Monday, 18 September 2017

Blades set to hit another homer with home opener

Team to honour former captain with return of the Pac-Man

Dave Chartier, left, speaks to reporters about Bruce Gordon.
    On an emotional level, the Saskatoon Blades appear to be set to match the spectacle of last year’s home opener at this year’s home opener.
    Almost a year ago, the Blades opened the 2016-17 campaign with “Thank You, Mr. Hockey Day” where the club saluted hockey icon in the late Gordie Howe and interred his and the ashes of his late wife, Colleen, at the base of the Gordie Howe statue that resides in front of the SaskTel Centre.
    This year in a campaign where the Blades return to their famous Pac-Man look from the 1980s to the early 1990s, the club will honour a former captain who wore that logo and made a lasting impact on Saskatoon after his hockey days. 
    When the Blades open their regular season schedule on Friday at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre against the Swift Current Broncos, the blue and gold will honour Bruce Gordon, who was well-known for his career with the Saskatoon Police Service that spanned 28 years, in a pre-game ceremony.
One of the Blades team pictures featuring Bruce Gordon.
    The Marsden, Sask., product came to the Blades in a trade with the Medicine Hat Tigers early in the 1980-81 campaign, and the grinding winger quickly became the Saskatoon club’s captain. He would leave the major junior ranks following the 1981-82 campaign having collected 17 goals, 53 assists and 552 penalty minutes in 112 regular season games with the Blades.
    Following his time playing hockey, Gordon moved on to build a distinguished career with the police starting out on regular patrol, becoming a detective sergeant in the sex crimes unit and then to major crimes. Gordon became well-known for cracking cases that appeared to be unsolvable.
    At age 50, he retired from policing to study law at the University of Saskatchewan with the goal to become a defence lawyer. Gordon graduated from law school last spring, but on June 8, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. On June 29, a special ceremony was held at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Saskatoon to call the 54-year-old to the bar.
    This ceremony is traditionally held in autumn, but an exception was made in Gordon’s case to hold the ceremony earlier due to his cancer diagnosis.
Bruce Gordon’s old Blades uniform on display.
    The Blades announced their plans to honour Gordon, who also coached minor hockey and volunteered at local road races, during a press conference on Monday at the SaskTel Centre. A fitting trio of characters who have character were brought in to speak at the presser who all have links to both the Saskatoon Police Service and the WHL.
    The trio included Dave Chartier, who was one of Gordon’s former teammates with the Blades and a former partner with the police service, and he talked about his deep friendship with the hard-working forward. Long time veteran Blades assistant coach Jerome Engele, who was a former Blades defenceman from 1966 to 1971 and built his own distinguished career with the Saskatoon Police Service, also delivered a short but heartfelt tribute. Both Chartier and Engele are retired from the police service.
    The third member to speak was Patrick Nogier, who played goal for two seasons in the WHL from 1985 to 1987 split between the Kamloops Blazers and Broncos and is still an inspector for the Saskatoon Police Service, and he spoke about Gordon’s never give up characteristics.
    Chartier was a 17-year-old rookie defenceman when he became teammates with Gordon in 1981-82, when the latter was embarking on what would be his final season in junior hockey. They developed a lifelong friendship and actually live next door to each other in the current day.
Inspector Patrick Nogier speaks about Bruce Gordon.
    Chartier will be one of a number of former teammates on hand for Friday’s festivities including Brian Skrudland, Daryl Stanley, Todd Strubey, Roger Kortko and Ron Dreger. Dennis Beyak, who is the voice of the Winnipeg Jets and the Blades assistant general manager during Gordon’s years, will be the emcee for the ceremony. Jackie McLeod and Daryl Lubiniecki, who both had long runs in the roles of head coach and general manager of the Blades, will also be on hand.
    During the presser, Chartier recalled one of the many recent talks he had with Gordon.
    “I asked him if he was scared,” said Chartier. “He said he was not scared.
    “He was just sad. He was sad for things that he won’t see his grand kids (and) his great relationship with his wife (Chris). It doesn’t surprise me one bit that he said he is not scared.
    “As a young guy going to training camp, I saw the determination and the lack of fear that he had as a leader for the Blades.”
    Engele spoke about how members of the police service are held to a higher standard than what is expected of the general public and that the Blades players are expected to hold themselves at a higher level away from the rink and treat everyone with respect. 
Long time Blades assistant coach Jerome Engele talks about Bruce Gordon.
    He said Gordon fit those expectations perfectly.
    “Bruce (Gordon) was a very good example of that as a police officer,” said Engele. “You couldn’t ask for a better person to work with - a harder working person.
    “I would call him a police officer on the ice. He was a hard-nosed hockey player who did his job and worked extremely hard.
    “You would put him more in terms of a plumber level player when he was on the ice. When he was on the ice, he carried a lot of respect.”
    Nogier, whose son Nelson played defence for the Blades from 2012 to 2014, worked with Gordon in the sex crimes unit for a couple of years. The former netminder spoke that the members of the police service think of Gordon when evaluating potential new officers noting the former Blades captain’s integrity and work ethic.
    “When we are looking to hire new prospective young individuals that want to join our police service, we are looking for people that bring certain characteristics with them,” said Nogier. “We look for the person that we know is going to be put into a situation and take those situations on head on.
Blades president Steve Hogle outlines the festivities for Friday night.
    “I heard that there was only six degrees of separation from talking about the sporting world and the policing world. What I’ve learned that when it comes to hockey there is only 1.5 degrees of separation when it comes to that.
    “When I met Bruce (Gordon), I knew quite quickly that this was an individual that for obvious reasons had all those characteristics.”
    Besides former teammates, police officers from Saskatoon and Regina will be attending Friday’s game along with lawyers, triathletes and cross fit athletes. Gordon completed as a triathlete and also took part in ironman competitions.
    During Friday’s game, the Blades will be raising money for cancer research at the Royal University Hospital with the auction of a Kelly Chase signed jersey, the sale of “Be Like Bruce” t-shirts and the proceeds from the night’s 50/50 draw.
A display of some of the Blades Pac-Man jerseys.
    “He (Gordon) exemplified at the rink what a teammate was all about,” said Chartier. “He didn’t want any glory.
    “He took care of each and every one of us. I think we all owe him the respect of coming back this Friday and saying thank you.”
    Blades president Steve Hogle expects few tears will be shed during the festivities on Friday night for Gordon.
    “Everybody he came into contact with was absolutely blown away about how he put others first,” said Hogle.
    “The impact he has had on people is made obvious to us by the reaction that we’ve seen with the alumni, with the police, with the triathlon community, with the legal community, with the cross fit community and they are all rallying and coming out on Friday night.”
    The tribute for Gordon is more than justified. You would be hard pressed to find anyone else that wore the team’s old Pac-Man logo that went on to have bigger impact on the Saskatoon community than Gordon did.

