official started pretty early for Chelsea. “I started timekeeping when I was 12 or 13,” she recalls. “I was in Selkirk and I was just doing it to make extra money. I became pretty good, and more people gave me opportunities to do more games at the AA or AAA level. Eventually, I started with the Steelers, just helping out or filling in, but when I took over full time, it was in 2013 and worked with them until 2016/17. After Selkirk, I spent two seasons with the Blues, then I started doing the Showcases. I started when I was young, became pretty good at it, plus I have nice writing, so people just kept giving me opportunities. I was eager to learn and take on more. It just became my life, doing timekeeping in the winter and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Looking back at her start with the Steelers, Chelsea admits it was a little overwhelming at times. “They were pretty stressful at the start”, she says with a laugh. “You don’t really know what to expect when you’re coming from minor hockey, you get used to just stopping and starting the clock and filling out the game sheets. Once you incorporate online stats and music and announcing and shots on goal… you realize it’s busy and you have to be on high alert at all times. Luckily, I picked it up pretty quickly but there are some people who sub for me who tell me they just can’t keep up.”

After spending some time in the MJHL, Chelsea explains how she got on with the Manitoba Moose. “I filled out this thing called the ‘Hockey Resume’, it highlights all the hockey experience you have and the past you have. When the Moose came back, I threw my hat into the ring and I was one of the lucky ones to get hired on. Currently, I do the clock and penalty sheets, which is what I would do at MJ games. For the next series, the Moose are back, I’ll be doing the online stats. It’s exactly what the MJHL uses so it’ll be a smooth transition for me. I’m very fortunate to have the time in the MJHL that helped me be ready for the AHL and help me to succeed.”

Being one of only a handful of people in the big rink during a game is pretty weird, according to Chelsea. “It’s super creepy, it’s so quiet,” she says with a chuckle. “I don’t like it. It’s a whole different game, you hear what’s going on in the benches and on the ice. They pump in the fake crowd noise which isn’t my favorite, but it does help the noise level because you can just hear everyone way too clear.”

Her first adventures on the ice didn’t start with the game of hockey, that took a little time. “I used to figure skate and I played ringette. I switched to hockey because ringette was kind of dying out when I was growing up. When I started hockey, it was a whole new perspective for me. I played minor hockey then high school. I started timekeeping in the high school leagues and that’s where my love of timekeeping really took off.”

Being from Selkirk, Chelsea says early on in her timekeeping career, her family did come to watch, perhaps at times begrudgingly. “They did not find it entertaining” she lets out a big laugh. “I’d say, ‘come watch me time keep’ and they’d just say ‘oh, that’s so boring'” Chelsea continues to laugh. “My brother is a ref and he works Junior B and MM, so we got to actually work together quite a bit, which was really cool.”

Despite not being into watching her time keep, Chelsea says her family had her back right from the start. “They were totally on board with it. It kept me out of trouble. I had my own money so I could buy my own stuff, which was nice for them. I got to watch hockey and when I’d go home, I’d talk about it and they just weren’t that into it.”

Being from and working in Selkirk, Chelsea says it’s great to see so many more women at the rink across the province. “It’s really, really cool. It’s great to see it getting the hype it really deserves.” One of those people is Steeler’s trainer/athletic therapist, Alison Deneweth. “I actually grew up just two houses away from Alison, I got to babysit her kids. Having her at the rink as an ally was always super helpful. Just knowing I could talk to her and knowing there are more women working in the sport, it’s really great to see. Even the higher levels, their hiring more females, whether it’s reporters, officials or crew members.”

More leagues continue to welcome more women into different roles and for Chelsea, she says it’s about time. “It’s great they’re getting the opportunities they do deserve. Actually, interviewing us and getting to know what we bring to the game and what we bring to the table. Just knowing there are a lot of women out there who can make a difference but maybe haven’t got a shot yet. It’ll come.”

Being set up in the middle area between the penalty boxes has made for some interesting situations for Chelsea. “Luckily, there are pieces of glass there,” she jokes. “But there is an opening, and some do like to lean over, and they’d get a little too close to me and at first, I’d just sit there and take it thinking, ‘okay, it’s okay, they’ll just get it out of their system’.  As I got more confident in the game, I’d actually snap back, tell them to sit down and be quiet. The refs have my back too, if they see guys yelling, they’ll bang on the glass to quiet them down and check if I’m okay. It’s a really great relationship between the officials on the ice and off.”

Not only is she doing games herself but she’s also preparing the next wave of timekeepers in Manitoba. “I teach and instruct at the Hockey Winnipeg Timekeeping Clinics, so I get a chance to express my passion for the young timekeepers. I tell them, you’re not going to get rich doing it but if you’re really passionate and you’re good at it, you’ll earn opportunities. Keep learning new things. If you’re in minor hockey doing the game sheet, track shots on goal, ask to do music, just getting more comfortable with the game. I like to express that to kids, and they think it’s pretty cool that I get to do games for the Moose.”

It was brought up on a past feature, the three-stick infraction rule, that Chelsea makes sure all young timekeepers are aware of. “I drill that into their little minds,” she says laughing. “I even made a summary sheet for people coming to the clinic. The most important things you’ll need to know whether it’s maximum penalties, maximum stick penalties, or mercy rule. I’ve tried, instead of overwhelming them, I just give them a sheet and hope it helps. I use it even today. It all depends on what level you’re working at and in every league, I’ve worked, they’ve all had a completely different set of rules. (The) refs really love it when you know what you’re doing and help them out. You can make their life a whole lot easier. It means a lot to me that when refs see me at the rink, they trust that they’re in good hands.”

Getting back to regular events is something she’s also really looking forward to. “I love the MJHL Showcases, it’s one of my main events I look forward to every year. Getting to see all the talent and the scouts come out to watch an amazing week of hockey. I’m going to continue with the Manitoba Moose as well.”

Perhaps one day, even the NHL. “I’d love to do the Jets games. I think that door is open for me. Hopefully, one day I can start with them and see where it goes.”

MJHL Job Posting | Blizzard AT/Equipment Manager

Courtesy of OCN Blizzard

OCN Blizzard Jr. A Hockey Club are accepting applications for the position of Athletic Therapist/Equipment Manager. This is a full time, seasonal position with a start date of August 15, 2021.
The successful applicant must have excellent communication and organization skills as well as be able to work both independently and in a team environment.

Responsibilities/Duties for this position include, but are not limited to the following:
• Assist in the prevention, assessment and treatment of injuries
• Responsible for giving players medical treatment they may need prior to, during or after practices/games
• Provide medical coverage at all practice sessions and games, both home and away
• Develop an Emergency Action Plan
• Provide injury evaluation, management, and rehabilitation
• Develop a return to play plan for injured players
• Coordinate treatment with physicians/medical personnel
• Provide an injury report/update to the coaching staff daily
• Maintain all medical records pertaining to treatment required
• Coordinate medical insurance claims
• Maintain team equipment: Sharpen skates, perform minor fixes, cleaning and laundry throughout the season
• Keep an up to date inventory of all equipment
• Order equipment as required
Desired Qualifications an asset but not a requirement:
• Graduation from an accredited Athletic Therapy University/College program
• Respect in Sport
• Hockey Canada Safety Program
• First Aid and CPR
• Certified Athletic Therapist (CATA or NATA)
• Criminal Record Check

Salary and Term will be based on experience.

Please send Resume & Cover Letter to keane5@mymts.net any questions can be directed to Billy Keane Coach/GM 204-250-5565

Closing date to apply is April 15, 2021

MJHL partners with InStat for upcoming events

The MJHL has partnered with InStat for the upcoming MJHL Prospect Development Camp and MJHL Draft Prospect Camp.

Through this event partnership with InStat, MJHL coaches and each participating athlete will receive detailed reports after each game, statistical breakdowns, and links to corresponding video clips for the purpose of development and exposure.

“We are extremely excited to partner with InStat for our upcoming Prospect Events in July. The ability for us to provide each participating athlete with direct video links to all of their plays / shifts throughout the event along with a full statistical post-game report after each game is something we could not pass up,” shared MJHL Commissioner, Kevin Saurette.

The MJHL Prospect Development Camp and MJHL Draft Prospect Camp will be hosted simultaneously from July 14-18, 2021 at the Seven Oaks Sportsplex in Winnipeg and will feature elite MJHL Prospects born in 2004, 2005 and 2006 from across the province of Manitoba.  Every event game will be available to be streamed live or on-demand through the MJHL’s partnership with HockeyTV.  Both camp divisions will provide MJHL Prospects with invaluable on and off-ice development / exposure opportunities while providing MJHL coaches and hockey partners such as the Western Hockey League (WHL), NCAA Division I Programs and Hockey Manitoba U16 Program of Excellence with further opportunities for player identification and evaluation within one convenient setting.

“InStat is proud to partner with the MJHL for the MJHL Prospect Development Camp and MJHL Draft Prospect Camp,” said InStat Director, Mark Yates. “We fully support the MJHL’s desire to provide players the opportunity to gain more exposure during these difficult times and jumped at the opportunity to help. Due to InStat’s work with organizations in the MJHL, WHL, NCAA and higher levels, we believe we can provide each prospect with the utmost exposure. We are thrilled for this opportunity.”

Please stay tuned for upcoming camp announcements including Event Schedule and Rosters.

The MJHL will continue to monitor and adjust to public health orders in lead up to the planned event in July.

About InStat

InStat Sport, founded in 2007, in Moscow, Russia, is a leading provider of performance analysis services in football/soccer, basketball and ice hockey. Ice hockey clients of InStat include teams in the NHL, CHL, NCAA, USports, and many more of the professional, collegiate, junior and youth/minor hockey teams and leagues, worldwide. The company has offices throughout Europe and Asia, and recently opened its first North American office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in November, 2019. For more information regarding InStat, visit the company on the web at www.instatsport.com, follow @InStatHockey on Twitter, or visit InStat Sport on YouTube to view instructional videos and the company’s webinar series for ice hockey, soccer (football) and basketball.

About HockeyTV

HockeyTV is the world’s biggest platform of live and on-demand elite hockey broadcasts. Since its first broadcast in 2006, HockeyTV has streamed games from elite leagues such as the AHL, USHL, CJHL and international games with USA Hockey and Hockey Canada – over 100,000 live games since its launch. HockeyTV has continued to expand its reach and improved its technology by bringing the world’s best hockey players and teams into the homes and mobile devices of hockey fans, coaches and scouts around the globe.

MJHL Job Posting | OCN Blizzard Sales & Marketing

Courtesy of OCN Blizzard

The OCN Blizzard are looking for a new Corporate Sales, Marketing and Game Day Operations Manager to join the team on a full-time basis immediately. The position requires an energetic, organized individual who’s passionate about junior hockey and the positive impact it can have on community.

POSITION SUMMARY

The OCN Blizzard of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League are seeking a dynamic, energetic and motivated individual to join the Blizzard team in the full time role of Marketing, Corporate Sales and Game Day Operations staff.  Based in The Pas & OCN and reporting to Management, the Director of Marketing, Partnerships and Game Day Operations will be responsible for the development of all Blizzard strategic marketing, partnership and game day planning/execution efforts.

KEY RESPONSIBILITIES
Manage overall partner/sponsor relationships including: strategic planning, revenue growth targets and all operations necessary to profitably retain, grow and service customers.

Lead creation of detailed year-end reports for assigned clients/supporters

Prepare various forms of scheduled client contact reports to provide client with necessary Blizzard information

Liaise with community to ensure sponsor activities/deliverables are being met

Take an active role in building and developing a positive relationship with all clients.

With assistance, manage and maintain ongoing updates and content creation for Blizzard website, social media strategy, marketing and branding initiatives.

Lead planning and execution of special events, Manage and lead Game Day Operations.

Collaborate with staff with creative ideas and methods to enhance overall Blizzard game day experience.

With assistance from staff, manage and create community involvement campaigns.

Any other related activities as directed by the General Manager.

QUALIFICATIONS

Strong attention to detail with a professional hands on approach.

Exceptional organizational and time management skills

Demonstrated broad range of communication skills

Project management background and expertise considered an asset

Experience in partner management, partner servicing or marketing-related role considered an asset

Solid understanding in marketing programs, game day events and promotions

Demonstrated efficiency and strong knowledge in Power Point, Excel and Graphic design and video experience considered a strong asset
Qualified Candidates are invited to submit their resume with references and cover letter to keane5@mymts.net

Deadline to apply is April 15, 2021.

Note: only those persons selected for an interview will be contacted. Salary and Commission will be based on previous sales and marketing experience.

**A Satisfactory Criminal Record Check and Vulnerable Person’s Check is required

MJHL Podcast feature | Wyatt Kalynuk

MJHL Podcast Episode 30, featuring Chicago Blackhawks defenseman, Wyatt Kalynuk.

Wyatt joins the podcast to discuss playing in the MJHL, his development in the USHL and NCAA, along with what it’s been like to play in the NHL during the pandemic.

For more, listen to the full MJHL Podcast interview hosted by Erik Swar.  The MJHL Podcast takes you inside the league each week with recaps, stories, interviews, rankings, and weekend previews. The MJHL Podcast is available on all major platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.

RBC | MJHL Community Ambassador Team

WINNIPEG, MB – The Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) and RBC are proud to announce the 2020-21 RBC | MJHL Community Ambassador Team.

Comprised of one player from each MJHL team, Community Ambassadors are recognized for making a difference and giving back to their communities in which they play in. Each player has displayed outstanding citizenship and sportsmanship both on and off the ice and a commitment to volunteerism.

In the coming weeks, one RBC | MJHL Community Ambassador will be selected as the recipient of the RBC Community Award, which comes with a further donation in the player’s name to their local community from RBC.

Congratulations to the following players who have been nominated and selected to the 2020-21 RBC | MJHL Community Ambassador Team.

  • Dauphin Kings – Grady Hobbs
  • Neepawa Natives – Brady Morrison
  • OCN Blizzard – Ben Hilhorst
  • Portage Terriers – Peyton Gorski
  • Selkirk Steelers – Thomas Colter
  • Steinbach Pistons – Caden Triggs
  • Swan Valley Stampeders – Brenden Saether
  • Virden Oil Capitals – Colin Cook
  • Waywayseecappo Wolverines – Mack Belinski
  • Winkler Flyers – Dylan Meilun
  • Winnipeg Blues – Carson Tiede
  • Winnipeg Freeze – Brandt Young

During a typical season, each Community Ambassador is recognized during their team’s RBC Game Night, where they are honoured and  presented with a commemorative plaque. A donation is also made to each Ambassador’s local community on their behalf.

While each Community Ambassador team member will not be celebrated in person this season, it is important that each individual is recognized and celebrated for their commitment to making a difference off the ice. Throughout the coming weeks, each RBC | MJHL Community Ambassador will be highlighted online through the MJHL’s social media platforms and website.

“On or off the ice, MJHL players show us that where there is a will, there is a way. Even for volunteering,” said Terry Burgess, RBC Regional Vice President. “While the season was significantly impacted in so many ways, what was not impacted was the giving nature of the players and the lending of their time back to their communities. We are delighted to see the RBC | MJHL Community Ambassador program continue this season.”

On a yearly basis, MJHL athletes dedicate over 12,000 hours volunteering in their local communities. From reading to classrooms and pouring coffee at bingo to everything else in between, the MJHL takes pride in giving back to the province of Manitoba.

Celebrating women in the MJHL | Tori Nadeau

Tori Nadeau – Score Keeper, Portage Terriers

It’s been a special 20 year run for Tori as the scorekeeper for the Terriers and it all started pretty innocently. “I always had season tickets to the game, and I just loved hockey so much. I just thought it would be interesting to me. I knew the timekeeper and asked if I could sit with her and I just fell in love with it. I loved all the action back then, the fighting and even the bickering back and forth”

She may hold the record as the youngest scorekeeper in MJHL history. “When I was 11 years old, I started helping the previous timekeeper back in 1999” she recalls. “I became solo starting in the 2001 season when I was 13.”

Being the age she was, it took her mom a little time to get on board with the whole idea of Tori doing games. “I remember I’d tell her stories and she would ask ‘are you sure you want to do this?’ She knew I loved hockey so much. Eventually, she said okay, and I could see how it is. I just loved it and she must have seen it on my face. She was happy for me and when I took over at 13, she just said ‘okay. We knew I had the referees on my side and they were there for me if I needed help but there were only a couple situations over the past 20 years that I could see being a little scary, but it’s all good.”

Anyone who’s done timekeeping around the MJHL knows it’s not as easy as just pushing a button, there’s a lot you have to be aware of. “It took a little bit to get used to,” she explains. “The elapsed time takes a little to get used to. Now it’s all just second nature that 11:35 on the clock is 8:25 gone in a period. There was a pretty big hiccup in my first year or so, but I will never make that mistake again. It was a big one.”

That “big mistake” came at a pretty big event and at a critical time. “It was the Showcase Tournament, the first Showcase Tournament I was timekeeping,” she recalls. “I forgot about the 3-stick infraction rule. I realized after the guy came in for his fourth penalty that it was his fourth stick (penalty) and he was in on the winning goal. The goal ended up having to be taken away. It was a big mistake and I heard about it at that age and it kind of scarred me for life, so I’ll never make that mistake again.”

Despite making the mistake and feeling the wrath that came from it, the thought of not doing timekeeping simply never crossed her mind. “Not even a thought when it comes to leaving. It wasn’t to my home team, so I wasn’t too worried. I know they use it in timekeeper clinics. They don’t use my name, but they use that scenario in clinics to help teach. I just view it as ‘meh, little hiccup, not a big deal.”

Before the Terriers and Tori were moved into what’s now Stride Place, they all played in a smaller arena which for Tori, suited her better. “I was in the Centennial arena. The penalty box was… like the home, visitors, and where I sat was the size of now just the home penalty box. I’ve upgraded but I don’t like it as much. I like the smaller space. I like getting in there, listening to the action of them bickering back and forth. Now I have three doors I could close between me and the players, but I just like being around the action, I guess.”

