The next seven days are going to be pretty exciting in Prince Albert as a pair of premiere events will honour a host of athletes for their accomplishments.
The first such celebration will be on Friday prior to the Prince Albert Raiders-Regina Pats game at the Art Hauser Centre. On that night the Raiders will retire their first number in the 43-year history of the franchise when Mike Modano’s No. 9 is raised to the rafters.
A lot of debate has gone into the decision to acknowledge someone with this prestigious honour and although I am of the ilk where recognizing the person should come before the retirement of a number I do have to agree if anyone deserves this privilege then Modano should most certainly be the first.
I was fortunate to have watched Modano play his entire junior career in Prince Albert as the year the skinny 16-year-old with braces arrived from Michigan was when I began my first tour of duty with the Daily Herald.
Modano scored three goals in his very first game with Prince Albert and I remember talking to him afterwards and all I got were one-word answers. Not anything to make a great story out of, but then he did most of his talking on the ice.
By far the smoothest skater to ever wear a Raider jersey, Modano was skilled in every aspect of the game and when one thinks back to all the talent that was in the Western Hockey League when he called Prince Albert home, his accomplishments are even more astounding.
In Moose Jaw there was Theoren Fleury; Swift Current had Joe Sakic; Medicine Hat had Trevor Linden; Kamloops had Rob Brown and Mark Recchi; Regina was led by Mike Sillinger; Saskatoon had Curtis Leschyshyn. There were so many others, but all of these went on to long and successful careers in the NHL and Modano, of course, went on to become the highest scoring American born player in NHL history.
It was a thrill to watch him grow as a player and to become more comfortable with the spotlight. In his draft year in 1988 when the Raiders made their annual trek out west the media attention was unbelievable. By then Modano had grown accustomed to the glare of the lights and it set him up for what he would have to deal with for 21 years in the NHL.
It will be nice to see him again and I hope I have a chance to be able to say hello. I know his time will be booked pretty solid, but for a brief moment on Friday he will be able to stand at centre ice and take in what is hopefully a thunderous ovation. Modano gets his number retired in Dallas later this year, but Prince Albert is where it all started and we should all be honoured to have had him here when we did.
The second celebration to honour local athletes is the following night on Saturday in the Ches Leach Lounge.
On that night, Kelly Prins will be saluted as the sportsman of the year, Lukas McConechy will be recognized as the male athlete of the year and Christina Charles takes centre stage as the female athlete of the year.
I have never met Charles, but I am familiar with her exploits as a successful competitor in triathlons. McConechy has been a cornerstone of the Sask Rivers Dragons rugby team and Carlton Crusader football team since I got back into writing and he is a leader in both disciplines. Prins I have got to know from his work with the St. Mary track and field team and I know the hard work he has put in to make that one of the premiere programs in the country.
Modano will be the keynote speaker that night so it should be a great evening.
One final thing I want to mention here, and it is totally off the topic from the rest of this column, and that is that when the St. Mary football team played its final regular-season game last week the players all wore pink socks and belts to show their support for breast cancer awareness. I thought that was a pretty classy move and one that should be mentioned.
Dave Leaderhouse is a reporter with the Prince Albert Daily Herald.