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Sunday, 17 September 2017

Hilltops defence crushes Colts

Tom Schnitzler and the Hilltops defence had a big day Sunday in Calgary.
    The Saskatoon Hilltops defence proved to be too much for the Calgary Colts to handle.
    On Sunday at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, the Hilltops forced a number of turnovers resulting in 18 points, and they put Colts quarterback Bailey Wasdal under pressure all afternoon. When the dust settled, the Hilltops came away with a convincing 41-9 victory.
    The Canadian Junior Football League clash between the two sides was a tight one until the Hilltops pulled away after halftime. The points Saskatoon piled up off turnovers really changed the complexion of the contest.
    Early in the first quarter, the Hilltops built a 9-0 lead on a three-yard touchdown run from star running back Logan Fischer and forcing the Colts to concede a safety. Calgary cut the gap to 9-6, when Colts kicker Jaden Sheilan hit a 34-yard field goal at the end of the first quarter and 12 yard field goal at the start of the second quarter.
    At that point, Hilltops standout middle linebacker Cameron Schnitzler came up with an interception for the visitors thanks to pressure applied by Hilltops star defensive lineman Tom Schnitzler on Wasdal. Saskatoon’s offence quickly turned that turnover into points on the ensuing series, when quarterback Jordan Walls hit fifth-year receiver Ryan Turple with a 38-yard touchdown pass to put the visitors up 16-6.
    Sheilan hit a 44-yard field goal on the final play of the second quarter to cut the Hilltops lead to 16-9 at halftime.
    The turnover parade continue in the second half. Early in the third quarter, Tom Schnitzler recovered a fumble from a Colts player on a punt return to set the Hilltops up on the Calgary 18 yard line. Saskatoon punched that gift quickly into the end zone, when Walls hit fourth-year receiver Jason Price on an eight-yard touchdown strike to put the visitors up 23-9.
Ryan Turple had a big TD catch for the Hilltops.
    The Toppers defence proceeded to recover another Colts fumble. The turnover resulted in the Hilltops going up 26-9 on a 16-yard field goal from safety-kicker James Vause.
    Tom Schnitzler then came up with an interception for the Toppers, and the visitors got a single from a 27-yard missed field goal from Vause to give Saskatoon a 27-9 lead entering the fourth quarter.
    Early in the fourth quarter, Walls hit fourth-year receiver Sam Mike with an eight-yard touchdown pass to surge ahead 34-9. Vause rounded out the rest of the scoring in the contest hitting field goals from 45 and 23 yards out. In between those two made field goals, Vause scored a single from and 18-yard missed field goal.
    Defensive lineman Riley Pickett wreaked havoc on the Colts passing game sacking Wasdal three times, while also being part of a gang that brought Wasdal down on another occasion. Defensive back Jared Giddings had a late fourth-quarter interception.
    The 18 points scored off turnovers was a welcome site for the Hilltops. The Topper are used to piling up points on takeaways, but failed to do just that on two takeaways in their previous outing, which was a 29-26 setback to the Regina Thunder on Sept. 9.
    With the win over the Colts, the Hilltops improve to 4-1 to sit in a tie for second place in the Prairie Football Conference with the 4-1 Thunder. The Hilltops and Thunder split their two head-to-head meeting, but Saskatoon holds the standings tiebreaker outscoring Regina 63-49 over those two contests.
    The Edmonton Huskies sit first in the PFC with a 5-0 mark.
    The Colts fall to 1-4 sit fifth in the PFC. After making the last three straight PFC championship games, the Colts are in big danger of missing the post-season all together in 2017.
    The Winnipeg Rifles sit fourth and hold the PFC’s final playoff berth with a 3-2 record with three weeks to play in the regular season. The Rifles hold the standings tiebreaker with the Colts taking the only schedule encounter between the two sides this season 42-22 back on Sept. 2 in Winnipeg.
    The Hilltops return to action this coming Sunday when they host the Rifles at 1 p.m. at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.