It’s not just the chatter but it’s the sounds of the game, the skating, the puck movement, the hits along the boards that Tori has grown to appreciate. “I didn’t really look at that until I was older. It was just hockey to me. Now, it’s more physical along the boards so there’s more action in front of me. When I started, it was about who’s going to fight who but can’t really have that now because you’ll get tossed out. It’s more stick and body against the boards now and it’s a lot more physical in that way.”

Being around a team that’s won a lot over the past 20 years, she really has felt it when the team’s had success. “It’s been really amazing. I don’t know if they consider me part of the organization, but I say to be part of this organization is a huge pleasure. I consider myself part of the Portage Terrier organization. I’ve grown up with a lot of these guys. When I first started, they were my friends and now they’re like my little brothers. It’s odd to think, when I first started, I was about 10 years younger than the oldest player and now, a lot older than the oldest players (Tori starts laughing). They’re like my little brothers for sure.”

While not being born in Portage, she says it’s her hometown and to see the community support has meant so much over the last two decades. “Our community support in Portage is phenomenal. It was a little bit more in the old barn, just because it was maybe less expensive then, but our support is amazing. There are so many people who have been here as long as I have or even longer and they keep coming to support, it’s special.”

Anyone around Portage and the MJHL would know long-time trainer and equipment manager Geno Romanow and like so many, Tori was deeply saddened when Geno passed away. “I grew up for the last 20 years around the team and he was my rink, Grandpa. The loss of him was huge for me. I was dreading coming back this season, just those first few games of getting used to not seeing him.”

Because of COVID-19, the Terriers and the league didn’t get to celebrate Geno the way many hoped but Tori isn’t worried about that “Oh, we will. We will,” she chuckles. “He would never think anyone would want to celebrate him, but he was a huge part of the organization and a huge part of my life growing up and he’s extremely missed at the rink. Hopefully, someday we can honor him and his family.”

Another memorable moment for Tori was the night Braden Pettinger returned to drop the ceremonial faceoff before a Terrier’s playoff game after an on-ice injury left him paralyzed. “He only got to play one home game with us before the incident happened” she remembers. “Just getting to see him… I know his family from Portage, just seeing them and then when he came out onto the ice was just so…” Tori takes a moment before continuing “It was just so amazing for our organization to do something like that for a player that wasn’t here long. Once a Terrier, always a Terrier.”

If she had to pick one moment though above all others, it was when Portage won the big one. “Winning the RBC Cup. I waited so long for that day” she says, her voice clearly excited at recalling that event. “I was extremely pregnant at the time, but I still showed up.”

She only missed two games during the RBC Cup Tournament, but she made sure she was there for that final game. “It was hard to breathe and not just because I was super pregnant,” she says jokingly. “It was also extremely special because my cousin Zack Waldvogel was on that team. My daughter was just his biggest fan, and she was at the game watching him. It was just amazing.”

You would think her team winning the RBC Cup at home while pregnant would be the wildest story, but Tori has a topper. “I was at the home opener in 2014 and it was the day after my wedding. I had to be there. I couldn’t miss it.” When asked how her brand-new husband felt, Tori just laughed and said, “he was right there beside me. We met in the penalty box. It was the World U17 Tournament. He’s from Quebec and he was an official there. I always thought I might marry a hockey player, but I never thought I’d marry a ref. We have two young children, and they like to time keep with me now.”

While the kids haven’t done Portage Terrier games just yet, Tori is hopeful that maybe one day they can carry on the legacy. “I do hope so. I don’t know if I’ll be able to stick around that long to do games with them. My daughter is 7 years old, so if she wants to follow my steps, it’s only five more years.”

“It sure was a hard pill to swallow,” Tori says when asked about her feelings on the season being canceled. “Hockey is my winter life. My kids play hockey and seeing the impact of them not playing, let alone not getting to go watch hockey, was really hard on them. I did get more family time and that’s a real positive. Not having hockey though was really hard and last year when it got canceled when we were supposed to be hosting again was really hard. I’m hoping we can get it back while I’m still here.”

Although she mentioned a possible end down the road, don’t expect Tori to give up her space in the timekeeper’s box just yet. “I hope to go as long as I can. It of course depends on my children, but I do hope to stick around. I’d like to pass it on to one of my girls, even if it means me going with them for a little bit. I’m here for the long run, I don’t plan on going anywhere any time soon. Portage will be my home for the next twenty or thirty years. I’ll be a grandma by then. Whatever, I’m here and I will make it work.”

She figures over the years, she’s missed less than 10 Portage Terrier games, and she credits her partner in the box with making it such an enjoyable time. “I have to give kudos to Al Wall, he’s so amazing. He’s been with me since we came to Stride Place. He sure hasn’t missed many games either. He’s the best.”

Like all of us, Tori is hoping we can get back to rinks across the province come fall. “When it gets to that time, there’s nothing I want more than putting on my Terrier jacket, walking into that rink and having Portage Terrier hockey being played again.”

Celebrating women in the MJHL | Dana Warrener

Story by Dave Anthony

Dana Warrener – Athletic Therapist, Virden Oil Capitals.

Dana Warrener is the perfect example when it comes to someone doing whatever it takes to do something they love and be a success.

The Eddystone, Manitoba product went to school in Ste Rose du Lac and says getting into athletic therapy took quite a bit of work. “There weren’t really many options. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, really. Throughout school, I loved to participate in or watch sports. Because it was a small town, I played every sport. I wasn’t the biggest fan of track and I wasn’t that great, so I kind of stayed away from that one. But I love sports. I took a lifeguarding course and fell in love with the first aid aspect. I wanted to interwind the massage and sports and first aid, that’s how I came up with athletic therapy. I just love every aspect. I just set my mind and went for it.”

That’s an understatement. Dana laid it all out on the line to end up with the Oil Caps, as she explains how she found the job and the sacrifices she made to pursue her dream. “I saw a posting within one of my organizations and I applied. I sent in an email, but I didn’t expect to even be considered. I had just quit my job at Smitty’s and then I randomly got a phone call asking if I’d come down for an interview in Virden and that they’d meet me halfway, but it happened that I was going to be there for the rodeo that weekend. So, I interviewed, and it turned out very well. Within a week, I had uprooted my whole life. It was quite crazy. I found a place, sight unseen, moved in late at night… it was a crazy time.”

Before working with the Oil Caps, Dana did do some work with other teams but in 2019 she was running her own show in Virden. She says at times, it was a bit intimidating. “I wasn’t a full-on athletic therapist yet, I was more of a sports medic. It was my first solo position, and it was a little scary. I think I was a little worried if I would be able to do it but my brother Drake kept saying to me ‘you’ve been doing it, you can do it, you’ve been doing it all through school, so you can do it’. I’ve handled some scary injuries before so what would be any different? It was a little scary at first but once I got into a groove, I relaxed a little bit, I trusted in my instincts and my education and I was able to carry it out.”

She had Drake’s support and when it came to getting advice from her parents, Dana says they didn’t really have much of a say. “I called them, I did have another potential job on the table, and I didn’t know what I should do if it was moving to Virden or staying in Winnipeg. I called them for their advice, and they told me, ‘well, from what you’re saying, it sounds like your mind is made up so I don’t really know why you’re calling’.” Dana laughs and adds, “so I made the choice and moved to Virden. They’ve always been so supportive. My brother played hockey, and no one thought that I’d end up the one in the hockey world but here we are. It’s worked out very well. I love the job and I love the team.”

“To be honest, it was always a love/hate relationship with hockey” Dana explains with a chuckle. “We always traveled for my brother and not always did I want to go to a hockey game. I was kind of forced to tag along. I never thought I’d end up with a career in hockey, but I do love the game. I’m still learning but I enjoy watching from the bench and keeping an eye on the players. It’s interesting where my life has taken me.”

The game routine has also come as Dana has gotten more comfortable on the bench. “I listen to the pre-game music just like the guys and just get into my groove. Sometimes I may dance or tap my toe but just like the guys, I have to get into a game mode. I push everything out, stay relaxed and calm, then just carry out the job.”

Getting the hands-on experience of working with injuries day in and day out is where Dana says she really found her stride. “It was great. I loved the opportunity of being able to see and recognize an injury. At first, I couldn’t treat anything, but I was able to do the basic first aid. I could sling an injury or splint it or dress a wound. Doing that was amazing for learning because I learn best by doing. It was an unbelievable thing that the Virden Oil Capitals took me on before I had my certification.”

It didn’t take long for the team to really warm up to Dana but at first, it took some getting used to. “They welcomed me with open arms. I remember at first, they were a little standoffish but that first day when all the guys got there, I stood outside the dressing room trying to catch everyone’s name but honestly, all the names went in one ear and out the other. I forgot everyone in like two seconds. I’m really bad with names. But they were so helpful. The returning guys would tell me I didn’t have to do certain things that the rookies would take care of it and I would say ‘I don’t even know who the rookies are. I’m right here, I’ll do it.’

There are two moments that really stand out for her when she really felt a part of the Oil Capitals. “There was a guy that had a helmet issue and he needed it really quick, I was able to fix it even though I had no idea how to fix the strap or put a new one in, but I managed to do it in the time he needed to get back out on the ice, and they looked back and said, ‘good job’. Another time, during camp, I had to do an ice-run and one guy cheered ‘go, Dana, your first ice walk!’ All I thought was ‘not a good time, let’s not cheer right now. They were all so welcoming, it’s been so nice. One of the best teams I’ve been a part of.”

Although she didn’t get a lot of time in year 2 of her tenure with Virden because of COVID-19, she says that it was a noticeable difference between year one and two. “I think there was a lot more trust and understanding between myself and the coach. Not that there wasn’t before but with this camp, I was on top of medical things, and he trusted I would get it done. I trusted him that he’d get the paperwork done and help me out with getting it all organized. I took on more roles without even asking and they loved it… I assume. Before I would ask them questions about how people before me did it or how they’d like it but this year, I took the bull by the horns and just ran with it, did what needed to be done.”

Another big step came with the confidence of dealing with the players. “With the guys, it was very easy. All the guys were happy I was back and of course, they were trying to get free stuff from me right away. I had to be the bad guy and say we didn’t have any till later and they would argue ‘what if I break my one stick that I brought?’ I’d have to say, well I don’t know I can’t help you.” (Dana chuckles throughout sharing the story) “They always try and get free stuff. I shut it down a little bit. They like to see how far they can push things, but you draw the line right away, then they know. We forget their kids, right? I think ‘why are you acting so silly?’ Then I remember, ‘Oh that’s right, you’re 16 (years-old) but you are 6″tall’ (more laughter follows).”

Being a role model for both young girls and boys is something Dana is quite humbled by. “I like that I’m someone that people can look up to. Male or female. I enjoy seeing that 7th skater and when it’s a little girl out there skating around or interacting with the guys, it’s amazing. Some are shy but some are billet sisters, so they were comfortable. Some would joke around just like the boys would and it’s nice to see young girls comfortable in a male-dominated area. I don’t think anyone should be scared of a male or female dominant area, if that’s the job you want to do, then go for it.”

The part of her story to this point that makes Dana the proudest of herself was having the guts to give up everything she knew in hopes of getting what she wanted. “I think picking up and moving to Virden out of almost know where that’s what I’m most proud of. I was scared, I didn’t know anybody and none of my family didn’t know anyone out here, so I was starting a whole new chapter on my own. It was really nice to see I can do it so wherever my life ends up, I know I can do it. I was really proud of myself for changing my life up to get what I’ve wanted.”

Her parents have managed to catch a number of games both in Virden and in Dauphin. “My mom likes the games, but there’s a little too much fighting for her, sometimes”, Dana describes. “She would ask if I was busy and I’d say, ‘yup, just a little bit. I gotta help so and so, organize this, and I might be able to catch you for five minutes after a game. They’re really proud of me, I know that.”

Throughout the shutdown, Dana has kept busy and will be doing some seasonal work because, as she says, “I told them that once hockey season comes back, I’ll be working for the Virden Oil Capitals.” She’s hoping it starts up on time in the fall. “It would be great to have a full season. Now that I’m certified, I can offer more to the athletes. Give them more treatment and care. I’m just excited there’s another season and I can get my name out there more and maybe I can start a clinic inside the rink, there’s a little spot in the rink I could rent but for right now, we’re just seeing where things go.”

Wherever things go from here, Dana is ready for whatever comes her way. “Life always changes so I can’t for sure say what I’m going to do down the road. I’d like to dabble being an athletic therapist in the Olympics. I do like hockey, I love where I am right now, but I’d be open to different sports at different levels. The important thing for me is I like it where I am right now. I’m happy.”

MJHL Podcast Feature | Darren Dreger

MJHL Podcast Episode 30, featuring TSN Hockey Insider, Darren Dreger

Darren joins the podcast to chat about growing up on the prairies, his life covering the game of hockey and much more including a story about the OCN Blizzard.

For more, listen to the full MJHL Podcast interview hosted by Erik Swar.  The MJHL Podcast takes you inside the league each week with recaps, stories, interviews, rankings, and weekend previews. The MJHL Podcast is available on all major platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.

Celebrating women in the MJHL | Kaylah Turner (Krieger)

Story by Dave Anthony

Kaylah Turner (Krieger) – MJHL Linesperson

Growing up in Melville, Saskatchewan, Kaylah says she didn’t take to hockey right away but eventually found her way into the game. “At first, I was actually a speed skater. I think I did that for about 12 years or something. I think I started playing hockey when I was 15 and just through graduation, it was just a couple years. It wasn’t good hockey, it was really just to play.”

It was while playing Kaylah decided to try her hand in officiating. “I was 16 when I stated reffing. I needed some extra cash, and it was also a good way to be on the ice, so I figured ‘why not?’.”

When she started reffing, she says it was mostly the boys because, “there were only two girls’ teams so I was usually pretty much always playing in one of the girl’s games” she says laughing. “So, it was mostly boys, but it wouldn’t have mattered, it was whatever was available.”

Kaylah laughed when she was thinking about to how the boys would have responded to a female official, mainly because as she puts it, “in the younger years, I don’t think they even realized” she chuckles. “As I worked my way up in the league, they noticed it was different, that it was a girl out there. But really, after the first few puck drops it didn’t matter, the game was on. It didn’t matter who was out there, it was all about the game.”

At the very beginning of the conversation, Kaylah was asked if she preferred linesperson or linesmen and to her, it makes no difference, though she did say linesperson when first asked. “You know, I’m surprised I said that to be totally honest” she said laughing. “I never call it a linesperson, it’s always linesman. The terminology has never bothered me. I tend to air more on the original side, just because I don’t really want to draw attention to it. It’s just a term for what I’m doing. There’s no bones about it, I’m in a male dominated world. It is what is it. I’m not there to stand out, I’m there to do a job. It’s based on talent and knowledge, being a man or women doesn’t matter, it’s doing the job and earning your way.”

When it comes to finding a role-model in the officiating world, Kaylah didn’t have to look very far. “My brother Karlin was an official. I would say he’s the reason I started. He was starting to work his way up already, getting some cool games and some tournaments and he had a lot more spending money than I did and that wasn’t fair, so I had to go out and get some of my own.”

Following in her brother’s footsteps was met by great support from her parents. “They were so proud, very supportive and I wouldn’t ever say it was really a big deal. Sure, I was moving up in the league and yes, there was more of the male side of it, but it was the natural progression. There wasn’t really a lot of female hockey in our area. I’d have to go travel to find it. It really was just normal. It wasn’t a big deal, and it didn’t stand out in any way.”

Like all officials, it can be a grind to get up in the leagues. “I started with the novice and the atom games” she recalls. “I started to do more AA or even AAA. I moved my way up through the girl’s leagues to do the University games… then it’s the guys U17 AAA. You have to work for your opportunities. You have to show up and put the work in, even when it’s not convenient. I just worked my way up through the leagues, there’s no other ways around it.”

Officials, like players and coaches will always remember their first game in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League and for Kaylah, it was an unexpected yet wonderful turn of events that got her onto the ice for that first game.

“One game, they were short an official” Kaylah explains, her smile evident through the phone. “My brother happened to be doing the game and they said ‘hey, does your sister happen to have her bag and do you think she can she do it?’  That was how I got my first game. The next month, I had like six games. It was chance but obviously I was prepared. That’s how I got in the league.”

Standing on the redline in her first MJHL game, she admits to having some butterflies. “Oh gosh yes, I was so nervous” she says, again followed by a laugh. “But it always seemed that after that first puck drop, it becomes just a game. It doesn’t matter what league you’re in. The call is the call. The game is the game. You find you’re flow and you’re fine.”

Her brother was standing beside her for that first game, and it made it even more special for Kaylah. “My favorite memories have always been reffing with him. Being able to ref that first MJ game together, it was a really, really cool experience. It was just great to get to do that together.”

Being in the position she is in gives her a chance to inspire young girls and it’s something Kalyah really takes to heart. “For younger girls, I just want to encourage them to do anything they want to do. It doesn’t matter if you’re the only girl or not, if it’s your passion and you want to do it… and you’re willing to work hard enough to be there, absolutely go for it.”

There’s belief that women in the game continues to trend in a positive direction and Kaylah agrees. “I totally believe it’s only getting better. I have no complaints at all. I’ve had nothing but support through my whole experience. I think there are lots of other girls who have the potential to be there, and I hope they get the chances that I did. I hope it continues to grow.”

During breaks in play, she says there is a little time to interact with other women in the league that are now seen on many teams’ benches in different roles. “I’m not sure I’ve ever had the whole eye contact and the nod thing, but it’s so nice to have other women around. It brings a different prospective to the game, a different outlook. It puts the guys in check every once in a while. We show we know what we’re doing and how we can bring another spin to this.”

Leagues across the country are always looking for officials and coming off of COVID-19, Kaylah sees this as a real chance to get more young women into the sport. “I think there is always an opportunity for female officials. There’s so many tournaments and traveling, if you have any interest at all, you have a really, really good chance to do some amazing things.”

