By Derek Holtom
The Winnipeg Saints have been to eight MJHL finals, including three in the last 10 years. Overall, the Saints have won it all three times, meaning, technically, so too have the Virden Oil Capitals.
The Saints relocated to Virden back in 2012-13 and were rechristened the Oil Capitals. They’ve enjoyed solid seasons backed by some of the largest crowds in the league. But they’ve never made it to a MJHL final while based in Virden. That is, until this year.
Jamie Hodson, the Director of Business and Hockey Operations for the Oil Capitals, says this is a real “coming out” party for Virden’s junior A hockey team, and notes the fans are a huge factor in terms of the team’s success.
“It’s a result of everyone’s hard work from Day 1,” said Hodson. “We started with that perfect fan base in year one, and the players have really responded to that this year.
“The fans have been really supportive this year, and I think the players really appreciate that,” he added. “I think we’ve really had a leg up with the ‘sixth man’.”
That said, Hodson is mindful of the rich history this franchise shares with its’ former home in Winnipeg.
“It’s great to put our own stamp on this franchise, but there is a great and storied history with the Saints, and that is very well respected within our organization, but at the same time, we’re starting to put our own mark on things.”
And with the long playoff run, the fan base is as jacked as it’s been since their first home game back in 2012.
“The community and surrounding area is rallying behind the team,” said Hodson. “There seems to be a deeper connection to the players the further we go into the post season, and really start to associate to the player’s personalities, and their nuances.”
“And this isn’t just in Virden, it’s happening north, south, east and west – from the coffee shops to social media.”
Playing hockey into April also does wonders for marketing opportunities, as well as shoring up the financial bottom line of a junior A team. This long run is a great reward for the players, the franchise, and the fans – some of who have weathered fluctuating financial times.
“As with any team in this league, a long playoff run is a chance to be in a positive situation come year end,” noted Hodson. “Teams try to put themselves in a solid position no matter how long the playoff run is.”
“Virden has been in solid footing the last couple of years, but it’s been a challenge with the difficulties in the oil industry,” he added. “But this year has been a good year, and having a long run goes a long way is keeping us on sound financial ground.”