Rams’ Picton joins 8,000-yard club and other notes

Noah Picton has passed for over 8,000 yards in his Canada West career.
    University of Regina Rams star quarterback Noah Picton hit a big milestone in his team’s 28-18 victory over the U of Alberta Golden Bears on Saturday at Mosaic Stadium.
    Picton became the eighth quarterback in the history of the Canada West conference to surpass 8,000 yards passing for his career. The fourth-year signal caller completed 30-of-42 passes for 334 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the Rams victory over the Golden Bears.
    With that performance in the books, Picton has 8,318 career yards passing to sit fifth in conference history. He trails Greg Vavra (8,401) who played for the U of Calgary Dinos, Billy Greene (8,626) who played for the U of British Columbia Thunderbirds, Darryl Leason (8,800) who played for the Dinos and Rams and Teale Orban (9,449) who played for the Rams.
    Picton has been on fire this season completing 78-of-114 passes for 969 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions in leading the Rams to a 2-1 start.
    Cousin and receiver Mitchell Picton, who is a draft selection of the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, hauled in seven passes for 69 yards and two touchdowns. The fifth-year pass catcher has 19 career touchdown receptions to equal Jason Clermont for second on the Rams all-time career list during the team’s time in the U Sports ranks. Chad Goldie sits first on the Rams all-time career list during the team’s time in the U Sports ranks with 21 touchdown catches.
    The Golden Bears drop to 0-3 with the loss.
  • Regina Thunder quarterback Sawyer Buettner is establishing a reputation for mastering the end of the game two-minute drill drive. On Saturday night in Regina with the Thunder trailing the visiting Winnipeg Rifles 24-23 with under two minutes to play at Mosaic Stadium, Buettner drove the hosts 97 yards in 10 plays culminating in a seven-yard touchdown run by Victor St. Pierre-Laviolette with 34 seconds to play. The score gave the Thunder a 29-24 victory. Buettner finished the contest completing 25-of-42 passes for 382 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
  • The U of C Dinos are showing their 39-3 pre-season loss to the U of R Rams in Medicine Hat, Alta., meant nothing. The Dinos have jumped out to a 3-0 start in the regular season outscoring the opposition 177-69 looking like the NFL’s 2007 New England Patriots running rough shot through the Canada West Conference. On Saturday, the Dinos traveled to Winnipeg and crushed the host U of Manitoba Bisons 76-17. At the moment, it appears there won’t be a demise for the defending Canada West champs.
  • The UBC Thunderbirds re-established their status as a U Sports powerhouse dumping the visiting U of Saskatchewan Huskies 31-10 on Saturday night in Vancouver. After falling in Week 1 to the U of R Rams 36-20 in Regina, the Thunderbirds have continued to improve over the course of two straight wins in building a 2-1 record. Having won the Vanier Cup in 2015 and guided by head coach Blake Nill, the Thunderbirds might find themselves back in the Canada West final for a third straight year. UBC drew 9,542 spectators to their win over the Huskies.
  • The U of S Huskies are regrouping after dropping to 2-1 falling in convincing fashion to the Thunderbirds. UBC held a slim 10-7 edge at halftime before blowing the game open in the second half. The Thunderbirds piled up 684 yards of total offence. Injuries are piling up at linebacker for the Huskies, which is creating challenges on defence. The Huskies lost third-year linebacker Ben Whiting to an arm injury in their Week 2 win over the U of Alberta Golden Bears and fifth-year linebacker Justin Filteau was injured before the start of the regular season. It is also common knowledge in Saskatoon’s football community that Filteau’s injury is season ending. The injuries are forcing players like first-year linebacker Thomas Whiting to learn on the fly.
    Chloe Marshall in action during her midget AAA days in 2015.
  • On the hockey front, it appeared that Jasey Book and Jessica Vance were going to enter the season as goalies A and 1A for the U of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team. That was before Chloe Marshall entered the picture. Marshall, who is from Neilburg, Sask., transferred to the U of S after playing one season for Northland College in Ashland, Wis. In Saskatchewan hockey circles, Marshall was best remembered for playing two seasons with the Battlefords Sharks of the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League from 2014-16, where she put up a career .914 save percentage. During her time with the Sharks, Marshall, as the old cliché goes, saw more rubber than a dead skunk on the Trans-Canada Highway due to the fact the midget AAA club wasn’t that strong. Marshall has won both her exhibition starts for the Huskies giving up just one goal, which includes a victory over the defending U Sports champion U of Alberta Pandas. It is conceivable she may emerge as the successor to the now graduated Cassidy Hendricks as the Huskies starting goaltender.
  • The WHL regular season begins on Friday with eight games across the circuit. In Saskatoon, the Blades open against the Swift Current Broncos at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre. That contest will mark the first time the Blades hit the ice for a regular season contest with their classic Pac-Man jerseys as their regular look since 1994. Saskatoon was 4-2 during the pre-season.

Tweet of the day goes to Clermont

    The Tweet of the day has to go to former U of Regina Rams receiver Jason Clermont, who was a CFL star with the British Columbia Lions and Saskatchewan Roughriders from 2002 to 2011.
    Upon hearing Mitchell Picton tied him for second all-time on the Rams career touchdown receptions list at 19 for the team’s time in the U Sports ranks, Clermont, who is the Rams vice-president of marketing, wrote this little piece below.

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Saturday, 16 September 2017

Broncos’ Steenbergen is just too sweet on the ice

Swift Current star one of the WHL’s great hidden gems

Tyler Steenbergen speeds down the ice on a rush for the Broncos.
    If you miss seeing the Swift Current Broncos in action on the WHL circuit this season, you might be sorry.
    Located in the smallest market of the Canadian Hockey League, the Broncos have been experiencing a resurgence in Swift Current. The resurgence is being led by one of the WHL’s most dynamic star players in Tyler Steenbergen.
    Last season, the skilled forward from Sylvan Lake, Alta., had a breakout campaign appearing in all of the Broncos 72 regular season games piling up 51 goals, 39 assists and a plus-29 rating in the plus-minus department. His 90 points were good for a three-way tie for ninth in the WHL scoring race with Victoria Royals centre Matthew Phillips and Tri-City Americans centre Morgan Geekie.
    Steenbergen’s 51 goals ranked him in a tie with Tyler Wong of the Lethbridge Hurricanes for tops in the league. Out of the 51 goals Steenbergen scored, he netted the game winner on 12 occasions to lead the WHL.
    Thanks to these efforts, Steenbergen was named a second team all-star in the WHL’s Eastern Conference, and he was awarded the Brad Hornung Trophy as the WHL’s most sportsmanlike player.
Tyler Steenbergen (#17) of the Broncos cuts past Sam Steel (#23) of the Pats.
    In last June’s NHL Entry Draft, the Arizona Coyotes selected Steenbergen, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 188 pounds, in the fifth round and 128th overall. At some point in the future, the Coyotes might look back and admire Steenbergen’s selection as a draft steel.
    Entering his 19-year-old season, Steenbergen is likely not the most recognized star name in the WHL circuit. The circuit’s most recognized returning standout is likely Regina Pats captain Sam Steel, who took the WHL’s and CHL’s scoring titles last season while also winning the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s most valuable player.
    Last season, Steenbergen’s exploits were often lost behind a number of other established star players who played or likely played their final major junior seasons before embarking on professional careers like Adam Brooks and Connor Hobbs of the Pats, Brett Howden of the Moose Jaw Warriors and Mathew Barzal and Ethan Bear of the league champion Seattle Thunderbirds.
Tyler Steenbergen controls the puck in the offensive zone.
    Besides being lost behind other star players, Steenbergen likely doesn’t get a tonne of notoriety due to the fact he does play in Swift Current, which is often ignored on the national media front. Inside the WHL itself, the awards he won last season show those inside the circuit have definitely taken notice.
    While Swift Current is overlooked on the national media front, it might be the perfect setting to help prepare Steenbergen for a professional career. The Broncos players are stars in the small Saskatchewan city, and people notice everything you do. When you play for the Broncos, you realize quickly how valuable it is to carry yourself in a well-mannered way to make yourself look good and ensure the Broncos look good.
    Anyone that has dealt with Steenbergen even for a short time on a one-on-one basis will come away impressed with how well he carries himself.
    When the people in Swift Current view that the Broncos players are genuinely good guys, they will back them in a strong way. The loud sellout crowds of 2,890 that crammed the Credit Union i-Plex during the Broncos six home playoff games last season are testament to that.
    Steenbergen was at the centre of excitement of what went on in Swift Current last season. When he hits the ice, he made things happen. The home crowd in Swift Current rises to their feet, when Steenbergen hits the offensive zone with speed on a rush.
Tyler Steenbergen (#17) celebrates a goal for the Broncos.
    It seemed like he was always in the middle of things when the Broncos needed a play in clutch time.
    Thanks to Steenbergen’s efforts, the Broncos posted a solid 39-23-4-6 in the regular season in 2016-17. In the playoffs, Steenbergen recorded eight goals, six assists and a plus-one rating as the Broncos won a first round series that went the maximum seven games against the Moose Jaw Warriors and fell in a second round series that went the maximum seven games to the Pats.
    When Steenbergen dresses for the Broncos, he always gives the best effort, and you anticipate offensive fireworks happening that night.
    He is one of those players that is worth the price of admission any time he plays in a WHL game.

