A couple of years ago, and after having resided in the Battlefords since 1991, I took the opportunity to attend a Battlefords North Stars hockey game at the Civic Centre. Much to my surprise, I was enamoured by the quality of play by our local Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League club. The team went deep into the playoffs that year. I took my oldest youngster to the games and we had a very satisfying experience.
The curious aspect of this story was that as a child growing up in Prince Albert, I had the opportunity to watch successful hockey played by the Prince Albert Raiders who entered the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League in the early 1970s. The Terry Simpson led Raiders were perennial contenders and winners in this league and won the then Centennial Cup on a number of occasions.
Then, I left for university and could observe the team only from afar, reading updates in the local newspaper. After having arrived in Saskatoon for my schooling, I began attending University of Saskatchewan Husky men's hockey and, once again, was taken by the quality of play.
As the years played on, my desire to attend hockey games was diminished by my witnessing the style of play of the National Hockey League-although I loved the pace of the game, I could not believe the thuggery and goonery that I witnessed had a place in the game. Make no mistake, I enjoy the odd fight, but not when they are staged and instilled to glorify violence.
So, for many years, I simply didn't attend hockey games. My attendance at North Star games has changed that.
The local club, led by Kevin Hasselberg and Blair Atcheynum, produces fast and intelligent hockey, free of the buffoonery of the goon hockey that many people detest. If you have the opportunity to meet these two individuals, you will be struck by their utter class and dignity and the love that they have for the game of hockey.
Upon reflection, I have thought that when we go to see the game, we revisit our childhoods to a certain extent. Back then, it was a time where our minds were free and our sense of enjoyment was without bounds. So, for a couple of hours at a North Stars game, you can become engrossed in the game and our youth returns, even for a short period of time. The mind is freed of the burdens of our common days.
Our local club plays a fast and clean brand of hockey-something parents would be proud to see their kids involved in. It is readily apparent that the players are dedicated to their craft. They play for the goal of being champions. But, even more than that, many are playing for the opportunity of advancing their involvement in the game through the acquisition of educational scholarships at universities and colleges in the United States and Canada.
The players are temporary citizens of our community and carry our name proudly to various centers in Saskatchewan. The leadership they are provided by Hasselberg and Atcheynum, I would suggest, is second to none at this level of junior hockey.
If you like the game of hockey, if you enjoy athletics and the spirit of competition, I highly recommend attending a Battlefords North Stars game. They would love the support. It is a relatively cheap night out and I guarantee you will enjoy the North Stars brand. As a person who is now a season ticket holder for the past two years, and who has enjoyed the bonding experience with his own youngster, I can't say enough with regard to the maximum enjoyment that is given by these players and coaches on game night. Let's fill the rink and show them our community's appreciation. Go Stars go!