So, the bandwagon is getting pretty empty for the Prince Albert Raiders.
Recent struggles by the Western Hockey League team have fans jumping ship at an alarming pace. How can I say that? Let me tell you about an incident that happened to me earlier this week.
On my way home from my day job I stopped at a local service station to get a pop and snack. I didn’t even have my purchases on the counter and the guy behind the till says to me, “So how far are the Raiders going to fall?” I was just floored! I said to him, “They certainly don’t need fans like you!” His response was, “I’ve been a loyal fan for a long time and I’m not the only one that feels this way.”
It’s all fine and good to be a fan when things are going good, but when the team is struggling that is when they need the support the most.
I have been critical in the past when the Raiders aren’t winning and I do agree something isn’t right, but I do believe in Steve Young, Dave Manson and Tim Leonard and I do know they are working their hardest to get things straightened out.
Being a little closer to the team than I have in a number of years, I also know a number of players are working through some medical problems that the public doesn’t know about.
I’m not offering excuses. What I am doing is defending a team that is working its hardest and if they continue to work hard I will support them right to the end.
I do agree with one fan’s assessment and that is the team hasn’t been the same since a blockbuster trade with the Medicine Hat Tigers on New Year’s Day. Nothing against Dylan Busenius and Jayden Hart because both are solid players in their own right; it’s the departure of Logan McVeigh and Zach Hodder that has affected the chemistry of the team. I questioned that move at the time it was made and a 7-12 record since then certainly doesn’t bring resounding support for the move.
With that said, however, the players have to look beyond their recent struggles and get back together as a team. The fans also have to be there through thick or thin and what I have heard from a number of people this week is frightening.
Yes, the Raiders have fallen out of first place in the East Division standings. Yes, they are struggling mightily against the lower-ranked teams as evidenced by the three losses against Kootenay, three losses to Moose Jaw, two losses to Regina and of course the debacle of allowing 50-plus shots in a 5-1 setback to the last-place Vancouver Giants.
But, they have beaten Calgary both times, won three out of four against Edmonton and until a recent loss in Saskatoon had the upper hand on the Blades.
At the beginning of the year when Saskatoon was losing regularly people were calling for them to forfeit the right to host the Memorial Cup. Now they are getting 12,000 fans to games because they are winning. Those same fans stood and cheered when it was announced that the Raiders lost in Swift Current. We certainly don’t behave like that, but we do have similarities.
I guess Prince Albert isn’t the only place where the fans need a winner to go to the rink, but we can change that. Rather than write them off because they are struggling, get to the rink and let the team know you are behind them.
It’s funny, city officials made a fact-finding trip to Moose Jaw for the feasibility of a new multi-purpose facility and here we are ripping our club because they have fallen on tough times. Makes me laugh actually!
To the players, here is an opportunity to prove all the naysayers wrong. You have an opportunity as a group of 23 young men to do something very special, not just for you, but for your coaches and for your city. It sounds like a lot of pressure to put on such young men, but what a chance to make a memory for a lifetime.
You are a good team and like Steve Young said to me, you just have to believe in yourself.
I can’t wait to write “I told you so” and I know that opportunity is just around the corner.
Dave Leaderhouse is a reporter with the Prince Albert Daily Herald.