Schenn’s bumps in Blades days long forgotten

Brayden Schenn skates at the Chase Fantasy Hockey Camp.
    When Brayden Schenn returns to Saskatoon, he is a hometown hero, and the bumps he had to navigate during his short time with the Saskatoon Blades are long forgotten.
    It should be noted the bumps Schenn faced with the Blades were never his fault or the team’s fault. The bumps were a learning experience about what could happen when an extremely high profile player laces up the skates for his hometown major junior hockey team.
    For three seasons from 2007 to 2010, Schenn was the star centre with the Brandon Wheat Kings and a highly rated NHL prospect along with teammate Scott Glennie. In the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Schenn was selected in the first round and fifth overall by the Los Angeles Kings, while Glennie went in the first round and eighth overall that same year to the Dallas Stars.
    At the start of the 2010-11 campaign, Schenn, who was in his 19-year-old season, made the Kings and appeared in eight NHL contests. He also suited up for seven games with the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League for conditioning purposes before being sent back to the Wheat Kings.
    The Blades were in a race for first overall in the WHL that season, and they made a monster trade with the Wheat Kings to get Schenn. In the deal that was made Jan. 10, 2011, the Blades received Schenn and a third round selection in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft from the Wheat Kings in exchange for the Blades first and second round selections of the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, a first round selection in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft, a first round selection in the 2012 CHL Import Draft and then prospects in defenceman Ayrton Nikkel and centre Tim McGauley.
    Schenn played 27 regular season games with the Blades piling up 21 goals and 32 assists. Saskatoon topped the WHL standings with a 56-13-1-2 record for 115 points in the standings. The 56 wins and 115 standings points are still Blades club records.
    While Schenn always carried himself well, it seemed there were some in the public that wanted to bring him down.
Brayden Schenn looks to make a pass at the Chase Fantasy Hockey Camp.
    During the Blades first round playoff series with the Prince Albert Raiders, someone went online and made racist comments towards First Nations peoples in Schenn’s name via a fake Facebook account. That development caused the Blades to hold a news conference to state Schenn didn’t have anything to do with that fake Facebook account and request a police investigation. At that time, the Blades found nine fake Facebook accounts in Schenn’s name.
    Schenn wasn’t made available to the media at that press conference, but the Blades issued a statement from the skilled forward. One can only imagine how much time was spent putting this fire out that Schenn and the Blades had no part of starting.
    The Blades proceeded to eliminate the Raiders 4-2 in a best-of-seven series. Saskatoon was swept away in a best-of-seven second round series 4-0 to the Kootenay Ice, who went on to win the WHL championship.
    In 10 playoff games, Schenn put up six goals and five assists for the Blades. Expectations were high that year that the Blades would win the WHL title and sizable crowds were showing up the rink that is now known as the SaskTel Centre.
    During the immediate aftermath of their playoff ouster, there were a number of people in the vocal minority of the Blades fanbase that blamed the post-season elimination on Schenn.
    I was working in Medicine Hat during that time covering the WHL’s Tigers for the Medicine Hat News, and relatives in Saskatoon told me that Schenn couldn’t show his face in public in town in the days that followed the Blades playoff exit. I do recall seeing a Facebook group that existed to dump hate on Schenn for costing the Blades the Memorial Cup. I can no longer find that Facebook page.
    Thankfully, the notion of being upset at Schenn quickly faded away. Disappointment over the fact the Blades didn’t have a long playoff run that season likely still lingers a little bit.
    Since leaving the Blades, Schenn has been a career NHLer appearing in 433 regular season games mostly with the Philadelphia Flyers collecting 109 goals and 139 assists. Thanks to an off-season trade at the NHL Entry Draft in June, the 26-year-old will suit up for the St. Louis Blues in the upcoming NHL campaign.
    Anyone that has dealt with Schenn and his family comes away with a fresh realization that they are all a good bunch. Anytime I take a photo of Schenn at a charity event and share it on Twitter, it usually gets a few likes from locals, and that is always great to see.

Cool seeing “BT” enter Canadian Football Hall of Fame

    It was definitely a cool sight to see the pictures and video legendary University of Saskatchewan Huskies football head coach Brian Towriss officially enter the Canadian Football Hall of Fame on Thursday night in Hamilton, Ont.
    Towriss resigned his post as Huskies head coach on Dec. 19, 2016 having complied a U Sports record 196 career wins, 11 Canada West titles, nine Vanier Cup appearances and three Vanier Cup titles. On March 22, an announcement was made that Towriss would be part of this year’s Canadian Football Hall of Fame class along with CFL player greats in Anthony Calvillo, Geroy Simon, Mike O’Shea and Kelvin Anderson along with former Calgary Stampeders president Stan Schwartz. 
    Towriss and Schwartz entered the Hall as builders.
    When Towriss saw his lifelike bust and put on his Hall of Fame jacket and ring, he looked really happy, and it was a happy look that was usually reserved for times when one of his player did something great. It was fun to see him enjoy his moment.
    Towriss was joined in Hamilton by his wife (Vicki) and their children (Kellie and Jake), and they got to experience something special that will be with them forever.
    It is always a great when good things happen to good people. Congratulations to “BT” on his Canadian Football Hall of Fame induction.

