Archive for Sports

Blizzards honour coach with heartfelt ceremony

At left, Dean Blenkinsop, accompanied by his wife Michelle, stands on the ice while hundreds applaud him during a ceremony at the Kenaston Arena on Oct. 28. Also pictured at right is Mark Asbjornhus.

By Joel van der Veen

KENASTON —  Hundreds filled the Kenaston Arena on Saturday night to pay tribute to a coach, teammate, neighbour and friend.

Longtime Blizzards player and coach Dean Blenkinsop was honoured with a brief ceremony at the rink, to retire his number and to recognize his years of service to hockey in Kenaston.

The ceremony was held the night of Oct. 28, prior to a senior hockey exhibition game between the Kenaston Blizzards and the Loreburn 19ers.

Introduced by former teammate Mark Asbjornhus, Blenkinsop walked onto the ice with his wife Michelle following closely behind him.

He stood quietly while the players on the ice and the crowd — estimated at more than 350 people — paid tribute with a standing ovation.

Following a slideshow of photos, a banner was unveiled at the far end of the rink, bearing Blenkinsop’s name and the number 10.

Dean then spoke briefly, thanking the team for the tribute, and saying, “Let’s have a fun night.”

Asbjornhus said the tribute was a “group effort,” calling Dean an “unbelievable guy” who has dedicated many years to the community.

“We’ve been talking about retiring his jersey for a while,” Asbjornhus said, adding as he looked over the crowd on Saturday night, “It seems to be coming together pretty good.”

Blenkinsop, 46, grew up in Hawarden and began playing senior hockey with the Blizzards in the late 1980s.

He continued with the team over the next 25 years, moving off the ice into coaching four years ago.

He was first diagnosed with colon cancer nine years ago, and has been battling the disease on and off since then.

Blenkinsop said he has been open about his fight with cancer, adding that he and his family have received plenty of support from the community.

He and Michelle have three daughters, ranging in age from nine to 13 years, while Michelle also has a 24-year-old son.

Blenkinsop said prior to the ceremony that organizers had kept most of their plans a secret.

“They just told me to show up tonight,” he said. “It’s exciting.”

Afterward, he said he enjoyed the ceremony, adding that the banner was a nice surprise touch. Read more

Cyclones top Craik in pre-season action

Davidson’s Tim Spencer (57) and Craik’s Jared Broderson (22) battle for the puck during an exhibition game Wednesday.

By Joel van der Veen

DAVIDSON — With a new season on the horizon, the Davidson Cyclones hit the ice for pre-season action against the Craik Warriors on Wednesday.

The Cyclones hosted the Warriors at the AGT Centre, leading from the start and ultimately winning 10-3.

Derek Allan, who has served as the Cyclones’ captain since 2012, said the game was a good opportunity for the team to play together on the ice before the season begins.

Allan said the Cyclones’ bench is currently a little emptier than they’d like it to be, calling the situation “not ideal.”

Fourteen players were on the bench on Wednesday. Allan said he has 13 or 14 players committed for this season, but he’s still trying to recruit more.

So far, Tim Spencer is the sole new addition to the Cyclones roster. A native of Carnduff, his career has included stints with multiple teams in the American Hockey League. He had three assists in Wednesday’s game.

Among the returning players are two imports, defensemen Brett Ward and Matt Saunderson.

Brad Morrison also returns as the Cyclones’ head coach, with Jason Schneider serving as assistant coach.

Given the team’s current numbers, Allan said it’s hard to predict what the season ahead will hold.

“We’ve lost quite a few really good players,” he said. “I think the team will jell pretty good. . . As long as we go out there and have fun, that’s the main thing.”

The Cyclones are again playing in the Long Lake Hockey League, which grew this season with the addition of the Wynyard Monarchs.

The league also includes the Drake Canucks, the Lanigan Pirates, the LeRoy Braves and the Watrous Winterhawks.

The Long Lake teams will face an expanded field of teams this year, thanks to an interlocking arrangement with the Fort Carlton Hockey League (FCHL).

Allan said they will be playing one game against each of the four FCHL teams, which include Tisdale, Wakaw, Waldheim and Hague. Those games will count towards the Long Lake teams’ records.

“We’ll get to see some new teams, instead of playing the same four or five teams all winter,” he said. “It’ll be good.”

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Minor hockey season opens with Cyclones school

Zack Prpick gets ready to attempt a backhand shot on goalie Hunter Wightman.

By Joel van der Veen

DAVIDSON — More than 80 budding hockey pros hit the ice at the AGT Centre last weekend during the Cyclones hockey school, held Oct. 20 to 22.

The three-day event is organized annually by the senior hockey team, with a rotation of players leading the sessions for each of the five age groups.

The event began Friday and Saturday with age-appropriate lessons, including drills on skating and puck handling, and wrapped up Sunday with three-on-three matches.

A total of 83 players were registered for the weekend event, which marks the beginning of minor hockey season in Davidson.

Rob Warkentin, vice-president of the Davidson Junior Athletics Association (JAA), said 120 players are registered this year, which is in line with the average over the last few seasons.

The biggest change this year was the introduction of online registration through the JAA’s new website.

Previously, parents would email the association to register their players, but organizers often had to follow up to fill in the gaps for any missing information.