Kaylah hasn’t been at the rink as much as she’s accustomed too, but that hasn’t stopped her from working on her craft. “There’s actually been quite a push for the off-ice side of officiating. There’s been group calls and keeping everyone engaged which has been really cool. Other than that, I own a seasonal business where I’m typically off for the winter, so without reffing, it’s been different.”

It’s been a great journey and she’s hoping it will continue in the future. “I’m definitely proud of how far I’ve gotten. I’m happy with where I’m at. I’ve had some great experiences that I’ll remember forever. I don’t know what’s going to happen next. If I get an opportunity to move up, I’d be interested, sure. For now, I’m hoping to be able to help the next generation and if anyone wanted to reach out for advice on how to get where they want to go, I’d be more than willing to help them out.”

Thinking about getting back to work in the fall, Kaylah adds with that trademark laugh, “it would be awesome, that’s for sure.”

Celebrating women in the MJHL | Lana DeBeer

Story by Dave Anthony

Lana DeBeer – Athletic Therapist, Winnipeg Blues

Lana started with the Blues organization in 2001 but before the Blues, she started in hockey a bit before her run with her hometown team. “When I was an athletic therapy student, there was a group of three of us and we all wanted hockey experience, so we all worked together for this one team for one season. It really wasn’t much of anything.”

Finding the gig with the Blues was a little luck mixed in with a great reputation. “I kind of stumbled into the job with Winnipeg” she says with a laugh. “I was in my last year for athletic therapy and knew I needed more hours. They actually contacted me. I still don’t know where they got my name from, but I met with the GM and President at the time, and he sort of talked to me about this opportunity. I knew Doug Stokes who was the head coach of the time, I knew him from outside the world of hockey, so it all kind of fit together.”

The Manitoba Junior Hockey League as a whole was a new world for Lana, “I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into” she explained. But once she was in the league, it just felt right. “I thought I might be there for a year or so while collecting hours and I just kind of never left. It’s been a terrific run here with the Blues”

Her family didn’t see any issues with Lana venturing into the mainly male dominated world of hockey. “They weren’t concerned at all. I was a little older at the time when I did my athletic therapy degree. It was my second degree, so I was further along in my academic life. They didn’t have any concern about it and they were very supportive.”

In a story told on MJHLhockey.ca earlier in the week, Alison Deneweth told a story about how she was hired with the Steelers and while it wasn’t as blunt as it was for Allison, Lana shared a somewhat similar tale. “I do sort of recall, in the beginning, I remember hearing something about somebody saying they had hoped they had found a male. It wasn’t a situation of ‘oh, you’ll do’ but it was ‘this was our preference, but we’ll take you’.

Walking into the Blues organization was pretty easy. “They had had female trainers before,” she explained. “So, I don’t know if the female part of it was too shocking. I will say, I was pretty green when it came to the world of hockey. I didn’t know players could be traded around or what it meant to hold guys rights or things like that. I had to really learn the hockey side of it, the coaching and business side of it.”

While the game of hockey has changed over the past number of years, Lana believes that the position of athletic therapist has largely stayed the same. “I think the expectation… there’s a certain level of competency and a level of responsibility all the way through. You will hone your skills as time goes on.”

Seeing Allison already in the position she was in was pretty important for Lana. “Allison and I are very good friends now because we’ve been doing it for so long. We quite often will go to each other to bounce ideas off each other or moral support. Whatever a situation may call for.”

The Winnipeg Blues organization has changed quite a bit since Lana came on board in the early 2000’s. “Yeah, it’s been pretty interesting” she details. “When I started, we were playing out of Century Arena and there was a promise of another rink coming but that eventually fizzled out, I’m not sure what happened there. Eventually, we moved to the Ice Plex and all of a sudden, we had a dressing room where the players didn’t have to take their gear with them. I had a medical room, it was fantastic. Then things changed again when ownership changed, the dynamic changed. When the new ownership came through, they said to me ‘you’ve been here a long time, do you want to keep going? Do you feel like you’ve run your course? What do you want to do?’ I said I’d like to come back but maybe a little bit of a lesser role. I was a little bit worried how it would impact my relationship with the players and coaches, but I don’t think it’s changed too much.”

A student brought on to assist with the Blues a few years back and now she is with the Portage Terriers, Lydia Pongoski. Lydia had this to say when asked about the role Lana has played in her career. ‘“Lana, 100% is my role-model” she says emphatically. “I’ve taken her to be my mentor. I love her dearly. It’s so amazing to see her and know she’s been in the hockey world for so long, it’s like, I can do it. If Lana can do it, I can do it. It was for sure her that kept pushing me into that world.” When she was told what Lydia had to say, Lana responded “it’s very humbling. It’s fantastic to know you can have an impact on somebody because when you’re in the moment, you don’t really know how you’re impacting somebody.”

For Lana, there’s a lot of pride that comes with being one of the first women in the MJHL and says having more women in the game can be beneficial on several levels. “I feel like in some ways, it brings a little different element. Our team chaplain has a joke that I’m the team mom and maybe in some way’s I am. I’ve talked to players over the years and there’s never been an issue of having a woman around the team. It’s maybe even been refreshing for some of them.”

Not only has she impacted people like Lydia or Kate Wiens in Swan Valley, but also many young girls who Lana may never meet but will use her as an inspiration to follow their dreams. “I think it’s pretty cool to think you have that kind of role for someone. I have a step-daughter who is 17 and while I don’t think she’ll be in the athletic therapy world, it does show her that you can break some barriers and there can be obstacles but you can fight through them.”

Coaching is an area where Lana believes there will be a greater female influence down the line. “You know, if that’s what they want to do, I don’t see why they can’t” she says with a chuckle.

A pair of championship runs with the Blues are the highlights so far of a wonderful career. “The most recent one, I think we were the underdogs” she explains.  “No one really expected it, so it was pretty special. We had such a great staff and a group of incredible players.

It’s not just a pair of MJHL championship rings, she adds “I also got an RBC Cup ring when I was helping Portage when they hosted.”

During the time off, she’s has discovered something. “I have found that I’ve been very bored, actually” she says with a laugh. “You don’t realize how much time it takes up to be at the rink and involved with the team. I just try and keep busy working and such.”

As for coming back in the fall, Lana is hopeful if not cautious. “Because I work in health care, I’m a bit more nervous about the potential of the impact of the coronavirus, even for the upcoming season. But, if we can get everything set in place, I think it’ll be fantastic to get back into it.”

Celebrating women in the MJHL | Alison Deneweth

Story by Dave Anthony

Alison Deneweth – Trainer/Athletic Therapist, Selkirk Steelers

Alison is one of the most interesting people in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League and her story starts all the way back in 1987 with a franchise that is no longer around. “I started with the Kildonan North Stars,” Alison says with a laugh. “I was there for two years.”

Being one of the first women to be in the hockey world in that role, Alison says she did stand out a bit “I was an anomaly. Heads would turn when I came in.”

It wasn’t long before the Steelers came calling and Alison made the move over to Selkirk, who were looking for someone with more of a medical background. When it came to being received by the players, Alison says it was a positive reception. “The players, I have to say, were always very good. They may have been a little cautious at first because it was so new, but once they got to see that I was there to help with no ulterior motive, they warmed up. They really appreciated having someone there to help.”

Not everyone in the game at that time was as welcoming as the Steelers or their players. “Some officials or staff on the other team were maybe not so welcoming… I got some stories I won’t share… but over time, people get to see you in the position longer and they become more accepting as you show them what you can do.”

The field of athletic therapy wasn’t how it is today, according to Alison. “At that time, there wasn’t the marriage there is between the educational institutes and the placement to teams. I had graduated from the University of Alberta, I had my degree and then I needed to start the collection of hours and at that time, you needed 600 hours in a collision sport. I had done some football already and I was just looking to collect hours and in hockey, there’s a lot available. It wasn’t easy to get in but that’s what I was looking to do, just collect my hours and get my certification.”

Getting the job with the North Stars was a wild process, as Alison explains. “The North Stars at that time had taken a hiatus, they were out of the league for a little while and with a new owner, he was looking to get back in and he was forward-thinking, and he was looking for interesting things that might capture the imagination. Two of us interviewed for the job and John (last name unknown) actually got the job but right before the season started, John got an opportunity to go up north and do paramedicine and so he took that. I’ll never forget, I got a call from the owner at the time, and he said ‘well, you’re not our first pick, but if you’d like the job, you can have it’ and I said to him, you won’t regret it. I got my first job knowing that I wasn’t anybody’s first pick but it was an opportunity, and I made the best of it. I started off in a position because I needed the hours and I stayed on because the money wasn’t too bad and I seemed to run out of reasons to keep coming back, so I can honestly say, there’s no ulterior motive, I’m here now because I just enjoy it so much.”

Filled with amazing stories, Alison recalls what it was like in the early days with the Steelers. “When I started, the Steelers were just building the new arena then and it was going to be so much different than what anyone else had in the league and they’d have all this space and all these plans… but like any good build, it takes longer than you think. So, the first 18 months I spent over in the old barn, which is an amazing piece of history. Trainers in the late ’80’s had rooms the size of broom closets. I actually shared a spot with management, who liked to go down and have chats with coaches between periods and there were sometimes heated debates. I had a little wooden medicine cabinet that was maybe 8 inches across and a foot tall and everything I needed had to be in there. I had a little chair and a medicine cabinet, and I had to juggle players around as the coaches argued about who should be on a line. In the early years, there was lots of laundry and we repaired everything like those old wool socks. We’d take them on the bus with a needle and I’d spend the bus ride working on socks. There were about 5 years I did both the equipment and the medical. It’s a tall order to do both so I wasn’t sad when someone else took it.”

Alison’s road through hockey might have been very different if not for what happened in 1986, a year before she was hired by the North Stars. “I got married that year. I remember I had my University degree, my parents lived in Alberta and I made the decision to move to Manitoba. This was the hub of athletic therapy at the time. So, I think part of the reason I was safe enough to get a job where maybe others wouldn’t have, was because I was married. I don’t know if a single woman at that time would have had that opportunity. I think the powers to be, saw that I was married and that somehow made it more acceptable or safer to be in that position.”

Both Alison and her husband were coaches “and you can’t have two of those in a house and make a go of it” Alison says with a laugh. “He was so supportive of me doing whatever it took to get the certification.”

Having always enjoyed hockey, Alison wanted to get into the game somehow. “As a kid, I had always wanted to play hockey but again, where I was, the area I was in, there was no girls team, no opportunity to play. So, my mom put me in figure skating which lasted just two years. The costumes… yeah, they were just not for me. I had always liked hockey. I enjoyed the culture; it’s been a great fit.”

In the hockey world, there’s been a noticeable shift when it comes to the involvement of women and Alison says there is still much more room to grow. “There’s always room but for sure it’s just more acceptable now. If you look at the roster now, I think women are half of the training staff. There have been moments before and it’s not like women have not been represented. Years ago, there was a female linesman in the MJ and I believe her name was Laura and that was kind of fun. At that time, I think we were the only two women around so we both kind of rolled in at the same time, there was a wink and a nod from across the room. She was fantastic. Very, very good as a lineman. Great senses. As we go forward, there will be more women and the more people see women around, you have the chance to change hearts and minds. I think it’s a lot easier to be a woman in the MJHL now and I think there will be more growth in the coaching department or management and on the board. There’s been more acceptance from players over the years. I’ve always treated the players with respect, and they’ve given that respect right back.

As you can imagine, being around hockey for a while, Alison has had an impact on some young girls, and she recalls the first time she was told just how big of an impact she made. “The first time I had someone come up to me, it was quite a few years ago, a dad came up to me and he said he had a daughter who was interested in what I did and asked if she could watch what I did. I thought about it and said for sure. I didn’t have her in the room, but we went to the clinic where I was, and she helped with the medicals. She interacted with the players and did the paperwork, and she was just so excited, it was a gut-check for me. It made me realize how blessed and lucky to be able to do this. There are other girls and women who want to do what I have the opportunity to do. It was a reminder to conduct myself in a way to make it easier to come along behind. I stand on the shoulders of women who took jobs in World War 2 that men typically had, and women went out and got an education in a time people thought it would be wasted on a woman. I got to stand on those shoulders and get an education and do something that was a-typical and as long as I did a good job and represented well, there would be women behind me that will do even better things in better ways. It’s really humbling to be one who cracked the door a little bit and see girls and some girls we haven’t met yet, walk through that door.”

Seeing other women in roles across the MJHL brings a smile to Alison’s face and her voice lights up. “Always great to see other women, especially the first game of the year. We have a bond. There’s a handful of us out there and we’re going to keep moving forward.”

Alison hasn’t stopped learning and used the canceled hockey season to continue another level of education. “I got on and ran a machine at a place that does the packaging of medication for nursing homes so, I went and got trained in that and did it for about 6 weeks at the start of the pandemic and a couple of times during waves. I had so much time on my hands, I don’t know what I was thinking but I signed up for a master’s program out of UBC so I’m taking classes for a Master’s in leadership. I don’t do well with time on my hands, so I filled it up.”

Despite doing amazing things, Alison is looking forward to the return of hockey, hopefully in the fall even though it may be different for her from years past. “Having done it so long, the last couple years I’ve had some students usually out of UofW and they come alongside and I’m really enjoying the mentorship side. I may not do as much traveling but having the year of way has let me know I’m not quite ready to hang it up. So, in the fall, I’ll be ready to get back to work.”

Celebrating women in the MJHL | Lydia Pongoski

Story by Dave Anthony

Lydia Pongoski – Athletic Therapist, Portage Terriers

Born and raised in Portage, Lydia got her start in hockey with the Winnipeg Blues but her dream of working in sports started in a totally different sport. “When I was in school, we had to get so many practicum hours, so I actually was placed with the track and field team at University, but I wanted to get more experience in a contact sport. I actually met Lana Debeer(long time Blues trainer and athletic therapist) from a Pan-Am placement I was at and I asked her if I could job shadow and just follow along and she said ‘sure’. It all started from there and I’ve just stuck around.”

Lydia says her parents were very supportive when it came to working in hockey. “They thought it was pretty cool and exciting” Lydia says with a laugh. “My younger cousins have all been involved in contact sport. My parents love the idea of having me in the hockey industry and they’re still pretty excited.”

When Lydia started working with the Blues, she says they were very receptive and her being female wasn’t even close to an issue. “It was smooth sailing. I think that when I saw I was with Lana, they thought, ‘oh this girl, she must be okay’. They had no weirdness or anything like that, it was quite nice actually. It was a very welcoming team.”

Having Lana already there may have paved the way to the smooth addition of another female around the team. “I definitely think it did help” Lydia explained. “She’s been with the team a while, so they had that surrounding before, so it was nice.”

Getting into the game of hockey wasn’t a dream for Lydia, she says it kind of found her. “I fell into it” she says again with a laugh. “Growing up, I never did hockey, I was in gymnastics. My parents tell me I wanted to be in hockey when I was younger, but it just never happened. Going through school, I started liking the fast pace environment, how everything is so go-go-go and I just fell in love with the hockey world.”

Going to school in Portage, the Terriers and their continuous success caught the attention of Lydia, like it did most of the community. “I definitely, definitely heard it. I lived out of town so unfortunately I couldn’t get to many games, but I did hear a lot about the Terriers.”

After starting in hockey with the Blues, Lydia gained more responsibilities and says those grew after graduation. “I asked if I could stay with the team and Lana said yes and she would like that. From there, we shared the responsibilities. I was with them for three or four years, but in the last couple years, we were pretty much 50/50. It was so nice she allowed me to have that with her. It felt really good to know that she trusted me with those sorts of things.”

When the Blues ownership changed, Lydia made a change herself. “I actually work in Portage in a private clinic. When the Rink bought the Blues and they moved over, they were doing interview processing and said I could have the job if I wanted it, but I was looking for work closer to home. I just so happened the Terriers had an opening. I reached out and it was pretty smooth sailing for me there too. Things just seem to kind of fall into place for me.”

Doing the job with a partner in Winnipeg was fun but when Lydia moved to Portage, it all fell on her shoulders. “Oh, it was interesting” Lydia said after a brief pause. “Geno Romanow, (long time Trainer/Equipment Manager with Portage) was still with the team when I started. It was kind of hard to find out what he was doing and what I should be doing… it took a little while to find our groove. But once we found it, it was so good.”

Geno passed away in May of 2020 and Lydia talked about those tough days and the support she had around her. “I was so thankful to have the organization. Somehow, Geno found a way to be like a third grandpa to me. It was really hard when I heard that he passed. I was lucky that I could reach out to other therapists like Lana or Kate (Wiens from Swan Valley), just to talk with them about it. It was nice to have that support through them knowing how they knew Geno as well. Being from the community, to see people care so much, it just makes your heart feel so warm. He made a difference. Even though he probably didn’t want to make a big fuss about anything, he did make a difference in the community. He was so well loved by people and that’s what comes from being a part of a small community. It was nice.”

When it comes to people Lydia looks up to, it doesn’t take long for her to come up with the answer of who is her role-model. “Lana, 100% is my role-model” she says emphatically. “I’ve taken her to be my mentor. I love her dearly. It’s so amazing to see her and know she’s been in the hockey world for so long, it’s like, I can do it. If Lana can do it, I can do it. It was for sure her that kept pushing me into that world.”

Many women have already made an impact in the MJHL and Lydia believes there’s more coming. “I think it’s amazing and I think that it’s not just a world for the men. I think more women should be involved and could be involved. I think that down the road there should be more involvement. I’d like to see it have a bigger impact elsewhere, just to see that world grow through women.”

Girls in Portage and across the MJHL now see Lydia on the bench and look up to her the say she looked up to Lana Debeer and that’s something Lydia admits is hard to put into words. “I feel really good that someone can see a woman like myself or Kate or Lana or Allison (Deneweth from the Selkirk Steelers) are in the industry and they think that they can do that too. I feel very touched and very special. I think that any girl can do anything that they want. I just hope that they realize it and really pursue what they want to do.”

When asked what comes next for Lydia, she responded “oh gosh, that’s a hard question” followed by the classic laugh she has. “I would like to stay in the world of hockey. If there’s a chance to move up at some time, that’s great. I’m just trying to figure it all out myself. If I could move up in the world of hockey, that be great but I’m just so thankful to be in the world at all.”