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Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Borbandy aims to catch on with U of S Huskies blue-line

Defender Teagan Borbandy hopes to catch on with the Huskies.
    Teagan Borbandy doesn’t want to hang up her skates just because she had to switch schools.
    For the past two seasons, Borbandy was a defensive defender with the Red Deer College Queens of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference. Over two seasons, she appeared in 29 regular season games with the Queens posting an assist and 22 penalty minutes, and she helped Red Deer College win an ACAC title in 2016.
    The Langdon, Alta., product is pursuing studies in bio-chemistry and knew she would have to transfer out of Red Deer College to a University to finish her degree. Borbandy wanted to transfer to the University of Saskatchewan for academics, and her thoughts started to drift towards the Huskies women’s hockey team, who play in the U Sports ranks.
    “I love Saskatchewan, and I love this school,” said Borbandy. “It is beautiful.
    “They have a really good program, so I thought I would come. I decided about two months ago that I wanted to continue to playing hockey, so I came out as a walk on.”
    Borbandy found a phone number for Huskies head coach Steve Kook and called about trying out as a walk on. From that conversation, Borbandy joined the Huskies for their training camp.
Huskies AC Brian McGregor, left, talks with Teagan Borbandy.
    She made the trip with the Huskies to Athabasca, Alta., for the Athabasca College Hockey Challenge last weekend and dressed for one of two exhibition games U of S split against the defending U Sports champion U of Alberta Pandas. The Huskies fell 3-2 after a tiebreaking shootout last Friday and won 2-1 last Saturday.
    As for Borbandy’s status with the team, things are progressing a day at a time.
    “We don’t have an idea of how many defencemen that we are going to take if it is seven, if it is nine,” said Kook, who returned to the Huskies after a one-year professional leave of absence. “If we think you are going to help us, we’ll carry you.
    “We agreed to take it day by day. At the end of every practice, we have a chat, and we’ll let her know if we like to see her another day. It is how it has been.”
    Borbandy, who stands 5-foot-4, comes to the Huskies with a solid hockey background. Besides playing for the Queens, she suited up for three seasons from 2012 to 2015 with the Rocky Mountain Raiders based in De Winton, Alta.
Teagan Borbandy listens to instructions at practice.
    Traditionally, the Raiders have been one of Alberta’s stronger female midget AAA programs, and Borbandy was an assistant captain with that club before finishing her time with that squad as captain.
    She always loved the comradery she had with her teammates and being active on the ice. Her first interactions with the Huskies players and coaches have built a desire to want to stay.
    “They are great,” said Borbandy. “They are such nice girls. They are very opening and helpful.
    “I’ve never seen so many girls that want help each other. It is not a competition within the team. It is a competition to make everybody better.
    “The coaches are great, very nice, encouraging and very supportive. They are always telling me things to improve on which is great. I love feedback.”
    Borbandy’s love for hockey hasn’t diminished over her career. She said it was great to join the Huskies having come from a good situation of having played with the Queens, who were 14-7-3 last season. The Queens fell in a best-of-three ACAC semifinal series to the MacEwan University Griffins 2-1.
    “It was a good step out of midget,” said Borbandy. “I enjoyed my team.
    “I had a great set of girls. I enjoyed the opportunity to continue playing. The school is a great school.”
Teagan Borbandy starts a rush out of her own zone.
    The Huskies had a strong campaign last season posting a 15-10-3 record. They fell in a best-of-three Canada West semifinal series to the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. The Dogs fell 3-1 in a series deciding Game 3, but had they prevailed, they would have earned a berth to the U Sports final eight national championship tournament.
    When Borbandy talked to Kook about joining the Huskies, the bench boss advised the young defender, who will turn 20 on Sept. 20, to not leave anything behind.
    “We had a chat with her early in the summer, and I said if you are going to come to this thing and if you are going to come to tryouts, don’t come halfway be all in,” said Kook. “Whether it lasts one day or three days, you have to just make sure there are no regrets.
    “What I told her today is you are having a good camp so far. Comeback tomorrow, we want to see more. The way it works is pretty soon you are going to be coming back enough days that you are going to find yourself on a bus with us somewhere.”
Teagan Borbandy moves the puck up ice in a transition drill.
    The Huskies are returning five defenders from last year’s team, so ice time will be at a premium for any newcomers. Going forward, Borbandy can gain further motivation from another hockey development in her family.
    Last Friday, her younger sister, Emma, who is current playing defence for the Raiders, signed a letter of intent to play for the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds women’s hockey team for the start of the 2018-19 campaign. If Teagan stays with the Huskies, it is possible the two siblings might face each other on the ice one day.
    With all that in mind, Teagan said she just wants to work on getting better in the present.
    “My hopes are to work on things I know I need to work on, to improve and get to where some of their top defencemen are and maybe play a few games,” said Borbandy. “It would be awesome.”
    The Huskies resume their pre-season schedule this coming Saturday and Sunday, when they travel to Calgary to face the Mount Royal University Cougars on each of those days. The green and white open the regular season on Oct. 6 against their provincial rivals the U of Regina Cougars at 7 p.m. at the ancient Rutherford Rink.