From his point of view, Warkentin said the website made the registration process much easier.

“It worked very well from our side, and I think most of the parents were pretty happy with it too,” he said last week. “We’ll call that a win.”

Davidson has eight minor hockey teams this year, including two initiation teams with 33 kids in total, and two novice teams with 27 kids in total.

There is also one team each for the atom, peewee, bantam and midget divisions.

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Coach: offensive push needed as Sabers head into playoffs

Hanley’s Tyler Halabi (84) tackles Hague’s Jared Unger (11) during Thursday’s senior football game. Surrounding them are Wyatt Hildebrand, Parker Mooney and Tanner Anderson.

By Joel van der Veen

HANLEY — A win over Hague on Thursday capped an undefeated regular season for the Hanley Sabers.

But coach Mark Anderson said he’s aware of a worrying trend as he looks towards playoffs.

The Hanley senior football team hosted the Hague Panthers on Thursday, winning 80-55.

The week before that, they travelled to Carrot River, where they won 76-57 — their closest score so far this season.

“We’ve been challenged offensively the last few weeks,” said Anderson following Thursday’s game.

He said it appeared the team was taking “a couple of steps back,” calling it a somewhat dangerous place to be heading into playoffs.

“The guys have just got to figure out how bad they want it,” he added.

The Sabers have won six out of seven games in their regular season. (The sole exception was a cancelled Sept. 28 game in Viscount, which was recorded as a tie.)

The team dominated in its first four games, winning by at least four runs in each one.

They are first in their 1A conference with a 6-0-1 record, followed by Viscount in second and Carrot River in third. Rounding out the ranks are Porcupine Plain, Hague and Hudson Bay.

The Sabers rotated through their roster in Thursday’s game, allowing both seniors and juniors time on the field.

Hanley held the lead throughout, though Hague proved themselves more than worthy competitors. Read more

Raiders wrap up year with playoff loss

The Davidson Raiders senior football team poses for a group photo following the Oct. 13 playoff game in Lanigan. Shown here are: (back row) coach John Jamieson, coach Greg Bennett, Trystan Stacowich, Carson George, Clay Murfitt, Coy McPhee, Carter Lemke, Deacon Nolting, Cole Sanderson, coach Garrett Bailey, coach Jason Low; (middle row) Hunter Wall, Reegan Taylor, Kane Nolting, Brody Yelich, Ryann Skinner, Tyson Sanderson, Jackson Firby, Logan Nelson-Schneider; (front row) Jacob Schilling.

By Joel van der Veen

DAVIDSON — Low numbers and a string of injuries made for a challenging year on the field for the Davidson Raiders.

But in terms of team building and camaraderie, coach Jason Low said the Raiders reached new heights.

Low told the Leader that the team is starting to build traditions, growing as a unit and also having more fun on the field.

“I think the program took some great strides forward,” said Low. “I feel like we went to the next level this year, so I’m excited for next year.”

The senior football team finished its regular season with a 1-4 record, after which they lost in the first round of playoffs.

The Raiders visited the Lanigan Lazers on Oct. 13, losing 54-20.

The game was a rematch of their Sept. 8 season opener, in which Davidson had defeated Lanigan 46-36, their only win this year.

The second time around, the Raiders were coping with the loss of three starters due to injuries.

“When we played them healthy at the start of the year, we beat them,” Low said.

While Lanigan had improved from the season’s start, Low said missed tackles and other mistakes likely cost Davidson the game.

Jacob Schilling scored two touchdowns against Lanigan, while Hunter Wall scored the third.

Clay Murfitt, who suffered a twisted leg in the Sept. 22 game, was back on the field in a reduced role.

Low said the Raiders took time to warm up, a problem that has repeatedly plagued the team this season.

A decision in the last quarter to iron-man some of the senior players, getting on them on both sides of the ball, seemed to shift the momentum somewhat.

“It seemed like we were always a second half team,” the coach observed.

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McNabb, Knights pay tribute to Vegas heroes

By Joel van der Veen

LAS VEGAS — As they took the ice for their home opener, the Vegas Golden Knights paid tribute to the men and women who answered the call during their city’s darkest hour.

The NHL team opened Tuesday’s game with a ceremony honouring the city of Las Vegas, the victims of the Oct. 1 mass shooting, and the heroes who responded in the face of tragedy.

As each player skated onto the ice, one by one, they were joined by firefighters, police and health professionals.

First on the ice was Davidson native and Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb, who was accompanied by firefighter Ben Cole.

Speaking to the Leader on Thursday, McNabb said it was an emotional experience and a memorable way to open their first home game of the season.

“It definitely gave us energy,” he said. “It was a cool thing to be part of.”

The ceremony included 58 seconds of silence, in honour of the 58 people killed by a single gunman during a country music festival in Vegas on Oct. 1.

The victims’ names were projected on the ice during the ceremony, while survivors of the event participated in the puck drop at the game’s start.

Deryk Engelland, who played as McNabb’s defensive partner for the season’s first three games, paid tribute to Las Vegas on Tuesday.

“I met my wife here, my kids were born here, and I know how special this city is,” he said, adding later to the survivors of the victims, “We’ll do everything we can to help you and our city heal.”

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