For someone who didn’t grow up loving hockey, not having it this year sure made quite the impact on her. “I definitely felt that void” Lydia says again, followed by that well known laugh. “It was really hard in the beginning to figure out… it’s like ‘oh I actually have a weekend free? This is weird, what do I do?’ But I did end up working more just to keep busy and I took another part time job at Pan-Am clinic, so it’s been a very big learning experience this past year and broadening my horizon.”

She says she can’t wait to get back to hockey, hopefully in the fall. “I am really looking forward to it. I’m really missing it.”

Even the long bus rides?

“Yeah… okay… those ones can kind of be a little shorter” Lydia says through a laugh. “I just love the atmosphere so much, I can look past the long trips.”

Celebrating women in the MJHL | Kate Wiens

Story by Dave Anthony 

Kate Wiens – Athletic Therapist & Equipment Manager, Swan Valley Stampeders

Kate is from Glenlea, Manitoba and she says she’s loved hockey her entire life. “I’ve played hockey my whole life. I started when I was four or five. I’ve always watched the games, they’re fast paced and very exciting.”

When she told her parents that she wanted to work in hockey, Kate say’s they had her back the whole way. “They were very excited for me. I’ve always been interested in the injury side of things. Watching football, hockey or baseball on tv, I always wanted to know what was going on, but they’d go to TV timeout and I didn’t enjoy that, I wanted to know what was happening. So, they were very supportive when I wanted to get into hockey. They knew I loved it and they were glad I got to be a part of a sport I always enjoyed.”

The hockey journey started for Kate in AAA where she spent three years while also going to school. “It was fairly easy for me, I guess” Kate says about getting her foot in the door to start working at the AAA level. “I’m not really sure if it was the easiest thing in the world. I knew coaches from playing hockey and I’ve played with coach’s kids that played. I just kind of got into it after that. I did AAA with Eastman for a while. A family friend was a coach and a friend of mine actually worked for the team with me, so it was great to make connections and go on from there.”

Growing up playing hockey, Kate primarily played girls hockey and says making the transition to working with the boy’s hockey programs was an easy one. “I had a great team to start with. They were very welcoming to having a female therapist there, or student I guess right at the very beginning. It was a lot of fun. I’m pretty grateful to have had teams that understand females belong in hockey, too. I’ve been pretty lucky that way.

When the opportunity came to move up to the MJHL, Kate didn’t hesitate, and Stamps didn’t hesitate to bring in a great talent. “I applied and I got an interview right away. It just went from there and I’ve been here for a while now. I’ve loved every minute of it.”

Kate details a little of what she does on a given game day. “I typically show up to the rink 5 or 6 hours early, depending on the day. Get the locker-room all set up, make sure it’s all clean, sharpen whoever’s skates need to be sharpened… I’ve been pretty lucky to have the guys I work with ask me to do it the night before, but if I don’t get to it the night before, it becomes a game day thing. I’ll set up the room with jerseys and socks. Vacuum and sweep the room so there are no rocks when they go onto the ice. I make sure it’s all set with tape or whatever equipment they might need.”

Having such a deep passion for the game of hockey, Kate says being on the bench or having the in-depth conversations that come to working for a team, is a dream come true. “It’s really cool to hear at all levels. How coaches deal with players or manage situations. It’s all kinds of stuff and it’s really something special.”

Being a woman in what’s primarily considered a man’s league, Kate says she doesn’t have to look too far for role models. “I think there’s quite a few people I look up too. There’s so many. It’s cool to see women in the NHL, like Hayley Wickenheiser and Cassie Campbell, doing their thing. It’s super cool to see.”

Across the province, Kate has become someone that girls can look up too. They see her on an MJHL bench and that’s something that means a great deal to Kate. “It’s an honor” she says, her smile and pride evident even through a phone call. “I can’t even explain that feeling. It’s so cool to have the kids come up to the glass beside me and they just tap on the glass and wave or say hi. Their curious what about I’m doing and it’s really cool. I just appreciate that so much. I’m speechless because of that support from those kids. It’s, it’s special.”

Even just in her third year in the MJHL, Kate has noticed more women taking roles in the league and she’s thrilled about it. “It’s great to see that. It’s such a huge step forward. To have a lot of female athletic therapists in the league is huge. There’s females in broadcasting and marketing and in every aspect, it’s all just such a great step forward.”

When it comes to breaking down the doors of coaching, Kate believes there will certainly be a female assistant or head coach in the MJHL sooner rather than later. “I think we’re trending towards that. It would be really cool to see.”

Despite not having any games this year, Kate’s found a way to make an impact away from the rink. “Right now, I’m working in the Coronavirus Immunization Clinic. I’m in that role, helping people get vaccinated. Been keeping busy with that while also dealing with team things like renovations, equipment things and getting guys ready for next year.”

The Manitoba Junior Hockey League Prospect Development Camp is scheduled for mid-July and Kate will be there again, lending her talents to the league and the game she loves. To say she’s excited about getting back to the rink and having hockey again, is an understatement. “I can’t explain my excitement” Kate says bursting at the seams with joy at the thought of a fall start. “I can’t wait to get started. You can’t measure my excitement.”

As Kate’s career continues, she hopes to keep building her skill level, building a strong reputation in the community and being a leader for women and athletic therapists across the province.

She also hopes to one day, make it all the way to the show. “I’m going to keep working and go where the hockey road takes me. WHL, AHL or hopefully, one day, the NHL. I’m hoping to open a clinic that I can practice athletic therapy out of as well. That’s the goal.”

MJHL Podcast Feature | Dale Weise

MJHL Podcast Episode 29, featuring former Winnipeg South Blues forward and NHL veteran, Dale Weise.

Dale joins the podcast to chat about growing up in Winnipeg, his brief stint in the MJHL, his different stops along the way in the NHL and dives into what’s been keeping him busy off the ice since stepping away from the game.

For more, listen to the full MJHL Podcast interview hosted by Erik Swar.  The MJHL Podcast takes you inside the league each week with recaps, stories, interviews, rankings, and weekend previews. The MJHL Podcast is available on all major platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.

MJHL launches first annual Draft Prospect Camp

WINNIPEG, MB – The Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) is pleased to launch the MJHL Draft Prospect Camp to be held in conjunction with the annual MJHL Prospect Development Camp.

Hosted from July 14-17, 2021 at Seven Oaks Sportsplex in Winnipeg, the U16 age-division (MJHL Draft Prospect Camp) will feature elite Manitoba players from the 2006-born age category who will be eligible for the 2022 U17 MJHL Draft.

With the recent updates to the MJHL Draft process, moving to a U17 age category, the addition of the MJHL Draft Prospect Camp will give MJHL organizations the opportunity to begin identification of those (U16) 2006-born players in a high-performance environment.

The current MJHL Prospect Development Camp has traditionally seen one division of the top U18 prospects from MJHL teams who are listed or drafted and eligible to compete for a roster spot in the upcoming MJHL season, that camp will coincide July 15-18 also at Seven Oaks Sportsplex.  Both camp divisions will further provide hockey partners such as the Western Hockey League (WHL), NCAA, and Hockey Manitoba U16 Program of Excellence opportunities for player identification and evaluation within one convenient setting.

“We are excited to add another age group to our annual summer MJHL Prospect event and for the opportunity to work with these young athletes as they continue on their development path.  It has been a difficult season for all of these players and this camp will provide them with the environment to showcase their abilities, while also learning more about the MJHL and what it takes to succeed at the next level.” MJHL Commissioner, Kevin Saurette

An elite class of guest coaches and development personnel that regularly participate in the MJHL Prospect Development Camp along with AAA coach networking and mentorship opportunities will become a part of the new MJHL Draft Prospect Camp.

Initial invites for the 2021 MJHL Draft Prospect Camp will be distributed in the coming weeks directly to those players identified.

The MJHL will continue to monitor and adjust to public health orders in lead up to the planned event in July.

Please stay tuned for upcoming camp announcements including Event Schedule and Rosters.

MJHL Podcast Feature | Owen Murray

MJHL Podcast Episode 28, featuring former Portage Terriers Defenseman, Owen Murray.

The current Green Bay Gambler discusses his transition to the USHL, looks back on his time in the MJHL, shares what his NCAA recruiting process was like and why he chose to commit to UMass.

For more, listen to the full MJHL Podcast interview hosted by Erik Swar.  The MJHL Podcast takes you inside the league each week with recaps, stories, interviews, rankings, and weekend previews. The MJHL Podcast is available on all major platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.

MJHL announces 5th annual Prospect Dev. Camp

The Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) is proud to officially announce that the 5th annual MJHL Prospect Development Camp will take place in Winnipeg at the impressive Seven Oaks Arena Complex from July 14-18.

The Prospect Development camp is by invite only, geared towards current MJHL Prospects born in the years 2004 and 2005 who are eligible to play in the MJHL for the upcoming 2021/22 season.

“The MJHL Prospect Development Camp provides the next generation of MJHL Players with the knowledge and resources to be successful both on and off the ice, an experience of what playing in the MJHL is all about, and the platform to showcase themselves to coaches and scouts from all levels of hockey,” explained MJHL Commissioner, Kevin Saurette.

“This event continues to grow in stature, both on and off the ice, and we are excited to host this important league event once again this summer.  When you look across the MJHL right now, many current players have participated in this camp with many more having already moved on to higher levels of hockey through this camp and a year in the MJHL,” Saurette concluded.

The camp activities will emphasize the elements these players will need to focus on to transition successfully from elite minor hockey to elite Junior A hockey.

In addition to MJHL coaches / scouts, each year the Camp is highly attended (In-Person or Virtually) by scouts from higher levels of hockey including the WHL, USHL, NCAA, U Sports and the NHL, providing an amazing opportunity for players to further showcase their abilities.

Players will receive both on and off-ice skill development led by experienced professionals in their respective fields.  The on-ice program will consist of skill and practice sessions along with modified games / scrimmages, the off-ice portion will cover elements related to athleticism and mental skills, as well as the technical and tactical skills required to play in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

The MJHL will continue to monitor and adjust to public health orders in lead up to the planned event in July.

Please stay tuned for upcoming camp announcements including Event Schedule and Rosters.

MJHL Podcast Feature | Justin Falk

MJHL Podcast Episode 27, featuring former Swan Valley Stampeders’ forward,  Justin Falk.

Justin joined the podcast to discuss growing up in small town Manitoba, his time in the MJHL, winning both the Memorial & Calder Cups’ and what his experience was like playing in the NHL.

For more, listen to the full MJHL Podcast interview hosted by Erik Swar.  The MJHL Podcast takes you inside the league each week with recaps, stories, interviews, rankings, and weekend previews. The MJHL Podcast is available on all major platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.

12 Takes with Dave Anthony

Well… this sucks.

Watching other provinces make trades, skate and prep for games, it’s hard not to feel like the runt of the litter in this province.

The league did everything it could. Coaches, players, volunteers… everyone did EVERYTHING they could. It wasn’t good enough, apparently.

Now, we have to sit back and hear about how provinces are going above and beyond to get programs back up and running… while we just wait and hope for the fall of 2021.

It’s done. Nothing we can do about it now. It’s hard but we got to try and move on. It’s not fair and it’s frustrating. It’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to talk about it.

With that being said, the Takes today have to do with emotions.

  1. Happy.

I saw a trade where the Winkler Flyers moved a couple players, so they’d get a chance to play. I’ve heard from other teams and they too will be allowing players to go elsewhere for the remainder of the season and then have them come back.

That makes me happy. Kids getting to go play hockey, laugh and smile with teammates and have new hockey experiences.

  1. Angry.

Getting moved elsewhere not an option for all the players from this AND LAST YEAR!

20-year-olds last year had it taken away. 19-year-olds last year had it taken away and were told by the graduating players to win it for them in 2020-2021. For most, that can’t happen now.

The season was lost last year, and it cost the 20-year-olds their final season. With the province not lightening restrictions, it’s cost the 19-year-olds their second to last year AND their last year.

They wanted to play and win for their teammates and friends that had it taken away from them. Now, they’re in the same boat.

  1. Proper Frustration.

It’s so easy to be frustrated, angry and upset but it’s important to be educated on where that frustration needs to be placed. Take time to understand. Don’t just go off on social media because you’re ticked off.

I’ve seen some very well throughout posts and tweets on the subject from parents who have seen their kids change because of all of this. Their heartbroken, not because of a game but because of what the game meant to their kids.

  1. Sad.

I’ve talked to a number of 20-year-olds and as you can imagine, their crushed.

Hearing the outright sadness in their voices… I wish the decision makers could have heard from these guys directly. I think they would have understood a bit better, and it would have made a difference.

  1. Hungry.

It’s around lunch when I’m writing this, and I was thinking about food and that led to the businesses that get a boost from teams eating or staying at their establishments.

Business have suffered and this is just another kick. Teams often have their routine places. Bill’s Sticky Fingers in Portage. Boston Pizza in different towns. Local restaurants that stay open just to feed players after games.

They feel this league shutting down too.

  1. Angry, again.

Yup, still pretty upset about all of this.

Again, it’s about educating myself as to why. It’s got to be more than meets the eye but the league just did everything it could, and it was working. Volunteers were so safe. Players and staff went the extra mile.

At this moment, with all the other stuff allowed… I just don’t get it.

7 . Disappointment.

Little different from anger and for whatever reason, more impactful when you hear you’ve made someone not angry, but disappointed.

I’m disappointed not more is being made of these young men’s mental health. I talked with Mike Kehler, the pastor for the Pistons and other teams… he sees it firsthand.

These kids are struggling.

Mike and people like him are available. If you need to talk or you’ve noticed your kid, teammate, billet brother, family member, whomever is in need, reach out.

If you’re in need, coaches, teammates and friends will be there for you.

It’s okay to not be okay.

8 . Crushed.

I was lucky enough to talk with a good number of coaches this year doing Coach’s Convo and boy, they are sure going to miss having their group they had this year.

It’s crushing to think what could have been.

Every team was in it. Every team had a chance to make noise come playoff time.

  1. Optimistic.

As hard as is it to try and be positive, it’s all we can do. We have to try and look forward to a normal 2021-22 season.

The 19-year-olds from last year will carry with them the 20’s from this year and from the year before.

Fans will be allowed back in the stands. Business will support and the teams will show that love right back.

Volunteers who give their time will back in the rink with smiles on their faces.

New families will be in the MJHL. For some, it will be a whole new experience. For others, it’ll be appreciated so much more than perhaps ever before.

  1. Hope.

The league itself is in good hands.

Kevin Saurette managed through what will be the most disastrous event that will come his way. He managed it with class and a steadfast belief the league will survive.

There will be bumps but with Saurette at the helm, there are big things that will happen for the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

Erik Swar will continue to work behind the scenes, building the MJHL brand, focusing on players and celebrating the many accomplishments from former players who have moved on to other leagues and teams.

There’s a lot to be proud of and there’s a lot of hope for the MJHL going forward.

  1. Honored.

I’ve got to speak candidly with coaches and players. Parents and fans. Some have trusted me to tell their stories while others have trusted me to keep it between us.

Talking even just for a few seconds to people around the rink, you understand how much they all care. About the kids on the ice, the staff working behind the scenes… they care about the community represented on the crest.

It’s been an honor to meet so many amazing people and look forward to that continuing in the future.

  1. Thankful.

To you, reading this right now. You. Yes you. Without you… well, I’d still be talking but it would mean less.

To the Steinbach Pistons organization and every team across the MJHL who’ve let me speak with the coaches and players, getting a view into them as people.

To Kevin Saurette and Erik Swar for trusting in me to do something like this. When the idea was hatched, the plan was for much more hockey content. Not so much on books, movies or feelings… but here we are.

To people close to me, for being there when I’ve struggled through all of this. It means more than you know.

To the players past and current, boys… thank you.

Bonus. Promise.

I promise to continue doing my small part in building the players, the organization and the league going forward.

I love the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

MJHL Job Posting | Winkler Flyers Sales & Marketing

Job posting courtesy of Winkler Flyers.

The Winkler Flyers are looking for a new marketing manager to join the team on a full-time basis. The position requires an energetic, organized individual who’s passionate about junior hockey and the positive impact it can have on community.

The marketing manager is a full-time year-round position. Responsibilities include, but aren’t limited:

  • Sponsorship sales and partner relations
  • Social media and in-house content marketing (player profiles, interviews, features, etc.)
  • Game day operations

To apply, please send a resume and cover letter to jjeanson@winklerflyers.com with the subject line Flyers Marketing Manager Application.

MJHL announces significant change to annual draft

WINNIPEG, MB – The Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) announced today that the annual MJHL Draft will move from a U16 Draft (formerly Bantam Draft) to a U17 Draft highlighting players who are going into their 16-year-old season.

As a result, there will be no 2021 MJHL Draft with the current 2006-born draft eligible age-group carrying forward into the inaugural U17 MJHL Draft to be held in the spring of 2022.

Players who will be eligible for the MJHL Draft are Manitoba players who are registered to play hockey in Manitoba according to Hockey Manitoba regulations and are in their 16th year.

“Moving the draft eligible age group to a year older will give MJHL organizations the ability to watch players develop for an additional season to allow for a better understanding of that players continued development and potential to play elite junior hockey,” shared MJHL Commissioner, Kevin Saurette.

The MJHL has conducted virtual MJHL Prospect Presentations over the past several months with the 2006 age-group.  These presentations have provided players and families with important information on what it takes to get to junior hockey and the significance of the MJHL being a strong pathway to the WHL, NCAA, U Sports and eventually professional hockey at the highest levels.

The MJHL is also currently in the planning process of including additional development and exposure events for the draft eligible age-group each season.  These events will compliment local league play in showcasing and educating players prior to each annual MJHL Draft.

Please stay tuned for further announcements in the coming weeks.