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Tuesday, 12 September 2017

“No brainer” – Fiala named Blades new captain

Captain Evan Fiala, left, and HC Dean Brockman show off a third Pac-Man jersey.
    When it came time to speak to reporters about being named the new captain of his home area Saskatoon Blades, Evan Fiala was hit with a case of the nerves.
    “My stomach is still not settled here,” said Fiala. “Obviously, it feels good that is for sure.”
    The 20-year-old product of Clavet, Sask., which is located just outside of Saskatoon, was named the 58th captain in Blades team history during a press conference at Merlin Ford Lincoln on Tuesday, where the club also unveiled their new third alternate Pac-Man jersey. The gritty, stay-at-home defenceman became the first to put on and wear the new alternate jersey during the press conference’s festivities.
    The Blades acquired Fiala in a trade last December shortly before the WHL Christmas break from the Spokane Chiefs. In 70 games split between the Chiefs and Blades last season, Fiala recorded four goals, 15 assists, a plus-11 rating in the plus-minus department and 139 penalty minutes.
    Growing up in the Saskatoon area and being well liked in the community, Fiala said it was special to be named captain of the Blades.
    “It is a huge honour that is for sure,” said Fiala, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 212 pounds. “Every guy would love to have that.
    “With our team, it is not a big deal that is for sure. We have a lot of good guys who are more than capable. It is a pleasure to wear it that is for sure.”
New Blades captain Evan Fiala puts on the team’s new Pac-Man jersey.
    Blades head coach Dean Brockman said his team did a complete evaluation when it came to deciding who would be the club’s captain. The bench boss noted his squad has some younger players who were deserving and had been with the Blades longer than Fiala.
    Even with that fact in mind, Brockman said Fiala was the obvious choice for the role.
    “When you are picking a captain, you want to check the boxes,” said Brockman. “He has certainly checked more than other guys.
    “He just plays the game with a lot of passion. He wears his heart on his sleeve all the time.
    “When you are watching him in practice or whether you are watching him in the gym or whether you are talking to him, it is just you can have that adult conversation and the tough conversation with him, and he never takes it the wrong way. When you are on the same page, it makes things a lot easier.”
    While Fiala was short-spoken during the press conference due to nerves, Brockman said the rugged rearguard does command the Blades dressing room, and the other players listen when he says something. The veteran coach said Fiala leads by example in showing strong traits for other players to emulate.
Evan Fiala shows off the front of a new jersey.
    “We talk about the passion that we want to play with and show our fans that we want to have a work ethic second to none,” said Brockman. “(Fiala) is just one example.
    “He is that contagious kind of guy. When you have a contagious kind of guy like that, you need him to be your leader and to do things right and do it every day, and that is the toughest part.
    “We just found that the connections that he makes with his teammates were second to none.”
    Fiala’s community links were another characteristic that led to him being named the captain of the Blades. Since arriving in Saskatoon, Fiala has been active in making all the Blades community appearances.
    “He knows the Saskatoon Blades,” said Brockman. “He knows the area. He knows how important it is for us to have this team bigger in the community, bigger in events.”
    The Blades haven’t had a captain since they sent centre Wyatt Sloboshan to the Chiefs in the deal to acquire Fiala. Sloboshan was subsequently traded to the Regina Pats on Jan. 2, after electing to not rejoin the Chiefs after the WHL Christmas break.
    Saskatoon finished the 2016-17 campaign with three players as assistant captains in now graduated defenceman Bryton Sayers, import defenceman Libor Hajek, who is now in his 19-year-old season, and winger Braylon Shmyr, who is now in his overage year. Hajek is taking part in training camp activities with the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.
    Brockman said the Blades are still deciding who their assistant captains will be for the 2017-18 campaign.
Evan Fiala shows off the back of a new jersey.
    Last season, the Blades posted a 28-35-7-2 record to sit five points behind the Calgary Hitmen (30-32-8-2), who finished eighth overall in the WHL’s Eastern Conference and earned the conference’s final playoff berth.
    “I know everyone from last year saw that we were that close,” said Fiala. “If we have a whole year like we did that second half, we will be just fine.”
    The rearguard described what type of passion he would like his side to play with to earn their first playoff appearance since 2013.
    “We’re coming out every game, and we are going to take that win from you that is for sure,” said Fiala.
    Besides being named the Blades captain, Fiala departs for the main training camp of the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday. He heads to camp as an undrafted and unsigned invite. Wings camp starts Friday and runs through to Tuesday in Traverse City, Mich., and Fiala heads to that camp with some positive momentum.
    “I felt it was important to send him off on a good note and to tell everybody whether it is Detroit or whoever is watching that he is a great leader,” said Brockman. “Those are the attributes you have to look forward to seeing.
    “I think he is the type of kid that if he goes there and plays well we feel we want him to stay there. Internally, I don’t want him to, but for his sake, we hope he goes there and does well. This is just a step in the direction to playing where we think he can play.”
    Fiala attended Wings development camp back in July, and he is looking forward to main camp, where he will attempt to turn heads to earn an NHL contract.
New Blades captain Evan Fiala speaks to reporters during a scrum.
    “It is a lot coming at me at once,” said Fiala. “I’m excited for it all. I’m ready for it.
    “Everyone who is there is obviously a good hockey player, so I am trying to take a little bit from everybody.”
    Fiala is one of four overage players the Blades have on their roster including centre Cameron Hebig, Shmyr and goaltender Logan Flodell. WHL clubs have to cut down to three overage players on Oct. 10.
    The Blades, who have a 3-2 record in the pre-season, close their exhibition schedule on Saturday, when they travel to Edmonton to take on the Oil Kings. They open their regular season schedule on Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. at the SaskTel Centre against the Swift Current Broncos. The Blades plan to celebrate their return to their Pac-Man look at their home opener.

