The hockey season is finally over, but what a way for it to end.
In case you haven’t heard or have neglected to read the paper until now – shame on you by the way – then you missed the news about the Prince Albert Mintos winning their third national championship in nine seasons when they beat Chateauguay 4-3 in triple overtime last Sunday in Moose Jaw.
Being at the game was one of the most thrilling experiences I have had either as a fan or as a reporter and this time I was both. Having covered the team right from the opening of training camp all the way through the sluggish start to the disappointing league playoff result and then onto the Western Regional event and finally the Telus Cup – man, has it been a fun ride.
To watch a team go through the highs and lows that this club did and persevere in the manner that it did is probably the coolest aspect of my job. Being around the team I just felt their pain when things went wrong and enjoyed the high of when things were rolling and this team got on a roll starting at the Western Regional that was unstoppable and to be honest, unexpected.
Every player on the club did exactly what they were asked of them and when they realized that if they did just that then – the results speak for themselves.
When I drove down to Moose Jaw last Wednesday to catch the final five days of the championship I was thinking to myself, if they can get past Okanagan then they should be in good shape.
That first game that I saw was a 1-1 draw against the Pacific Region champs, but honestly, there was never a doubt after that match that they would be playing for the national championship. They just looked that good.
That was until the gold-medal game when during the 60 minutes of regulation time Chateauguay looked like they had more jump and definitely had the better scoring chances. Prince Albert was leading late in the game, but I do believe they were fortunate to be in that situation.
When Chateauguay scored late to force overtime that was when the Mintos took control of the game and in the 48 minutes and 36 seconds of extra time it was just a matter of when, not if, they would put the finishing touches on their Cinderella season.
Dakota Boutin’s completion of a nice passing pass play by Lance Yaremchuk touched off the celebration and brought me out of my seat, but the real crowning moment was when team president Zenon Markowsky was wheeled out on the ice to share in the celebration with the team. Markowsky made the trip to Moose Jaw just six weeks after suffering a stroke and to see his smile was better than anything I have ever experienced.
The Mintos are very deserving champions and to have been able to share in the experience is something I am going to remember for a very long time. I want to thank the board, the staff, the coaches – Ken Morrison, Todd Becker and Brad Bergen – along with general manager Don Fauchoux for everything they did to help make my job so much easier.
Congratulations to all the players and everyone associated with the team. That was simply amazing.
On a side note it was pretty interesting listening to a number of people voice their opinions to me about the Prince Albert Raiders.
The whole time I was down in Moose Jaw I had my ear bent on a number of issues and while I listened to what everyone had to say, I really can’t voice my opinion here for fear of legal actions.
I think anyone remotely familiar with the team is aware there are problems and what I will say right here, right now is I hope the Raider board of directors pays attention to the crisis that has put a shroud over the franchise.
One thing that can be said that shouldn’t get me in too much hot water is the fact that Prince Albert is still a community-owned team yet the leaders of the club have all opted to live elsewhere. Don’t they want to be a part of the community that pays their bills? Seems rather odd to me!
Not everything is bad as the club has the best marketing and front-office departments in the league, in my opinion, and they also have two of the best up-and-coming coaches in Dave Manson and Tim Leonard and a world-class trainer in Duane Bartley.
I’ll let everyone’s imagination go for a ride with who is missing from this conversation because therein lies the problem according to all of those who I talked to.
The Lethbridge Hurricanes are presently going through a difficult period because of some wrong people being in high positions and the Raiders should be very careful not to follow that path.
This franchise is way too important to the City of Prince Albert and the tradition that was once the envy of the entire country needs to be restored. In order for that to happen some difficult decisions have to be made and I hope the people who have the power to do so are strong enough to get it done because if something doesn’t happen I fear for the team, not so much even for the future anymore, but right now.
Dave Leaderhouse is a reporter with the Prince Albert Daily Herald.