About the Manitoba Junior Hockey League

The Manitoba Junior Hockey League is one of ten Junior ‘A’ Hockey Leagues in Canada and is a proud member of the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL).  The goal of the MJHL is to develop elite players and ultimately have them develop into elite citizens who make a positive contribution to their community – To provide fans, communities and supporters with the best possible hockey product through dedication to improvement in all areas of the game both on and off the ice.

Mission Statement

To provide each MJHL player with an elite hockey development experience with a strong emphasis on education and positive citizenship. To deliver exciting Junior ‘A’ hockey action to fans throughout the province and enhance Manitoba communities in the spirit of sports excellence and goodwill.

MJHL Podcast Feature | Reilly Funk

MJHL Podcast Episode 26, featuring former Portage Terriers forward,  Reilly Funk.

Reilly joined the podcast to discuss playing for his hometown in the MJHL, winning the Turnbull & ANAVET Cup, making the jump to the USHL and touches on what it took to earn an NCAA Division 1 scholarship to Northern Michigan.

For more, listen to the full MJHL Podcast interview hosted by Erik Swar.  The MJHL Podcast takes you inside the league each week with recaps, stories, interviews, rankings, and weekend previews. The MJHL Podcast is available on all major platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.

MJHL cancels remainder of 2020-21 competitive season

The Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) has made the extremely difficult decision to cancel the remainder of the competitive season which includes regular season games and playoffs.

After multiple discussions with Public Health, representatives of the Provincial Government, Facility Managers and Stakeholders, The MJHL Board of Governors have determined that the resumption and completion of the 2020-21 regular league / playoff season is not feasible due to current conditions.

It has become unrealistic to continue operating in a state of hope with so much uncertainty and no timeline provided. It is unfair to our athletes and staff, our community organizations who have been severely impacted financially and the communities / regions our organizations support and garner support from.

When hockey activities were paused as the entire Province moved to Code Red on November 12th, at no time did we not think or work tirelessly towards having the opportunity to resume our season safely. Return to Play scenarios were exhausted with Public Health to allow for a safe, responsible, balanced and financially feasible return to team activities.

This included the MJHL securing Hockey specific CCM Face Masks for on ice training along with demonstrated ability to safely manage our operations and extensive Return To Play Protocols from July to November 12, 2020.  MJHL teams completed 24 Prospect / Training Camps, 400+ On and Off-Ice Training Sessions and 60+ Games safely and responsibly during that time.

In the end, our advocacy efforts were not enough for Public Health to allow for a return to on ice team training activity, even in a non-contact, professionally managed, closed to public, distanced, 100% masked and extremely protected environment.

As a result, the Board of Governors see no reasonable prospect that future restrictions would be sufficiently altered, in time to allow for a feasible gradual return to Regular Season Play this season.

Moving forward, MJHL organizations will have the option to continue to provide Training / Development opportunities, exhibition games, etc. based on their individual circumstances and facility availability under current / updated Public Health Orders and Hockey Manitoba Directives.

Our athletes, staff, organizations, facilities and the entire MJHL community are to be commended for their efforts as they meticulously followed and executed the strict and extensive MJHL Protocols that were put in place to ensure the safety of everyone involved.  The MJHL Community were Return To Play leaders throughout the province and beyond and it is disappointing that we were not able to do so once again.  I would also like to recognize the entire Manitoba Minor Hockey Community who went above and beyond this season to ensure that the many benefits of organized hockey could be enjoyed in a safe and responsible environment.

The League and Member Organizations operational focus has now turned toward actively stabilizing our financial position, the continued advocacy for the safe and responsible return to on ice team training activities for all Players / Teams across the Province and planning for upcoming Team Training / Development Activities, Spring Camps, Prospect Camps, Events and Showcases.

The MJHL and each Member Organization will determine based on their own unique circumstances how they will proceed with their commitments to their stakeholders going forward.

I would like to personally thank all of our stakeholders for their commitment, patience and understanding during a very difficult and challenging season.

We are very grateful to our Communities, Billets, Sponsors, Supporters, Officials, Volunteers, League Staff, Team Staff and Players for their support and leadership in navigating through the very difficult challenges faced over this past year.

Although we are extremely saddened to make this announcement, we now look forward to the future as we prepare for bigger and better things for the 2021/22 season.

Kevin Saurette
Commissioner, Manitoba Junior Hockey League

Convo with the Coach | Taras McEwen

Over 12 weeks we’ll get to know the coaches from across the MJHL.

Dave Anthony asked all the coaches 12 questions, and they shared their hockey history, how they got into coaching and a whole lot more.

We always get to hear their names, now let’s get to know the men behind the bench.

Taras McEwen – Head Coach, Winnipeg Blues

DA: What’s your hockey background? Did you play?

TM: I played a little bit, I played one-year Junior B. I kind of grew up in the game. My dad currently works for Vegas, my uncle worked for L.A, he just retired this year. My dad coached in the Western League, coached Junior A in Saskatchewan, so I grew up in the lifestyle, it’s something I’ve always done. Growing up, I always went to the rink. I was a water boy when I was young. Coaching was always something I wanted to do. The minute I finished school and finished playing, I got right into coaching. I was 21 when I started. Jr. B team in Ochapowace on the reserve in Saskatchewan. From there I went to Fort Knox, JR. B as a head coach then Notre Dame in Jr. A as an assistant coach so, it’s kind of something I’ve always wanted to do.

DA: How did you get into coaching?

TM: When you have someone that works in the game… my dads worked in the game his entire life. He’s always been a big supporter, I’ve talked to him about working or coaching in the game. I would work in the hockey schools when I was 14 or 15 years old, I wasn’t in them, but I was coaching them. Doing the video for the instructors. I’ve always had a passion for helping players achieve their best. It’s something I’ve wanted since I was young. I never saw myself as a player more just wanted to get into the game, work in the game as quickly as I could.

DA: What do you remember feeling standing on the bench as a head coach for the first time?

TM: Some nerves. Some excitement. My first head coaching job, I was 24-year-old, I was a young guy, the youngest coach in Fort Knox’s history and one of the youngest coaches in the league ever. A lot of nerves but I was really excited and grateful for the opportunity. They have a real good program there and some really good people that run that. They gave me the opportunity to step up and be a head coach, they did a lot for my development as a coach, they gave me all the tools and the resources to move on. I was only with them one year before moving to Notre Dame, but that first time when you’re on the bench, there’s a lot of excitement, some flashbacks of what it took to get there… just a real positive experience.

DA: What is your favorite or least favorite practice drill to run?

TM: I don’t have a least favorite. My one thing for practices, the drills that we do… as long as the drill has purpose for how we want to play the game, then I find it useful. I don’t like throwing a drill into a practice just to kill time. It has to have purpose, it has to represent the type of team we have, the way we wanna play and things we’re working on for game time. With some time now, we get to be creative and try some different things, we can make some things up on our own. As long as the drill has purpose and fits into what we’re doing, we can make any drill work.

DA: Is there a trade you’ve made or player recruitment/signing that stands out to you as being one of the best moves you’ve ever made?

TM: When I was in Notre Dame, we had a young player Adam Dawe who played as a 17-year-old. He was an undersized player, he was a commit to Maine… that was my first real experience working with elite players. We also had Ben Duperreault, who we got back from the Western League as a 20-year-old. So, kind of both… one that comes down from the WHL and one going to NCAA Div 1, just to see both ends of it. It was real eye opening to see those two guys, their skill level. Adam is at Maine now, he’s so skilled, I’ve never seen a 17-year-old with a slight build, maybe 5″6, control a game. The SJHL can be rough and tough but he could just enter the zone, control, read the pressure. I was a special player to watch and a guy I’ll follow along with over the next couple years.

DA: Who from your past (either playing with or being coached by) would you say had a great influence or impact on you as a coach today?

TM: My dad. He’s the biggest impact. It’s pretty beneficial that we can talk every day or every second day. When the NHL wasn’t going, he was helping Melville with some coaching stuff. We’re always calling, bouncing back ideas… see how things are going in Saskatchewan and how things are going here… he’s the biggest influence. He’s been through it all. All the ups and the downs, he’s always around for a call to get some advice from.

DA: Which former player stands out as one of your favorites to coach or to have around the rink every day?

TM: Ben Duperrault, when I coached at Notre Dame, he was a Wilcox kid, he had a lot of energy when he came to the rink. He loved to practice, he had a real good work ethic and when you have kids like that, it’s fun to come to the rink and work with those guys. They are the types you want who come in and work, wanting to get to the next level. We had a lots of those types on that team which was a lot of fun. When they put in the work, it’s fun to watch the development.

DA: If you could coach an NHL team, which team would it be and why?

TM: Oh, that’s a good question. Probably the one team I watched a lot in the playoffs was Vancouver. I’ve been to Vancouver, I went for the World Juniors, it’s a great place to visit and it be a great place to live, they have a good young team and the NHL now, you need good young, drafted players to make up the core. They have it. Some of the guys they’ve added are really good, too. One of those teams I follow and watch what they’re doing.

DA: In a post-game interview, which question do you like answering the least?

TM: (Laughs), that’s another good one… after a tough loss… whenever you have a tough loss, it’s never easy answering any question. You’re thinking about what you can do better, the video you need to go over… you just want to get back on the bus. Any question after a loss, you just wanna get back to work.

DA: Why do you like coaching for the organization you do?

TM: 50 Below, I started with them three years ago and they gave me the opportunity to take over as GM and then to coach, they give me every tool, every resource we need to help develop players. Our facility is world class for training our players. Our relationship with the Ice. We get to see so many great people around the rink every day. Always people around to pick their brains and learn from. It’s a real special thing their building here. They make sure the players have everything to help push them to the next level.

DA: What do you like about the town/city you coach for?

TM: It’s a little different coming from small town Wilcox, Saskatchewan where there are 300 people in the town but people had told me that Winnipeg can feel like a small town and it kind of does. We always run into lots of people. You see people at the rink and their so supportive. They love hockey. It’s cold here and windy here just like Saskatchewan so that’s good, I enjoy it. People support the team, my family has loved it. It’s just a real positive.

DA: Who’s a current player on your team you feel deserves more attention from fans around the league? (This will be used for a future 12 Takes story).

TM: Cooper Hatfield. We brought him in as an 18-year-old goalie last year and to see an 18-year-old goalie jump into a JR. A league, it doesn’t happen where they get a starting role but he did. He split time a bit but Cooper Hatfield… I thought he was one of the best goalies in the league last year, right there with (Matt) Lenz. This year, I think by far he’s the number one goalie. He can play at the next level. Some schools have talked to him and I think he’s one guy that deserves the praise. When you have a young team like we did last year, you’re working into your way and learning new ways and systems and Cooper kept us in every single game last year. The games in the playoffs against Steinbach were tight because of him. He’s a goalie that can go down south and play division one and in my mind, more people need to take notice of this guy.

MJHL Podcast Feature | Zach Whitecloud

MJHL Podcast Episode 25, featuring former Virden Oil Capitals defenceman, Zach Whitecloud.

Zach talks about his journey from the MJHL to the NHL where he currently plays for the Vegas Golden Knights. He dives deep into what specifically led to him finding success at each level.

For more, listen to the full MJHL Podcast interview hosted by Erik Swar.  The MJHL Podcast takes you inside the league each week with recaps, stories, interviews, rankings, and weekend previews. The MJHL Podcast is available on all major platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.

12 Takes with Dave Anthony

Anyone else’s fingers and toes hurt from being crossed so long?

I’m not a doctor, expert or someone who’s opinion matters much, but I get the sense the next two weeks are going to determine whether the MJHL returns or not.

Here’s hoping we can get back to the rinks, the players can get back onto the ice and fans can go back to cheering for their teams.

As we continue to look for things to pass the time (the NHL’s all Canadian division sure is helping!), I’ve come up with some great reading options!

Believe it or not, I have quite the wide-ranging taste in literature. From hockey to baseball to wrestling. Even one or two that are not about sports!

Bet you didn’t think I’d be such a book worm. But I am, so here’s 12 books you should look into if you’re tv’d out.

1 – Burkes Law, written by Brian Burke with Stephen Brunt

Currently into this book and already being a big fan of Brian Burke, it just takes it to a whole new level. I love learning about behind the scenes things and this book really takes you into the war room of an NHL GM, told in the exact way you’d hope. Brian Burke style.

Burke always says, “I was a GM for 5 teams. No one else has ever done that. It’s not a record you want”. And while it’s not a record that most dream about, it sure does lead to some very interesting stories.

2 – Yankee Years, written by Joe Torre and Jon Verducci

The New York Yankees were the first real dynasty I remember. Going from a scrappy, hardworking team to the “Evil Empire”, this is a fascinating journey told by one of the greatest managers in sports. It’s not fluff, it’s a real, in-depth look at what it took to build the Yankees and even more so, what it took to keep them on top, at all costs.

3 – Bret Hart: My Real Life In The Cartoon World Of Wresting , written by Bret Hart

Who didn’t love Bret Hart? He was the first true Canadian hero I can remember. Yes, I also thought wresting was real. To the “Hitman”, it was real too.

This is a book that is brutally and at times, painfully honest. It tears down not just the curtain of wrestling but of a man that millions looked up too. It makes him more human and relatable. In the end, more respected.

He lives up to his billing, “The Best There Is, The Best There Was And The Best There Ever Will Be”.

Getting old Stampede Wrestling stories and Andrea The Giant tales are classic.

4 – I’d Trade Him Again, written by Terry McConnell & J’Lyn Nye with Peter Pocklington

I stumbled across this book at a local charity book sale and THANK GOODNESS because it’s quickly become one of my favorite books.

Learning more about “Peter Puck” is neat but the details of the Wayne Gretzky trade, that’s where it’s really at. We’ve all seen documentaries and heard stories but there’s a few gems in here that even hardcore hockey fans maybe don’t know.

Peter’s life was amazing. He did good things; he did some not so good things. Love him or hate him, you’ll see him in a whole new light after reading this. Get it. You won’t be disappointed.

5 – Quinn, written by Dan Robson

When I think of Pat Quinn, I think of the man standing behind the Toronto Maple Leafs bench with two black, black eyes.

He was an intimidating figure. A legendary presence. He also had a soft side and loved the game of hockey. Much like time does, this humanizes him to the point you respect him so much more.

6 – Francona, written by Terry Francona and Dan Shulman

In a similar fashion to “The Yankee Years”, this book takes us behind the scenes of the Boston Red Sox through the wonderful eyes of Tito.

I love learning about how teams are built and then learning why for whatever reason they were destroyed. Coaches and managers know what it’s like but for us fans, we rarely get a true understanding of the daily grind, the pressure, the expectation and at times the sheer luck it takes to win.

7 – Game Misconduct, written by Russ Conway

Alan Eagleson.

Ring any bells? For some hockey fans, it brings up a painful side of the game many wishes would just be forgotten. I first got my hands on this book from the Dauphin public library and despite hating numbers (I’m the worst at math. Numbers are hard), this book explains the crookedness of Eagleson in a way that’s easy to understand.

He’s a thief. He robbed from many people, including Bobby Orr.

He got away with it for so long and maybe always would have. The game changed because of Eagleson, both in good ways and some very, very bad.

8 – Phil Esposito: Thunder and Lightning, written by Phil Esposito and Peter Golenbock

My all-time favorite player: Phil Esposito. Man, what a great way to learn about the ’72 Summit Series, his trade from Chicago to Boston then Boston to the Rangers and so many hilarious stories in-between.

Did you know he founded the Tampa Bay Lightning then got screwed over? He’ll tell you all about it in typical “Espo” fashion.

You will never guess what he was doing the morning of the first game of the Summit Series. Oh… and he and Cashman… well, get the book and find out what they did or didn’t do.

9 – Faithful, written by Stewart O’Nan and Stephen King

This is a unique one because it’s written journal style by two men who loved the Boston Red Sox.

Yes, Stephen King is THAT Stephen King. The King of Horror himself is a diehard Sox fan and the year they finally broke the curse, he keeps a journal detailing his thoughts on games and situations around the team.

It’s something sports fans often think and wish they wrote down, well these guys did and it’s very much amazing.

10 – Steve Dangle: This Team Is Ruining My Life (And I Love Them), written by Steve Dangle

From mom and dad’s house to Youtuber to guy you see on Sportsnet plugging in a light and yelling “It’s ON”, Steve Dangle is as inspiring as he is loud.

He started by doing video’s titled Leafs Fan Reaction and turned his tiny YouTube channel into one heck of a career. While he is a diehard (and loud) Leafs fan, his story is something that many can inspire too, not just in hockey but in life.

If you’re passionate and you work hard and yell (okay, maybe don’t yell like HE yell’s), your dreams can come true.

11 – Blood Feud, Detroit Red Wings vs Colorado Avalanche: The inside Story of Pro Sports’ Nastiest and Best Rivalry written by Adrian Dater

Not going to lie, I bought this book for a friend and I never gave it to him.

I skimmed it at first and liked it so much, I ended up getting him something totally different and kept it for myself.

Like I mentioned earlier, one of the earliest dynasties I remember is the Yankees but one of the rivalries I remember is the Avs and the Wings.

My goodness, did they hate each other. This book has so much detail to it. How it built layer upon layer for months and years.

There may never be another battle like these two teams and I’m sure the NHL is perhaps happy about that.

12 – Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters, written by Major Dick Winters.

I love this book and I had to include it for anyone who may of heard of Band of Brothers or simply wants to read the story of a true War Hero.

It was a very different time back then and Major Dick Winters was a hero among heroes. He shares stories in his words, his firsthand accounts of battles we’ve only read about or seen on tv.

He shares the stories of men whom history may have overlooked, and he provides inspiration for a generation going forward.

If there’s one book on this list I recommend you get, it’s this one.

How Zach Whitecloud became a NHL mainstay

Story courtesy of Las Vegas Sun

The extent to which Zach Whitecloud’s game has evolved was never more evident than on Jan. 18, the third game of this season. The Golden Knights led by a goal late against the Arizona Coyotes. They had just taken a penalty, setting up a 6-on-4 with the game on line.