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Monday, 11 September 2017

Hilltops and Thunder show off CJFL at its best

Thunder RB Jonathan Thebaud (#30) and the Hilltops defence collide.
    On Saturday at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, the Saskatoon Hilltops and Regina Thunder put on a show that was made for TV.
    For anyone that has seen these two clubs go at it over the years, that observation shouldn’t come as a shock. When the Hilltops and Thunder meet, spectators get to see the Canadian Junior Football League at its best.
    In their latest clash, the Hilltops led the Thunder 20-6 at halftime only for the Thunder to rally and pull out a heart stopping 29-26 victory. It was a reversal of script from the six previous encounters between these two teams, where the Hilltops came up victorious on each occasion. Four of those Saskatoon victories came by four or fewer points.
    While Saturday’s result was a tough one for the Hilltops and their fans to stomach, the end result doesn’t take away from the fact they took part in an outstanding game, which helps sell the CJFL.
QB Jordan Walls (#19) was on fire for the Hilltops.
    In Canada’s media cut age, circuits like the CJFL always have to embrace opportunities when they can sell themselves.
    The same can be said for the four head-to-head games the Hilltops claimed by four or fewer points in their previous six clashes with the Thunder. In those contests, the Thunder and their fans came away disappointed, but the fact the Hilltops won doesn’t take away from the fact the two clubs played an outstanding game on each of those occasions.
    Looking back at Saturday’s encounter, both teams will lament the fact they didn’t score more points, when the opportunities presented themselves. When the coaching staffs on both sides review video from that game, they will see the missed opportunities.
Thunder QB Sawyer Buettner, left, evades the Hilltops’ rush.
    On the statistical front, two spots showed how outstanding the game was.
    First comes from quarterback play, and the star signal callers for both teams had strong nights. Hilltops starter Jordan Walls completed 27-of-41 passes for 351 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Thunder starter Sawyer Buettner proved to be a touch better on the night completing 33-of-40 passes for 374 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
    The second statistical area that shows how outstanding the game was came on the turnover front. The Hilltops manufactured two takeaways, while the Thunder had one. Both sides did a sound job of looking after the ball.
    Both sides had missed plays, but in the overall view of a game, those missed plays really only stood out due to how well the rest of the game was played.
    Saturday’s contest had all sorts of turning points that could have really swung the fortunes to one side or the other.
Receiver Ryan Turple escapes upfield for the Hilltops.
    In the first quarter, the Hilltops had two long drives that ended in short field goals and gave the host side a 6-0 lead. The Hilltops could have had a touchdown in the first of those two series had receiver Jason Price been able to hold on to a perfectly placed pass in the end zone.
    With the Hilltops up 20-6, the Thunder had two long drives early in the third quarter that resulted in no points being scored due to turnovers. The first was a costly fumble by running back Ethan Hautz right before the goal-line of the Saskatoon end zone, and the second was an interception by Hilltops defensive lineman Tom Schnitzler.
    Hilltops kicker James Vause was wide on a 29-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter, and the Thunder ran the ball out of the end zone to prevent any points from being scored.
Receiver Isaac Foord jets downfield on a punt return for the Thunder.
    Still, the last three minutes turned out to be the huge climax. After the Thunder had taken a 21-20 lead, Walls found star receiver Sam Mike on a seven-yard touchdown pass to put the hosts up 26-21 with 2:47 to play. The Hilltops misfired on a pass for a two-point conversion.
    The Thunder proceeded to drive 80 yards in two-minute drill style that saw Buettner hit receiver Lee Brown from eight yards out for what turned out to be the game’s winning touchdown. Regina added a two-point conversion to lead 29-26.
    Still, 60 seconds remained on the clock and the Hilltops had both of their timeouts. That is like an eternity in the Canadian game.
    The Hilltops started on their own 30 yard line and drove to the Regina 20 yard line. The hosts had a first down situation with nine seconds to play and one timeout to use.
The Thunder and Hilltops get set in a short yardage situation.
    There was more than enough time to take a shot at the end zone before trying a potential game-tying field goal.
    Unfortunately for the Hilltops, the intermediate sideline throw that was intended for Mike was intercepted by Thunder defensive back Tyrel Latoski at his own five yard line. Saskatoon had run that exact play a few times in the game, and on this occasion, Latoski saw what was coming and he undercut Wall’s pass for the game-sealing turnover.
    If Saturday’s match was a CFL game involving the Saskatchewan Roughriders, there would have been all sorts of talking points.
The Thunder defence gets to Hilltops RB Joshua Ewanchyna.
    The fact the contest was an exciting CJFL game makes it a hidden gem.
    Will it mark a turning point for the rest of the season? Only time will tell.
    Going forward, the Hilltops and Thunder are currently tied with the Winnipeg Rifles for second in the Prairie Football Conference at 3-1. The Edmonton Huskies lead the way at 4-0.
    The Hilltops, who are the three-time defending CJFL champions, took the regular season series with the Thunder, who won the 2013 CJFL title, outscoring their provincial rivals 63-49 in two regular season meetings. Saskatoon took the first encounter 37-20 in Regina on Aug. 12.
    The CJFL was arguably the big winner with a showcase game. In Canada’s amateur sports scene, that is something that is always priceless.

Media watch an interesting game

Huskies head coach Scott Flory participates in a media scrum.
    With the start of the winter sports season, I have found that my head is on a swivel when head out to cover local sporting events.
    When I was in Regina back on May 14 covering the Seattle Thunderbirds winning the WHL title with a 4-3 overtime victory over the host Pats, I still have the air of finality imprinted on my mind from the media members in attendance while interacting in the media and scouts lounge an hour before that contest. Since the conclusion of that game, a number of my friends saw their time in the mainstream media and media overall come to an end.
    Due to the media cuts in Canada, I have found myself watching for differences on the media front compared to the previous campaign.
    On Friday night, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team hosted their home opener, and they romped over the University of Alberta Golden Bears 43-17 before 8,009 spectators in U Sports action.
    When I went on the sidelines to shoot pictures of that game, I felt like I was working a Saskatchewan Roughriders CFL game due to all the cameras that were circling the field. That caught me by surprise.
    It is also seemed like the majority of those cameras were shooting pictures or video for Huskie Athletics and the U of Saskatchewan. The one videographer I saw wore a jacket signalling he was part of a Huskies film crew.
    The Huskies also had an actual game program with a pair of stories, which was something you didn’t see a year ago.
    The cameras didn’t translate to interviews post game. Intent on writing a column, I didn’t do any post-game interviews. I did look in on the post-game scrums and saw three microphones from mainstream outlets and a Huskies staff filming video.
    For Saturday’s CJFL clash between the Hilltops and Thunder, I was one of only three people shooting photos for the entire game. I saw two other shooters arrive for part of the contest before leaving. When the game concluded, there were only four reporters, including myself, on the field doing interviews.
    The Hilltops also have different content in their game programs for each home contest this season.
    A year ago at both events, it seemed like there were more reporters at each game doing interviews. With that said, the media presence was there. It will be interesting to see what media personnel presence will be like when the Saskatoon Blades open their WHL regular season schedule.
    As for my own front, I will mirror what I wrote in a column back in May. My goal is to ensure that whatever I do cover it will be something I am passionate about.
    I find that when you do cover something you are not passionate about, the reader sees through it, and you do them a disservice.
    I just try to take things one day at a time and roll with the punches as they come.

