About five years ago the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League came up with a unique idea and that was to have each of the 12 franchises take a turn hosting the hall of fame banquet. When they do, it is players, builders and teams from that franchise being honoured. What a great concept!
Two years ago the Estevan Bruins had their turn and one of the inductees was Terry Simpson, the former head coach and general manager of the Prince Albert Raiders. Long before Simpson made his imprint on Prince Albert he was a star defenceman for the Bruins so it was nice to see his exploits with that franchise being honoured. Simpson will get another honour bestowed upon him this summer when he is part of the class going into the Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame as the induction banquet for that shrine will be held in Prince Albert on July 18.
Back to the SJHL though!
In 2013 the hockey-rich Notre Dame Hounds were selected to host the hall of fame festivities and not surprisingly most of their inductees came from the 1988 Centennial Cup championship team. Players like Rod Brind’Amour, Curtis Joseph, Scott Pellerin and Dwayne Norris, along with head coach Barry MacKenzie, were picked and the banquet to honour them, among others, will be held in May.
Wasting no time at all, the 2014 hall of fame celebrations have been awarded to the Melfort Mustangs and the announcement made this week listing those honourees brought a huge smile to my face.
The first-ever coach of that franchise is Prince Albert’s Mark Odnokon and he is among those who will be honoured on July 25 when a banquet is held at the Melfort Golf and Country Club. Odnokon, like Simpson, is also going into the Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame this summer as part of the 1981-82 Centennial Cup champion Prince Albert Raiders although Simpson is also being feted as a builder for everything he has done in the sport.
Joining Odnokon as part of the SJHL hall of fame guests of honour will be Kevin Dickie, Brad Meier, Willie Mitchell, Brian Munz, Rick Schultz -- another former Prince Albert Raider and longtime businessman in the city, Neil Shewchuk and Leonard Strandberg. The 1995-96 Mustang team that lost to the Vernon Vipers in the Royal Bank Cup final is also being inducted.
While all of these are great selections, the one that made me smile is Shewchuk. When I was a cub reporter with the Daily Herald 28 years ago, Neil and I crossed paths many, many times and always had a lot to share with each other. That was the day when radio and newspapers worked together and Neil and I were often on the phone or meeting at events. We sometimes enjoyed the social aspect of being in the media, but more times than not we ensured each other were up to date on what was going on in their respective neck of the woods.
One time I remember we both made the trip to Choiceland because Edmonton Oiler star Glenn Anderson was there to help open a gas station. I have been fortunate to have met a number of NHL players and all of them have been first-class gentlemen. Except for Anderson! He was brash, arrogant and it was obvious he wanted to be anywhere but Choiceland. When the press conference was over Neil and I laughed when we both shared what we thought of him. It was never published or put on the radio, but I think you get the point.
Odnokon is another inductee for whom I am very happy for as he has been involved in the game his entire life. He was a part of the Raiders’ dynasty in the late 1970s and early ’80s and then after a great collegiate career and a short stint at the minor-pro level, he got into coaching, then scouting and finally teaching.
The Mustangs were formed in 1988 when I was in my first go-around in the media so I had a lot of conversations with Len Strandberg as well. He was so helpful in getting me information and as one of the founders of the franchise is very deserving of this special honour.
I don’t know much about the rest of the class although I have met Schultz and Munz on several occasions, but I will be doing some digging here shortly to get a nice feature done for the SJHL website to salute the honourees.
In addition to the banquet on July 25 there will also be a golf tournament the following day with proceeds from the big weekend being split between the Big Brothers and Big Sisters, KidSport and the Mustangs. It should be an incredibly exciting time and the SJHL should be proud of how they give their franchises an opportunity to celebrate their history.
Prince Albert should get a chance to host this event some day as the Raiders could fill a wing of the shrine just themselves. Throw in the Mintos from the late 1950s and the Blackhawks from the 1940s and the selection process would be incredibly difficult.
I’m not sure what the league’s plans are for former franchises, but allowing the current teams to host the event is a brilliant idea.
Dave Leaderhouse is a reporter with the Prince Albert Daily Herald.