And there was Whitecloud, the 24-year-old Vegas defenseman, one of the four players asked to defend the lead. He did, helping the Golden Knights keep the puck out of the net until they could score an empty-netter. Vegas won 4-2.

“He deserved to be out there,” Vegas coach Pete DeBoer said after the game. “He’s a guy we’re not afraid to put out in situations like that late in a game.”

This is a player who went to college with the intent of getting a degree instead of turning pro, and who went almost two years between NHL call-ups. And he was never regarded as one of the Golden Knights’ top prospects.

He made his league debut a few months shy of three years ago, a month out of college and not knowing what was coming next. Now, Whitecloud has a key role on a team with Stanley Cup aspirations, playing more than he ever has, and better than he ever has.

But he wants to make one thing clear.

“The person hasn’t changed,” Whitecloud said. “The person hasn’t changed at all. I’m still that small-town kid from Manitoba who just always stays humble and hard-working, and making sure I’m a good teammate first.”

Whitecloud is humble, deferential, confident and eager all at the same time. That helps explain his journey to the NHL.

Leaving Canada

Whitecloud was an alternate captain in 2015 with the Virden Oil Capitals of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. He had a strong season but was running out of junior eligibility and didn’t know what was next.

The logical step for a future NHL player in Canada is to play major-junior, which in Whitecloud’s case would have been the Western Hockey League. Whitecloud admits major-junior wasn’t right for him, as he would take more time to develop than would be possible in a league with an age cap of 20.

He said he didn’t start turning into a potential future pro until he was about 19 or 20. For players like that, NCAA hockey starts looking attractive.

“For me and where I was at in my development, going to school and getting four years of that done was the ideal situation,” Whitecloud said. “If hockey didn’t work out then I was able to get a degree in the meantime and go on with my life from there.”

Of course, hockey did work out.

But he didn’t know that when he sent a highlight tape to colleges in the U.S., and didn’t know it would catch the eye of a coach in a small college town in Minnesota.

Tom Serratore for 19 years has run a successful if not blue-blood program at Bemidji State University. The list of the Beavers’ NHL alumni is not long, but does include former Golden Knight Brad Hunt. Serratore saw Whitecloud’s tape and knew he was onto something.

“I vividly remember,” Serratore said. “We didn’t overthink it.”

Serratore and assistant coach Ted Belisle, now a scout with the Los Angeles Kings, went to Manitoba to see Whitecloud, and left him with a scholarship offer. Serratore and his staff were surprised to find that it was the only scholarship offer Whitecloud had received, and they got him on campus that summer.

Whitecloud arrived in Bemidji in 2016, and neither he nor the coaching staff knew what to expect. He didn’t think he’d play much that first year, but almost immediately became a mainstay in the Beavers’ lineup.

“It didn’t take us more than a practice or two to realize this kid’s a heck of a hockey player,” Serratore said. “Right there you could see he was a pro prospect.”

He ended the year on the WCHA’s All-Rookie Team and suddenly everyone knew who he was. He attended the Kings’ development camp that summer and by the time his sophomore year arrived, he was running out the clock on turning pro.

“It exceeded my expectations, and I think the coaching staff’s as well,” Whitecloud said. “They didn’t expect me to leave after two years and nor did I. Some things aren’t set in stone ever.”

Life as a professional

After that sophomore season, Whitecloud and his agent, Dean Grill,o met in Minnesota to figure out the next move.

He had no shortage of options, including an old family acquaintance from back home. When Whitecloud was growing up in Brandon, Manitoba, the biggest team in town was the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, who were owned and coached by a name familiar to Golden Knights fans.

Kelly McCrimmon, then the Golden Knights’ assistant general manager and now general manager, kept close tabs on Whitecloud even before his college career began: the Wheat Kings and the Whitecloud family partnered to billet players in the organization.

Once Whitecloud left for college, McCrimmon made sure to scout him in person.

“We’re not a team that targets a large number of college free agents — we keep our range of players pretty small,” McCrimmon said. “And that year Zach was the guy that we really wanted to sign.”

When Whitecloud did turn pro, McCrimmon and the Knights were one of several teams to offer him a contract. Whitecloud admits it wasn’t an easy decision, having never been to Las Vegas. But the pitch was enough, and Whitecloud signed an entry-level deal five days after the Bemidji State season ended in 2018.

“They created a culture in the first year that really embodied the things that I like to pride myself on,” Whitecloud said. “There were a lot of different things that attracted me to Vegas.”

Some players come right out of college ready for the NHL. Whitecloud wasn’t that, though with a caveat. He did play an NHL game the same year he left college, but it was near the end of the season after Vegas’ postseason fate was already locked up. He did not appear in the playoffs.

He also didn’t appear back with Vegas the next season. He spent the entirety of 2018-19 in the American Hockey League with the Chicago Wolves, helping them reach the Calder Cup Finals. He spent most of the next year in Chicago, too.

“He was a pro early on, in that he really wanted to absorb as much information as he could and at times we had to kind of pump the brakes,” former Wolves coach Rocky Thompson said. “Guys like him who I’ve had the experience of working with, they find a way to get to that next level, and he did.”

Thompson, now an assistant with the division rival Sharks, liked how Whitecloud played with the puck, particularly the way he broke out of the defensive zone and set up plays on the other end. He called his defensive game “a big-time work in progress,” pointing to playing hard in front of the net and without the puck on his stick.

Once that game started to develop, Whitecloud got dangerous. He had six goals in 22 assists in the 2018-19 regular season, fourth on the team with 28 points. His plus-39 rating led the AHL this season, as did his 12 assists and 15 points in the postseason.

His primary partner that season with the Wolves was Nicolas Hague. And when Hague made his season debut with Vegas on Jan. 18, he was paired once again with Whitecloud.

“We’ve had chemistry in the past, so just trying to pick up where we left off,” Hague said.

Becoming an NHL mainstay

Feb. 1, 2020, was a big day for Whitecloud, playing 13 minutes, 34 seconds of ice time for Vegas in a win against the Nashville Predators. It was an otherwise ordinary game, but it was when Whitecloud became a full-time NHL player. He stuck with the Golden Knights the rest of the year, appearing in 16 games, and hasn’t been back to the AHL since.

He not only went to the postseason bubble with the Golden Knights, but was an integral part of the lineup — Vegas more or less chose Whitecloud over veteran Deryk Engelland, and he didn’t disappoint. He played in all 20 games, averaging a shot on goal per game and scoring two goals to help Vegas reach the Western Conference Final.

“I thought he was awesome for us in the playoffs and (it was good) seeing a young guy coming into his own,” said Vegas defenseman Alec Martinez, who was traded to the Golden Knights a few weeks after Whitecloud’s call-up. “I’ve been impressed with him since the moment I got here. He just keeps on getting better.”

Whitecloud spent most of his time last season paired with Nick Holden, whom he called “the biggest influence in my pro career so far.” Holden, who at 33 is nine years Whitecloud’s senior, took on the role of veteran mentor from the moment Whitecloud arrived.

They played together in the playoffs, where their one rule was to always make a positive impact on the game. They’re not always going to score or break up an odd-man rush coming at their net. But if they can do the little things right every time out, that adds up to big things.

“That’s something that I’m going to carry throughout my whole career,” Whitecloud said. “The way he treats his teammates and how he treated me as a younger guy, kind of how he looked after me and helped me learn how to be a really good pro, and how to treat younger guys when I get to be one of the older guys on the team. That’s a big life lesson for me.”

Holden isn’t playing much right now, a victim of Vegas’ salary cap crunch and the continued development of younger defensemen like Whitecloud and Hague. He’s on the Vegas taxi squad this season, so he’s still around for practices and road trips.

And he’s still mentoring Whitecloud. The pride in his voice is evident as he speaks about his protégé.

“It’s awesome to see his development, and I think so far this year he’s probably been our best defenseman,” Holden said. “I couldn’t be happier for him.”

2021 and beyond

Whitecloud is squarely fixed into the Golden Knights’ future plans. He signed a two-year extension before the playoffs last year, and will become a restricted free agent after the 2021-22 season. There’s little doubt Vegas will look to keep him around, especially if he continues the growth he’s shown in the early part of this season.

It’s clear watching him that he’s a different player than he was last year. He’s more confident, more aggressive, and shooting at a rate he hadn’t yet previously in his young career. He’s generating scoring chances and becoming more of a two-way threat than he was even in the postseason.

“I think the biggest thing in my game is one, the aggressiveness, but not being afraid to make mistakes out there,” Whitecloud said. “When I first came up, you kind of go through those plays and you don’t want to, per se, mess up. But now I play to make those plays and if I mess up, it happens.”

The points haven’t come yet. Through seven games he has just one assist and no goals, but no one seems to be too worried about that. All of his coaches — college, minor and current — think the offense will come as he continues to grow. It seems like he’s been around forever, but if including the playoffs, Whitecloud has only skated 44 times in a Golden Knights uniform.

Whitecloud isn’t the same player he was in junior hockey in Manitoba. He’s not the same player he was in college in Bemidji, in Chicago, or even last season in Vegas.

But as he said, he’s still the same person. He’s polite in interviews, he shows off a genuine exuberance to be playing hockey, looking simultaneously that he’s awed to be in the NHL but also that he belongs.

That was evident during a stretch to close the game against Arizona in the first of what could be other notable moments for Whitecloud as a fixture with the Golden Knights.

Convo with the Coach | Tyson Ramsey

Over 12 weeks, we’ll get to know the coaches from across the MJHL.

Dave Anthony asked all the coaches 12 questions, and they shared their hockey history, how they got into coaching and a whole lot more.

We always get to hear their names, now let’s get to know the men behind the bench.

Tyson Ramsey – Virden Oil Capitals

DA: What’s your hockey background? Did you play?

TR: Yes, I did play.  Played minor hockey in my hometown of Dominion City.  Then played a year with the Pembina Valley Hawks AAA U18.  Was drafted by the Winkler Flyers and spent four seasons there.  Then went on to play four seasons with the Brandon University Bobcats in the CIS while finishing my education degree.

DA: How did you get into coaching?

TR: When I was done playing CIS, one of our assistant coaches asked me to help with his son’s peewee team.  From there I went on to help with the AAA bantam program in Brandon and from there to the AAA U18 program in Brandon.

DA: What do you remember feeling standing on the bench as a head coach for the first time?

TR: I remember being nervous but also very excited. When you finish playing you miss the competitive atmosphere the most and I found coaching was something that replaced that for me, so it was very, very exciting to step behind the bench and help young players get better.

DA: What is your favorite or least favorite practice drill to run?

TR: I have a couple favourites but one that comes to mind is one we did while I was playing for the Bobcats called the neutral zone stretch drill.

DA: Is there a trade you’ve made or player recruitment/signing that stands out to you as being one of the best moves you’ve ever made?

TR: I don’t know if I have one that I’ve made that stands out as the absolute best move.  All of the player personnel moves that we make are ones that make sense for our club at the time, or we wouldn’t make them.  There are lots of things to think about when making these moves and it can get stressful, as you are dealing with human beings and at the end of the day you want what’s best for these guys at the same time doing what is right for your hockey club.  Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don’t end up making.

DA: Who from your past (either playing with or being coached by) would you say had a great influence or impact on you as a coach today?

TR: I would say the biggest influence would be my dad.  He played at a high level and spent a number of years coaching at various levels.  He is where me and my brother acquired our passion for this game and to this day there are many discussions between the 3 of us that revolve around the game.  Some of them heated haha.  (My dad actually played a bit for the Steinbach Huskies)

DA: Which former player stands out as one of your favorites to coach or to have around the rink every day?

TR: There are so many.  I have been very, very fortunate to have been involved with so many great players in my coaching career to this point, both male and female.  In fact, some of the most gratifying moments in my coaching career have been in the female program.  The girls are so much fun to coach.

I guess if I had to pick one player that stands out, it would be a defenceman by the name of Kyle Hamm.  He was the first-round pick of the first peewee team I coached, and he was a great player but what stood out to me the most is how much he loved the game and what a great teammate he was.

DA: If you could coach an NHL team, which team would it be and why?

TR: The Detroit Red Wings, they have been my favourite team since I was young and would love the opportunity to work with Steve Yzerman.

DA: In a post-game interview, which question do you like answering the least?

TR: How I feel after a tough loss.

DA: Why do you like coaching for the organization you do?

TR: I just really enjoy working with the people involved in the organization here in Virden.  They are very, very passionate about the game and about doing everything possible to bring a championship the community.  It is a pleasure coming to the rink every day, no matter how the team is playing on the ice.  The people here are tremendous and they work hard.

DA: What do you like about the town/city you coach for?

TR: Virden is a great place to live and raise your family.  The community has been very welcoming to me and my family and we are very happy here.  The fan base, billet group and business community is extremely supportive and they do an enormous amount to help this team thrive.  They deserve a hard-working hockey club that is dedicated to the community and when this organization wins a championship it will be an amazing feeling to have this community to share it with.

DA: Who’s a current player on your team you feel deserves more attention from fans around the league? (This will be used for a future 12 Takes story).

TR: I’m going to give you 2 because I think they are very much the same in that they are great players but go about their business in a quiet manner. Jack Einarson and Brett Paddock.  They have both become 2 of the best players in the league in the last couple seasons and they work very hard day in and day out.  They don’t require attention or accolades, they just care very much about their team and achieving success here in Virden.

MJHL Podcast Feature | Riese Gaber

MJHL Podcast Episode 24, featuring former Dauphin Kings/Steinbach Pistons forward, Riese Gaber.

After being named USHL Player of the Year with the Dubuque Fighting Saints, Riese advanced to play at the NCAA Div.1 level at the University of North Dakota.

Riese is an MJHL Turnbull Cup and Anavet Cup champion during his time with the Steinbach Pistons.

For more, listen to the full MJHL Podcast interview hosted by Erik Swar.  The MJHL Podcast takes you inside the league each week with recaps, stories, interviews, rankings, and weekend previews. The MJHL Podcast is available on all major platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.

MJHL Podcast returns for weekly episodes

The MJHL Podcast officially returns in 2021 to all podcasting platforms on Thursday, January 28 following a 23 episode stint during the 2019-20 season.

The MJHL Podcast takes you inside the league each week with recaps, stories, interviews, rankings, and weekend previews.

Every Thursday throughout the MJHL season, host Erik Swar will conduct interviews with MJHL players, coaches, staff and alumni, plus provide recaps and discuss the weekly buzz surrounding the MJHL. The MJHL Podcast is available on all major platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and more.

Missed out on and interview from 2019-20? Listen to all 23 episodes here.

Convo with the Coach | Kelvin Cech

Over 12 weeks we’ll get to know the coaches from across the MJHL.

Dave Anthony asked all the coaches 12 questions and they shared their hockey history, how they got into coaching and a whole lot more.

We always get to hear their names, now let’s get to know the men behind the bench.

Kelvin Cech – Head Coach, Winkler Flyers

DA: What’s your hockey background? Did you play?

KC: I grew up in rural Alberta, just outside Edmonton. I played minor hockey, basically like every other kid from around there. Once that was over, I went to school in Edmonton and played a little bit of college hockey, which is a bit mis-leading… I watched the team play from the bench more than I actually played. Those were the years my coach Jim MacLean told me I was a better coach than a player, in no uncertain terms. So, I wrapped up my playing career and got into coaching as school was wrapping up. And here we are now.

DA: How did you get into coaching?

KC: I actually started working at hockey academy’s right when I was done, so I did a lot of skill development as I was finishing my degree. I coached U13 and U15 then I moved from Edmonton to Vancouver and coached major midget for four years. I then went and got an assistant job with the University of British Columbia and that lead me to Winkler last year.

DA: What do you remember feeling standing on the bench as a head coach for the first time?

KC: I remember it really well. I made a point to make sure that I internalized that moment. When I first left Edmonton, my dad got me a cake that said “The Journey Continues”, which is a little bit of a joke because I don’t think either of us had heard of Winkler, Manitoba before I interviewed for the job there. So, after I got that cake, I actually got it tattooed on my arm. So, when I was standing on the bench for the first game, I had my thumb on the tattoo on my arm. I was listening to the anthem in Winkler and it was just a cool experience. Afterwards, I went to the office after a loss against Paul Dyck’s Steinbach Pistons and my parents were in the office waiting for me. I didn’t know they were coming. It was a cool experience and one I’ll never forget.

DA: What is your favorite or least favorite practice drill to run?

KC: I gravitate towards whatever the players like or dislike. We do a lot of back-checking drills but they dislike those for obvious reasons, but we keep doing them because they’re important. My favorite is a game we call 3-zone-hockey. So, what happens is, it’s 3 on 3 in each zone. The puck is always going in the same direction for each team. So, three guys try to pass from the defensive zone into the neutral zone, the neutral zone guys try and pass into the offensive zone and then the other teams going in reverse. We do that whenever we have time, it takes a lot of time. The guys rotate and the guys love it. I’ve done this before with other teams and it didn’t go off as well, so I didn’t like it so much but with this Flyers team, the last year and a half, that’s our favorite.

DA: Is there a trade you’ve made or player recruitment/signing that stands out to you as being one of the best moves you’ve ever made?

KC: There’s two. The first getting Jaden Townsend. He was in Swan Valley for basically his whole career until he was traded out of province. We still believe and I still bring it up with him, I think Swan would have won that game 7 against Portage a couple years back if ‘Towney’ was playing but he had a broken leg. Getting him back in Manitoba, he would eventually become our captain and that was enormous. He still helps out with the coaching, would come to games when we had games and he’s just an incredible human being. As far as trades go, it was a really steep price to pay but getting Garrett Szeremley to come home, we got him from Waywayseecappo. He’s from Morden and he’s had a huge impact on our team. He says some weird stuff and he’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my life.

DA: Who from your past (either playing with or being coached by) would you say had a great influence or impact on you as a coach today?

KC: I’ve been thinking about this. There’s been a lot of people who’ve helped along the way but recently, it be Sven Butenschon, who I spent three years with at UBC as his assistant coach. The biggest thing was the confidence he gave me that I could do this professionally. Sven played 17 years of professional hockey. He didn’t like talking about it much but as we got closer of the years, I got some cool stories. He played for some amazing coaches and had experiences all over the world playing. He was so down to earth, treated the players great and he gave me the confidence to come to Winkler and run a Junior A program.