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Saturday, 9 September 2017

Thunder finally get over Hilltops hump with comeback win

QB Sawyer Buettner throws the winning TD pass for the Thunder.
    Sawyer Buettner was pumped and relieved his Regina Thunder were finally the last team standing in a clash against the Saskatoon Hilltops.
    Trailing the Hilltops 26-21 with just under 2:47 to play in the fourth quarter of a Canadian Junior Football League clash Saturday at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, the Thunder found themselves set up on their own 30 yard line.
    Regina had lost its last six straight encounters with Saskatoon including action in the regular season and playoffs. 
    Four of those losses came by four-or-fewer points, where the venerable Hilltops, who have won the last three straight CJFL titles, always found a way to make two more plays than the Thunder to pull out victory.
    This time, the script was different. 
    Buettner, who is the Thunder’s star quarterback, drove his team 80-yards in two-minute drill style, and the march culminated with the signal caller hitting receiver Lee Brown with an eight-yard touchdown pass.
Receiver Lee Brown cradles the winning touchdown catch for the Thunder.
    After Brown’s catch, Buettner proceeded to hook up with receiver Levi Paul on a short five-yard pass for a two-point conversion to put the Thunder up 29-26 with 60 seconds to play.
    The Hilltops proceeded to march deep into Regina territory with their final possession, but Thunder defensive back Tyrel Latoski snuffed out the drive making an interception at his own five yard line with two seconds to play to ensure the 29-26 score held up as the final in Regina’s favour. The last time the Thunder prevailed over the Hilltops was back on Sept. 6, 2014 by a 26-25 final at SMF Field.
    “It was nice to finish the game off,” said Buettner. “It is kind of a relief to prove to ourselves that we can do it against a great team like the Hilltops, so it was good.”
Receiver Sam Mike (#4) celebrates a score to put the Hilltops up 26-21.
    The 20-year-old Moose Jaw, Sask., product added it had been some time since he helped win a game with a two-minute drill type drive.
    “I haven’t had one of those since high school,” said Buettner. “It was fun.
    “I told the (offence) we want to be great, when we have the last drive. I told the guys like I was proud of them no matter what happened.
    “We battled all the way back. It was just nice to score a touchdown there and win it.”
    Saturday’s game had a number of different swings. Right before the Thunder went on their game-winning scoring drive, the Hilltops had erased a slim 21-20 deficit, when quarterback Jordan Walls found veteran receiver Sam Mike with a short seven-yard touchdown pass to put the host side up 26-21. Saskatoon failed to score on a two-point conversion try after Mike’s major.
Hilltops QB Jordan Walls threw for 351 yards in a setback.
    In the first quarter, the Hilltops tried to do their best to run away with the contest early. Saskatoon put together two long drives that ended in respective 20 and 25 yard field goals from safety/kicker James Vause, which gave the hosts a 6-0 edge.
    On the final play of the opening frame, Hilltops fullback Colin Stumborg muscled his way in from a yard out for a major score to put the Hilltops up 13-0.
    In the second quarter, Thunder kicker Eric Maximuik hit field goals from 29 and 35 yards out to cut the Hilltops lead to 13-6. With nine seconds to play in the first half, the Hilltops pushed out to a 20-6 lead, when Walls hit receiver Ryan Turple with a 13-yard scoring strike.
    The Thunder offence began to really hit stride in the second half but started out having trouble finding the end zone. On Regina’s first series of the second half, Thunder running back Ethan Hautz fumbled the ball away right before the Hilltops goal-line and Saskatoon defensive back Luke Melnyk recovered the ball in his own end zone to turn away the scoring threat.
RB Victor St. Pierre-Laviolette (#31) ripped off a long touchdown run.
    Regina’s next series was stopped thanks to an interception by Hilltops defensive lineman Tom Schnitzler deep in Saskatoon’s end of the field.
    With nine seconds to play in the third quarter, the Thunder finally found the end zone, when Buettner hit receiver Isaac Foord with an 11-yard scoring toss to cut Saskatoon’s lead to 20-13. Maximuik’s ensuing kickoff went 85 yards through the Saskatoon end zone for a single to further cut the Hilltops edge to 20-14.
    Around the midway point of the fourth quarter, the Thunder took their first lead of the contest, when star running back Victor St. Pierre-Laviolette burst 45 yards downfield for a major to put Regina in front 21-20. That set the stage for the dramatics in the contest’s final three minutes.
    “It (Saturday’s win) is a big one for us,” said Thunder head coach Scott MacAulay. “We haven’t had too much success against these guys in the last couple of years.
    “To be able to come up here into their own house and come out with this win, it is a big deal for our team. I think it is going to bring us a lot closer.”
The Hilltops defence forces a fumble near their goal-line.
    Buettner was pleased his side was able to overcome some re-occurring difficulties that helped the Hilltops build a six game head-to-head winning streak against the Thunder.
    “We’ve had issues with this team before of driving down and kicking field goals and turning over the ball, which we did today,” said Buettner. “When it counted, we drove down and we scored touchdowns when we needed to.
    “We came up big when it counted.”
    Buettner completed 33-of-40 passes for 374 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the win for the Thunder. Walls connected on 27-of-41 passes for 351 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the loss for the Hilltops.
The Thunder celebrate their comeback win over the Hilltops.
    Saturday’s result creates a logjam at the top of the Prairie Football Conference standings. The Edmonton Huskies sit alone in fourth place at 4-0, while the Hilltops, Thunder and Winnipeg Rifles are all tied for second to fourth with identical 3-1 marks.
    The Calgary Colts sit fifth at 1-3, while the Edmonton Wildcats are last at 0-4. The top four clubs in the conference make the post-season.
    Having defeated the Thunder 37-20 back on Aug. 12 in Regina, the Hilltops hold the head-to-head standings tiebreaker against the Thunder outscoring their provincial rivals 63-49 in the teams’ two regular season meetings.
    The Hilltops return to action on Sept. 17, when they travel to Calgary to face the Colts. The Thunder return home to face the Rifles on Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. at new Mosaic Stadium.

Kinsmen Football League celebrates 50th season

KFL players were part of the halftime festivities at the Hilltops game.
    The players of Saskatoon’s Kinsmen Football League took centre stage during a halftime ceremony of the CJFL contest between the Hilltops and Thunder.
    To celebrate the league’s 50th anniversary season, the teams from the amateur league were introduced to the crowd at SMF Field. It is estimated that around 450 players will suit up as part of the Kinsmen Football League this season.
    The league contains two age groups for players. The peewee age group is for players 11 and 12-year-olds. Peewee league games are played under Canadian nine-man rules.
    The league also contains a bantam age group for player 13 and 14-years-old. Bantam league games are contested under Canadian 12-man rules.
    A total of 41 players on the Hilltops current roster got their start playing in the Kinsmen Football League, which held its first season way back in 1968.

Thunder player with rare chronic pain condition needs funds

    A GoFundMe campaign was started on Thursday to help a Regina Thunder player, who is suffering a rare chronic pain condition.
    In 2015, Jarrett Seck was playing his third season of Canadian Junior Football League eligibility as a 20-year-old linebacker for the Thunder. He was also attending the University of Regina to become a physiotherapist.
    Seck was injured in a game in September of 2015 causing pain in his left leg. The pain never went away, and in December of 2016, he was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.
CRPS is believe to be caused by damage or malfunction of the peripheral and central nervous systems. The cause is not definitively known and there is no cure.
    Seck is forced to lay in bed all day. Having exhausted all treatments locally, the family is seeking treatments outside of Regina and Canada, and the expense is expected to be $81,000.
    Those looking to donate to help Seck can do so by clicking here.

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