DA: Which former player stands out as one of your favorites to coach or to have around the rink every day?

KC: Griffen Leonard. Griffen is another kid that was a guy who was close to everyone while he was here in Winkler. He’s a positive, passionate kid. Fantastic leader. The guys all loved him, looked up to him. He was the guy that wasn’t afraid to push other players as well. He doubled his point totals every year in Winkler. Last year, in my first year, after Christmas he really took off, he really realized how effective he could be all over the ice. He was on power play and penalty kill, big faceoff guy, too. Now he’s down south going to school. He was a funny guy, worked his butt off, set a great example and was the glue that held that team together.

DA: If you could coach an NHL team, which team would it be and why?

KC: The obvious answer for me would be my hometown Edmonton Oilers. It would be a lot of fun to coach that kind of top end talent in McDavid and Draisaitl. But, that’s a bit of a copout, that might be a little too easy, so I’ll go with my new adoptive hometown team, the Winnipeg Jets. I’ve heard some awesome stories about Blake Wheeler and his leadership from a couple of Jets coaches over the years. Wheeler, Mark Scheifele and Josh Morrissey, the leadership they show, it just sounds like a great organization to work for.

DA: In a post-game interview, which question do you like answering the least?

KC: I’ve talked a lot about this with Kevin Pauls, who does our broadcasting and he’s really talented but he wants details. I like that he pushes me on that. I like talking about the game and I do probably talk too much. But the question I like the least is how could you lose four in a row while leading in all the games and why are you still on a four-game losing streak. If he’s asking questions like that, then things are not going well. It’s not his fault but those are the kinds of questions that are not fun to answer.

DA: Why do you like coaching for the organization you do?

KC: First and foremost, it’s the people I’ve been surrounded by since day one. My general manager Jeff Jeanson who reached out and gave me the opportunity to come here. Him and I along with head scout Mike McAulay, our overall vision is pretty aligned, doesn’t mean we don’t argue every other week but we still keep encouraging each other to have our opinions and we’re not always going to agree but, those two for sure. Kerry Wilson, our trainer who’s done basically 99% of jobs you can do for a Junior A hockey team. For me, it’s all about the people I get to work with on a daily basis.

DA: What do you like about the town/city you coach for?

KC: This was a tough question to answer. I was in my first-year last year and it’s obviously very busy so I’m either in the rink or at my house. Now, I’m just stuck in my house. So, I haven’t had a lot of interaction with the community. The thing I love best is just how loud it gets in the rink. I remember well, Everett Bestland scored one of the nicest goals you’ve ever seen in your life, last year. He burnt a kid in the neutral zone, it was such an impressive move and the crowd reacted so much… I think they were louder on the move then when he went down and scored. That and how loud the crowd gets when there is a fight. People in Winkler love their physical hockey.

DA: Who’s a current player on your team you feel deserves more attention from fans around the league? (This will be used for a future 12 Takes story).

KC: If you polled everyone in our dressing room, I think they’d all say the same guy. Jackson Arpin. Second year player for us, he’s 19, he came in last year at maybe 160 lbs, tall kid and he put in a lot of work over the summer. I think he added 30lbs of muscle. He doesn’t have the flashy stats, which is usually what gets the attention in this day and age, but he’s such an important two-way player for us, always on the right side of the puck and he may actually be to coachable. He’s come in and earned a letter as an Assistant Captain. He’s a special player and special person. I wish that everyone would give him the attention like he gets from our dressing room.

MJ-SJ Showcase provides elite exposure opportunities

In a typical season, players and staff from across the MJHL would currently be in preparations for the annual MJHL/SJHL Showcase.

The joint showcase event between the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) and Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) has been held annually in January since 2018. The three-day event provides high performance exposure in front of NHL, NCAA, WHL, USHL and U SPORTS scouts.

A total of six teams compete in the showcase event, with three teams from both the MJHL and SJHL.  All teams are selected by the showcase coaching staff of their respective leagues forming one 18U roster and two 20U rosters.

Since its inception in 2018, 70+ MJHL athletes who participated in the MJHL/SJHL Showcase have committed to high profile NCAA Programs, U Sports Programs and Major Junior Programs across Canada and the United States.

Click here to see who has advanced their hockey career after playing in the MJHL/SJHL Showcase for Team MJHL.

Convo with the Coach | Ken Pearson

Over the next 12 weeks we’ll get to know the coaches from across the MJHL.

Dave Anthony asked all the coaches 12 questions and they shared their hockey history, how they got into coaching and a whole lot more.

We always get to hear their names, now let’s get to know the men behind the bench.

Ken Pearson – Neepawa Natives

DA: What’s your hockey background? Did you play?

KP: I played minor hockey in Neepawa from the age of 5-15, began coaching junior at age of 21. Worked as a regional scout for NHL Central Scouting for 8 years. Played 5 seasons beginning in 1989 with the Neepawa Natives.

DA: How did you get into coaching?

KP: During my 20-year-old season an injury started me on the road to coaching.

DA: What do you remember feeling standing on the bench as a head coach for the first time?

KP: Plenty of emotion haha

DA: What is your favorite or least favorite practice drill to run?

KP: Favorite would be any one-on-one drill.

DA: Is there a trade you’ve made or player recruitment/signing that stands out to you as being one of the best moves you’ve ever made?

KP: I think there are a few but in 2005-06 season when with the Winnipeg South Blues, traded for forward David Segal from the Melfort Mustangs he was a throwback type player and something we were really missing on our team, we won the MJHL that year.

DA: Who from your past (either playing with or being coached by) would you say had a great influence or impact on you as a coach today?

KP: Don McGillivray, he coached me when I was 20, then I was his assistant the next two seasons in Neepawa and one in Prince Albert.

DA: Which former player stands out as one of your favorites to coach or to have around the rink every day?

KP: Again, there are a few, but Kevin Clark and Brendan Cook would be at the top of list.

DA: If you could coach an NHL team, which team would it be and why?

KP: Tampa Bay, I love the city and area! Go Rays!

DA: In a post-game interview, which question do you like answering the least?

KP: What do you think you needed to do different tonight and why didn’t you do it?

DA: Why do you like coaching for the organization you do?

KP: It is the organization I grew up with and gave me my first opportunity as a coach.

DA: What do you like about the town/city you coach for?

KP: It is my hometown. I love being around family and friends I haven’t been able to see much in 25+ years as a coach/gm.

DA: Who’s a current player on your team you feel deserves more attention from fans around the league? (This will be used for a future 12 Takes story).

KP: Rylan Gudnason

MJHL alumni named to NHL rosters

Six Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) alumni were named to National Hockey League (NHL) rosters on Wednesday as the NHL opened their 2021 regular season schedule.

Zach Whitecloud (D) – Vegas Golden Knights 
MJHL: Virden Oil Capitals 2014-16
MJHL Accolades: MJHL Second All-Star Team
NCAA D1: Bemidji State Beavers

Hailing from Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, Whitecloud enters his first full NHL season after logging significant minutes for the Golden Knights during the 2020 postseason. Zach earned a scholarship to Bemidji State while playing in the MJHL, where he would go on to play two seasons as a Beaver before signing his first professional contract with the Vegas Golden Knights. Whitecloud was named to the Golden Knights opening night roster for the 2021 season.

Cole Smith (F) – Nashville Predators
MJHL: Steinbach Pistons 2014-16
MJHL Accolades: MJHL Finalist
NCAA D1: University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks 2016-20

A native of Brainerd, Minnesota, Smith spent two seasons playing north of the border in the MJHL with the Steinbach Pistons where his play earned him a scholarship to the University of North Dakota. Following four years with the Fighting Hawks at the NCAA D1 level, Smith signed his first professional contract with the Nashville Predators in the summer of 2020. Smith was named to their opening night lineup, making his NHL debut on Thursday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Brady Keeper (D) – Florida Panthers 
MJHL: OCN Blizzard 2014-17
MJHL Accolades: 2x MJHL First All-Star Team, MJHL Top Defenseman, MJHL MVP
NCAA D1: Maine Black Bears 2017-19

A three-year member of the OCN Blizzard, Brady Keeper accepted a scholarship to play for the University of Maine Black Bears where he would go on to star for two seasons. Keeper’s play garnered major NHL interest and after just two seasons as a Black Bear, he signed his first professional contract with the Florida Panthers where he finds himself today. The Pimicikamak Cree Nation member will start the 2021 season on the Florida Panthers Taxi Squad.

Wyatt Kalynuk (D) – Chicago Blackhawks
MJHL: Virden Oil Capitals 2013-14
MJHL Accolades: MJHL All-Rookie Team, Canada Western U17
USHL: Lincoln/Bloomington 2014-17
NCAA D1: Wisconsin Badgers 2017-20

Playing in one season for his hometown Virden Oil Capitals, Kalynuk excelled as 16-year-old on the blueline and the hockey world took notice. The Manitoban would make the jump to the USHL where he would spend the next three seasons before he earned a scholarship to play for the Wisconsin Badgers. After three seasons at the collegiate level, Kalynuk chose to forego his senior season and sign his first professional contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. Kalynuk was named to the Blackhawks Taxi Squad.

Travis Zajac (F) – New Jersey Devils
MJHL: St. James Canadians 2001-02
NCAA D1: University of North Dakota 2004-06

A long-time member of the New Jersey Devils, Travis Zajac spent his first year of Junior hockey in the MJHL with the now defunct St. James Canadians. Following a trade to the BCHL, Zajac would suit up for two seasons at the University of North Dakota before embarking on a 15-year professional career in the NHL with the Devils.

Travis Hamonic (D) – Vancouver Canucks
MJHL: Winnipeg Saints 2006-07
WHL: Moose Jaw Warriors/Brandon Wheat Kings 2007-10

Hamonic received his first taste of junior hockey in the MJHL with the Winnipeg Saints (Virden Oil Capitals). After 32 games of Junior A, Hamonic would go on to play nearly 200 games in the WHL between Moose Jaw and Brandon. Hamonic suited up with Canada’s National Team at the World Junior Hockey Championships in 2010 before embarking on an 11-year professional career between the New York Islanders, Calgary Flames and now, Vancouver Canucks.

12 Takes with Dave Anthony

Dave Anthony has been a broadcaster in the MJHL for the past 7 seasons. Every week, he’ll share a thought on the 12 teams in the MJHL and other things from across the league.

Oh 2021, how good it is to see you. You bring hope for the hockey season to resume. You bring optimism to players, coaches and fans alike.

That’s a lot to pin on a year but why not? As January drags on, I feel the growing need for MJHL hockey on all levels and while keeping health and safety at the forefront, I sure hope we manage to get the season in for the 20-year-olds who graduated last year having not finished a season. Not having a proper goodbye to teammates and fans. I wish that on no one who’s ever put on an MJHL team jersey.

With that in mind, let’s get back on the positive train.

WHEN the season can resume, let’s look at 12 players that I think are primed for a big 2021 and just for fun, let’s throw in a bold prediction, too!

1) Dauphin – Charles Massey

This 20-year-old from Quebec stormed out of the gate for the Kings putting up an impressive 7 goals and 3 assists through six games. In speaking earlier this year with 730 CKDM’s Darnell Duff, Massey said “I’m honestly a little bit surprised with my production. With that said, I have always known that I could get it done when I focus and play my game. “This is a great league and it’s extremely competitive. I wasn’t expecting to score as much as I have, but I’m certainly happy that I’ve been able to help this team win games.”

Should be said Massey is also a big Minnesota Vikings fan. He’s hoping the Kings have better luck.

Bold Prediction: Massey leads the Dauphin Kings in points. He gets a number of NCAA Division one offers and any time he’s asked in the future, he’ll make mention of the Kings organization and the people of Dauphin for helping him get to where he is.

2) Neepawa – Rylan Gudnason

The pride of Killarney, Manitoba, the 19-year-old had lit the lamp 5 times in just nine games and showed no signs of slowing down when the pause hit.

While having success on the ice, Rylan has also been boosted by having his brother Cody play with Neepawa this year. The two have a strong bond and it’s great for the family, much easier for them to watch games as Rylan explained to the Brandon Sun.

He also said there is a little rivalry between the brothers. “”It’s all about who’s getting more points, who’s doing this and who’s doing that, that’s always fun,” Rylan said.

Rylan – 5 goals, 1 assist for 6 points. Cody – 1 assist. Rylan has the upper hand for now.

Rylan also happens to be an excellent violinist. Check it out here, he’s got skills on and off the ice! https://pl-pl.facebook.com/neepawanatives/videos/the-kid-has-talent-rylan-gudnason-is-in-the-house-charlie-daniels-has-nothing-on/408158566773702/

Bold Prediction: Rylan continues to lead his brother in the scoring race and will have triple the amount of points Cody does, (Cody will get revenge down the road when he breaks Rylan’s season high in points).

3) OCN – David Queree

This is more of a personal pick because I’m a big fan of both David Queree the hockey player and David Queree the person.

It’s never easy coming to a whole new team let alone a whole new province but that’s what David did last season and it didn’t take long for his infectious smile, personality and work ethic to come through.

Getting traded is also never an easy process but David saw it as an opportunity for a bigger role and he has grabbed it with both hands. 5 points in 6 games for OCN while piling up 0, yes ZERO penalty minutes despite seeing a lot of ice, shows David was on the cusp of a major statement when the pause came into effect.

The Blizzard are hoping that his production continues and he also continues to grow as a leader on the ice, in the room and in the community.

I hope he’s happy.

Bold Prediction: David continues his strong play for the OCN Blizzard and is named the team MVP. He helps the Blizzard push their first-round opponent to the brink. David appears on tv in later life wearing a Blizzard hat as he wins a major poker tournament.

4) Portage – Parker Johnson

It seemed like a quiet deal on October 22nd when the Terriers picked up Johnson from Swan Valley but Johnson has been anything but quiet on the ice.

Coming off a 21-point season last year which included 10 goals, he’s on pace to smash that. He already piled up 4 goals in his first 7 games. For a Portage team that struggled to score goals, he’s been a real shot in the arm.

Blake Spiller may have found another gem and expect to see Parker Johnson on the scoresheet a lot when play picks back up.

Bold Prediction: Johnson leads Portage in goals and points. He leads Portage in playoff scoring as they get to the MJHL Semi-Finals.

5) Selkirk – Adam Ingram

Trades are always hard to judge. Fans instantly want to pick a winner and a loser. Often times, they’re judged on who got the best player in the deal at that moment.

When Selkirk traded Brett Namaka to Portage, the big (literally, the guy’s huge) name going the other way was Sheldon Howard but it also included a prospect by the name of Adam Ingram. Since signing this year, Ingram has proven to be perhaps the biggest piece of that deal.

7 points in 8 games and every time he touches the puck, he’s dangerous. The Steelers have something special in this kid and you’ll be hearing more about him. Ingram, who is also an avid amateur golfer, earlier won the 2020 Elmhurst Invitational Low Junior title in shooting rounds of 73 and 69 back in August.

He was born in 2003. I feel old.

Bold Prediction: Ingram wins rookie of the year and finishes top 10 in MJHL scoring. He’s also named to the MJHL All-Rookie team.

6) Steinbach – Codey Behun

Codey is a special player and a terrific person. He’s a fierce competitor  on the ice and he can really host a good ol’ fish fry.

Behun’s caring nature off the ice is apparent when you talk with him. He’s always joking with teammates and fans. When he’s not thinking about hockey, which isn’t often, he’s trying to help build the education of kids. Since being traded to Steinbach from Winnipeg, he commutes every week day and works in a school.

His kind nature stops when the skates hit the ice. Then you get “Hooner”. He’s a dynamite center with all the tools to be great and a desire to win that’s not often seen in someone just 20-years-old. Since the Pistons brought in Micheal King to go along with Behun and Rylan Bettens, that line caught serious fire and Behun is often the spark.

He has the shot. He has the passing skills. He has the hockey IQ and the work ethic to get the puck. 2021 is primed to be big for Codey Behun.

Bold Prediction: Behun is a point per game player the rest of the year and into the playoffs where he leads the Pistons in playoff scoring. He continues his work with younger hockey players and will be thanked by the MJHL MVP of 2025 for helping him start his career.

7) Swan Valley – Alex Danis

In his Next College Student Athlete recruiting profile, Alex described himself.

“I am a fast, agile, tenacious offensively skilled forward with a scoring touch that contributes tremendously in all areas of the ice. ”

That’s a fact. He has 7 goals and 7 assists for the Stamps. The 19-year-old came to Swan via the Llyodminster Bobcats. Often when players come from out of province, it takes fans a bit of time to see what they have. Not with Danis. It was evident pretty quickly that he would be a threat every night and it’s come true.

Swan Valley wants to make noise in a division that has Waywayseecappo, Dauphin and OCN. Making the most noise so far is Danis and expect that to continue into the restart.

Bold Prediction: Danis is named to the MJHL 1st team and finalist for the MJHL MVP. He has his choice of NCAA programs and picks one before the season is out.

8) Virden – Hunter Cloutier

He’s leading the league in scoring. He’s up a point but played one less game.

Not so bold prediction: Cloutier leads the league in special teams scoring at the end of the year.

As of right now, he has 1 power play goal, 6 power play assists, 1 short-handed goal and 1 short-handed assist.

Back in October, Cloutier told Mike Sawatzky from the Winnipeg Free Press, “It’s my last year in the league and I haven’t been able to get a championship yet, so I’m hoping to help the team in any way to try to win games and obviously I want to win a championship,”

Hunter’s doing all he can to help get Virden there and expect him to be right near the top of the scoring lead all season long.

Bold Prediction: Cloutier leads the league in scoring and is a finalist for the MJHL MVP.

9) Waywayseecappo – Mackenzie Belinski

Sometimes, it’s all about the fit.

Belinski is currently second in the league in scoring, one point behind Cloutier. He’s also just one point behind him in the special teams point race.

Long story short, Belinski is special.

After making a name for himself in Neepawa, he moved on to Portage where he had a stellar year but was on the move again, eventually finding his way to Wayway where he’s wearing a letter and on pace to shred the team scoring record.

Belinski and the Wolverines have put the league on notice. They believe it’s their time. 2021 may be bigger than Belinski and the Wolverines could have imagined.

Bold Prediction: Belinski wins the MJHL MVP award.

10) Winkler – Ian Tookenay

Again, it’s about fit.

Sometimes things just gel and for Tookenay, it was going to Winkler that kicked his career into high gear.

Coming off an impressive 16 goal, 43-point season in 47 games, he’s put up 7 points in 6 games this year, while never seeing the inside of the penalty box. He’s dependable in all areas and something the Flyers will need more of when things pick back up.

Tookenay may not lead the league in scoring this year but he’ll take leading the Winkler Flyers into a long playoff run any way he can.

Bold Prediction: Tookenay named a finalist for an MJHL award and named to the 2nd team all-stars. He will finish top 20 in scoring and top 5 in least amount of penalty minutes.

11) Winnipeg Blues – Brayden Foreman

Maybe one of the biggest surprises in the early part of the MJHL season was the Winnipeg Blues exploding out of the gate.

Brayden Foreman had a lot to do with that success and it won’t stop.

Foreman had 6 goals and 6 assists in just 6 games. That’s 2 points a game. You don’t need to be good at math to know that’s pretty good.

The face Winnipeg has perhaps the top goaltender in the MJHL and getting major scoring from not just Foreman but Ethan Hersant and Josiah Vanderhooft, the Blues are the real deal.

Foreman has the team around him for both personal and team success and it should be fun to watch… as long as you’re not playing them.

Bold Prediction: Foreman tears it up this year for the Blues and commits to NCAA Division 1 before the season is out. Foreman will end up in the USHL next year before going to college where he’ll have people say, “look at what Foreman’s doing there, remember when he was in the MJHL?”

12) Winnipeg Freeze – Evan Kaufman

Another personal one for me because, like earlier, I like Evan as a hockey player and as a person.

It may not be an easy time for the Freeze this year. A new franchise is already a step or two behind the eight-ball but who knows what will happen when the pause lifts.

One thing I do know, is that Kaufman will establish what it means to be a member of the Winnipeg Freeze. He’s going to lead by example on and off the ice. His impact will be felt beyond what he does on the scoresheet. He’s going to have a big 2021 helping a new team find footing in a tough league. Many fans will see it in years to come.

Bold Prediction: The Winnipeg Freeze win a championship within 6 years and they invite Kaufman back to be a part of the celebration, thanking him for being the first captain in the team’s history and letting him raise the trophy.

Convo with the Coach | Josh Green

Over the next 12 weeks we’ll get to know the coaches from across the MJHL.

Dave Anthony asked all the coaches 12 questions and they shared their hockey history, how they got into coaching and a whole lot more.

We always get to hear their names, now let’s get to know the men behind the bench.

Josh Green – Winnipeg Freeze

DA: What’s your hockey background? Did you play?

JG: Played 20 years pro split between the NHL, AHl and 3 leagues in Europe. Played 5 years in the WHL junior in Medicine Hat, Swift Current and Portland.

DA: How did you get into coaching?

JG: Got into coaching almost immediately after I was done playing. Spent time at Jets Hockey Development working under Dave Cameron who is a big influence for me. Also was an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Blues for the 2018-19 season.

DA: What do you remember feeling standing on the bench as a head coach for the first time?

JG: I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of responsibility standing behind the bench for the 1st time. But it was also a feeling of immense excitement.

DA: What is your favorite or least favorite practice drill to run?

JG:  Least favorite drills to run are conditioning skates. I don’t find a lot of value in just skating the kids. In fact, I rarely do them anymore. I find more value in creating competition within conditioning drills. So sometimes, because they are competing/battling they don’t even realize they are working on conditioning.

DA: Is there a trade you’ve made or player recruitment/signing that stands out to you as being one of the best moves you’ve ever made?

JG: Nothing stands out for me as far as any trades or recruits as of yet.

DA: Who from your past (either playing with or being coached by) would you say had a great influence or impact on you as a coach today?

JG: I had a coach in junior by the name of Perry Pearn who had a major impact on me. Taught me work ethic, accountability along with a good understanding of how the game should be played.

DA: Which former player stands out as one of your favorites to coach or to have around the rink every day?

JG: My 1st year as a coach I had a player by the name of Kelton Sutherland (our captain that year) who was a joy to be around every day. Let by example with the work he put in on a daily basis and wasn’t afraid to speak up if he sensed something was off with either the group or even us as a staff. I really appreciated the feedback especially as a young coach. He is actually a part of my staff with the Freeze now.

DA: If you could coach an NHL team, which team would it be and why?

JG: I would love to coach in a Canadian market. I love the passion that the fan bases have in the Canadian cities. Difficult at times, no question but I think it would be incredibly rewarding to win in one of those cities, since it hasn’t been done since ’93.

DA: In a post-game interview, which question do you like answering the least?

JG: I don’t like to talk about specific individuals during a post-game interview. I prefer to keep it team oriented.

DA: Why do you like coaching for the organization you do?

JG: I enjoy coaching with this organization because the people I’m surrounded with are committed to developing, not only the player, but the person as well. We have almost every resource available to make this happen.

DA: What do you like about the town/city you coach for?

JG: I love Winnipeg. It is my home now. I am originally from Alberta but I’ve been here since 2004 when I played for the Moose, and we have put down roots here and feel very comfortable here. Special shout out to Headingley, which is where we reside. Wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

DA: Who’s a current player on your team you feel deserves more attention from fans around the league? (This will be used for a future 12 Takes story).

JG: Brandt Young is a special player for us. For a 1st year player to come in and play the minutes he plays and have the responsibility he has is very impressive. He wears an ‘A’ for us which just shows you his maturity as well.

MJHL planning update for 2021 restart

The MJHL continues to prepare for restart in the New Year and has developed a Restart Action Plan that will be initiated once it is deemed safe to do so and Provincial restrictions allow for it.

In addition to the established and extensive MJHL Return to Play Guidelines already in place, a number of key elements have been identified in the MJHL Restart Action Plan to allow for a safe and responsible Return to Hockey.  The MJHL remains optimistic that teams will have the opportunity to provide on-ice training activity for their players during the latter half of January with return to game play targeted for early-to-mid February. However, with the current restrictions in place for several more weeks across the Province, the MJHL cannot confirm a specific start date at this time but will remain flexible to all potential restart timelines.

Key Elements of Restart Action Plan:

Players / Staff to complete 14-day self-isolation period before participating in team activities.

Players / Staff to follow detailed travel procedures before reporting to the community / organization.

Teams to provide ten to fourteen day modified training period for Players / Staff once 14-day self-isolation phase has been completed in advance of resuming games.

All new players added to the roster would be required to complete 14-day self-isolation period before participating in any team activities.

Each team will play minimum two games a week against the same team and will play the same team minimum four times in a row over consecutive weekends.

Each team will only play teams from the same public health region, same division and/or of closest proximity based on regional restrictions at that time.

Each team will schedule games to be played during the weekend (Friday, Saturday and/or Sunday).

Regular Season will be extended until the end of April to allow for further schedule and game play flexibility.

Playoff format will be reviewed over the coming weeks.

The MJHL successfully returned to conducting on-ice activity in July and to date has completed over 60 games since game play began in late September.

“Our goal remains the same as in September, to provide a meaningful development season for the players through knowingly very challenging circumstances while continuing to exhaust all options in order to do so in a safe, structured and sensible manner,” said MJHL Commissioner, Kevin Saurette.

“The MJHL and all member teams will continue to meet each challenge head on in what has already been a monumental effort by all involved.  The health and safety of our players, staff, stakeholders and communities remains our number one priority as we carefully navigate a responsible and beneficial pathway to restart training and on-ice competition.”

The MJHL will continue to consult with Public Health and Hockey Manitoba over the coming weeks to determine when it is appropriate to initiate the MJHL Restart Action Plan for a Return to Hockey.

The MJHL Board of Governors will meet early in the New Year to consider potential start dates and further restart activation planning.

The MJHL would like to thank the players, coaches, team personnel, officials, fans, partners and volunteers across the MJHL for their amazing support and efforts during unprecedented conditions to ensure the health and safety of the entire MJHL Community.  The MJHL and all member teams will continue to strive towards providing a safe and healthy environment for all involved.

On behalf of the MJHL, please have a Safe and Happy Holiday Season as we all look forward to getting back on the ice in 2021!  When the time comes, the MJHL will be ready!

12 Takes with Dave Anthony

Dave Anthony has been a broadcaster in the MJHL for the past 7 seasons. Every week, he’ll share a thought on the 12 teams in the MJHL and other things from across the league.

It’s the 12 days of Christmas, 12 Takes style! Fingers crossed that Santa has the start of the MJHL season in his bag of presents. I’ll take it getting lost in the mail till after the New Year, as long as it comes.

With the hoilday season upon us, let’s taking a classic Christmas song and put an MJHL spin to it. Everything is better when it’s hockey.

Feel free to sing this proudly around the Christmas tree!

 

On the first day of Christmas, hockey gave to me…

A puck.

On the second day of Christmas, hockey gave to me…

Two fresh towels and a puck.

On the third day of Christmas, hockey gave to me…

Three new sticks, two fresh towels and a puck.

On the fourth day of Christmas, hockey gave to me…

Four shot blockers, three new sticks, two fresh towels and a puck.

On the fifth day of Christmas, hockey game to me…

FIVE OPEN RINKS

Four shot blockers, three new sticks, two fresh towels and a puck.

On the sixth day of Christmas, hockey gave to me…

Six one-time bingo’s,

FIVE OPEN RINKS… Four shot blockers, three new sticks, two fresh towels and a puck.

On the seventh day of Christmas, hockey gave to me…

Seven canteen snacks,

Six one-time bingo’s, FIVE OPEN RINKS… Four shot blockers, three new sticks, two fresh towels and a puck.

On the eighth day of Christmas, hockey gave to me…

Eight bone rattlin’ body checks,

seven canteen snacks, six one-time bingo’s, FIVE OPEN RINKS… Four shot blockers, three new sticks, two fresh towels and a puck.

On the ninth day of Christmas, hockey gave to me…

Nine “oh baby” glove saves,

eight bone rattlin’ checks, seven canteen snacks, six one-time bingo’s, FIVE OPEN RINKS… Four shot blockers, three new sticks, two fresh towels and a puck.

On the tenth day of Christmas, hockey gave to me…

Ten servings of pre-game pasta,

nine “oh baby” glove saves, eight bone rattlin’ checks, seven canteen snacks, six one-time bingo’s, FIVE OPEN RINKS… Four shot blockers, three new sticks, two fresh towels and a puck.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, hockey gave to me…

Eleven thousand rolls of stick tape,

ten servings of pasta, nine “oh baby” glove saves, eight bone rattlin’ checks, seven canteen snacks, six one-time bingo’s, FIVE OPEN RINKS… Four shot blockers, three new sticks, two fresh towels and a puck.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, hockey gave to me…

Twelve NCAA div 1,3 or CIS scholly’s,

eleven thousand rolls of stick tape, ten servings of pasta, nine “oh baby” glove saves, eight bone rattlin’ checks, seven canteen snacks, six one-time bingo’s, FIVE OPEN RINKS… Four shot blockers, three new sticks, two fresh towels and a puck.

MJHL assists Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba

The Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) is excited to partner with the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba (CHFM) this holiday season to help raise funds for life-saving equipment.

More specifically, donations will help purchase remote monitored beds. With the number of kids with serious conditions increasing all the time, this remote monitoring equipment is critically important.

“Manitobans continue to amaze us with their incredible support, despite a challenging year,” said Stefano Grande, president and CEO, Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba. “We are thrilled to partner with the Manitoba Junior Hockey League to help make anything possible for sick and injured kids.”

Throughout December and in early January, the MJHL will encourage the public to gift a special t-shirt or sweatshirt this holiday season that will see one hundred percent of proceeds donated back to the Hospital Foundation.

“We are excited to support this amazing and very important initiative led by the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba,” shared MJHL Commissioner, Kevin Saurette. “Every little bit we can do during these difficult times will help make a critical difference in the lives of sick children and their families in Manitoba.”

Purchase your MJHL x CHFM apparel here to help make a difference this holiday season.

You can also make donations through the CHFM website by clicking here and following the instructions provided.

Convo with the Coach | Paul Dyck

Over the next 12 weeks we’ll get to know the coaches from across the MJHL.

Dave Anthony asked all the coaches 12 questions and they shared their hockey history, how they got into coaching and a whole lot more.

We always get to hear their names, now let’s get to know the men behind the bench.

Paul Dyck – Steinbach Pistons

DA: What’s your hockey background? Did you play?

PD: I was very fortunate to be able to play the game for many years. I grew up in Steinbach playing for the Millers. Following that I played a year of AAA Midget with the Eastman Selects, one season with the Dauphin Kings in the MJHL followed by 2 with the Moose Jaw Warriors in the WHL. I was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins and played in their system for the next for 4 years. I played another 6 years in the IHL before they merged with the AHL in 2001 and then off to the DEL in Germany for where I played my last 5 seasons.

DA: How did you get into coaching?

PD: Somewhat by default by suppose as I did NOT initially aspire to become a coach. In August of 2010 I joined the Pistons in the marketing capacity and by the end of September I was taking on some of the assistant coaching duties. When Rich Gosselin resigned in December of 2011 I took over in the interim as I was the only other coach on staff. In the summer of 2012, I was fortunate to be offered the Head Coach/GM position and have thoroughly enjoyed the role ever since.

DA: What do you remember feeling standing on the bench as a head coach for the first time?

PD: How fast the game was down at ice level and how much of the game I was not able to see and process at the time. Thankfully over time I have been able to broaden my scope to see so much more and make quicker decisions and adjustments.

DA: What is your favorite or least favorite practice drill to run?

PD: I have numerous drills that I really like and that have become foundational for us. There is one that drill we do where I stand in an area of the ice where I am susceptible to being hit by pucks that miss the net and carom off the glass or a post. I love the drill but it but it keeps me on my toes and my head on a swivel.

DA: Is there a trade you’ve made or player recruitment/signing that stands out to you as being one of the best moves you’ve ever made?

PD: Over the past 8-9 years there have been a few that have been memorable and that I would like to believe made us a stronger team. That being said, trades are always simpler to imagine and to draw up but the difficult part is the realization that it usually means someone is leaving your dressing room which is often quite difficult. Prior to and during the 2012-13 season we made a number of trades that put us in a position to win the Turnbull Cup and frankly we would not have been in that position without them. Playoff MVP Corey Koop, Justin Dalebozik (Top scorer in Playoffs), Hayden Goderis, Tyler Penner, Zach Rakochy, Dan Taillefer, Richard Olson, Myles Nykoluk, Matt Franczyk, Gabe Minville and Brenden Hopkins were all players that we acquired via trades.  Moving on, some of top players throughout the years like Bradley Schoonbaert, Drew Worrad, Matt Radomsky, Braden Purtill, Kyle Bettens, Ty Naaykens and Codey Behun have also joined us through trades. Some of the more memorable recruits that worked out well for us were Cole Smith, Mack and Declan Graham.

DA: Who from your past (either playing with or being coached by) would you say had a great influence or impact on you as a coach today?

PD: I was fortunate to play with 2 veteran defencemen as a rookie in the minors that had a huge impact on me on how to be a pro both on and off the ice. Pittsburgh sent Gord Dineen and Gilbert Delorme down to the minors and they did a great job of mentoring the young players. Dave Tippett and Butch Goring were 2 coaches that I played for that influenced me tremendously and I have drawn from my experiences from them many times now as a coach. Both were coaches that held the players accountable but created environments where you were excited to come to the rink each day.

DA: Which former player stands out as one of your favorites to coach or to have around the rink every day?

PD: There are so many players that I could mention here. Colin Baudry was such a great leader and made our job easy in the room. Reise Gaber brought so much energy to the rink which was contagious and it was fun to watch how he played the game. Matt Radomsky grew and developed into an excellent goaltender and into an even better person. Jonah Wasyluk joined us as this raw, gangly winger that became an absolute dominate physical force and a fan favorite. One of the most rewarding components of this job is the number of great young men we have an opportunity to work with and see them grow as people.

DA: If you could coach an NHL team, which team would it be and why?

PD: I am going to have to go with Montreal here. The Canadiens were the team I grew up watching at every opportunity and have always appreciated thier rich history and winning culture. There are very few cities where the fans are as passionate and where the game means more to the people.

DA: In a post-game interview, which question do you like answering the least?

PD: There are rarely any questions that would qualify but if I am looking for one I would have to go with… “How important was it for you to score the first goal tonight?”   Considering the first goal usually results in that team winning over 2/3rds of the time.

DA: Why do you like coaching for the organization you do?

PD:  I feel very privileged and honoured to be coaching the Pistons. I am surrounded by so many good people on a daily basis that care deeply about our program, our players and the people of our community. We have great people on our Board of Directors that have been a pleasure to work alongside and that are committed to building the program to the best of our abilities.

DA: What do you like about the town/city you coach for?

PD: The first thing that jumps out to me about Steinbach is the number of amazing people here that care for and about one another. It’s a very generous community and despite the fact it has grown very quickly it still has a small-town feel. It is my hometown so it has been very rewarding to see how this community and the region have taken ownership of the Pistons and truly made us thier team.

DA: Who’s a current player on your team you feel deserves more attention from fans around the league? (This will be used for a future 12 Takes story).

PD: Christian Riemer is a player that just goes about his business on a daily basis and puts in the work every day both on the ice and in the gym. He is one of the fittest players we have ever had here and plays the most minutes for us every night and rarely tires. He certainly gained the respect of his teammates last year in the players as we dominate in every area of the game. He is about as low maintenance a player as you will find and not overly vocal but his play and value to our team will grab your attention.