Monday, February 20, 2012

Battlefords North Stars 6 at Kindersley Klippers 2 (SJHL) - February 19th, 2012

When I initially planned this schedule, I left Sunday open as there were no games between Saskatoon and Swift Current. However, the hockey gods decided to change the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League schedule so that the Kindersley Klippers would have their Friday game moved to Sunday. Kindersley is a small town about two hours west of Saskatoon and two hours north of Swift Current, so it fit in perfectly with our plans, adding only an hour of driving and allowing me to add another Junior A league to my list.

Biggar, thy neighbour

West Central Events Centre

Kindersley is a community of about 5,000 people and the arena is one of the town's social centers. There are two rinks in here, with the Klippers playing in the larger one with about 7 rows of benches around most of the playing area. You can't really tell in the photo below, but there is netting along the sides as well, so it can be difficult to get a clear view.

We decided to sit in the first row behind the net as that was the closest we could get and still have an unobstructed view of the game.

Admission here is $12 but there are no tickets, just a hand stamp. This means you can come and go as you please; I used the first intermission to drive over to a gas station and fill up. A very relaxed atmosphere with most fans there for the social aspect rather than to watch the Klippers, whose logo is below.

There is a small concession with popcorn and drinks but you can bring your own food in, with a number of fast food restaurants close by providing options.

There was a fire here in January, 2010 that destroyed an adjacent rink and forced the team to play out of a nearby town for the rest of that season. Repairs were completed by the start of the 2010-11 season though and I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.

The only thing that bothered me here was the constant use of the horn during play. I've grown used to the horn sounding when the home team scores a goal, but I still hate it. Apparently fans need to be told when to cheer. But the Klippers horn guy made me wish for headphones as he blew the thing whenever Kindersley made a good save or hit. It is a small rink and I really don't enjoy sudden loud noises. Save it for the goals.

Other than that, I really enjoyed my brief time here. I've been getting to some relatively far-flung outposts to watch these games and it has been a real treat to see small-town Canada, where hockey is king and hype is nowhere to be found.

The Game

The SJHL is a Junior A league whose most famous alumni among us Leaf fans is Wendel Clark, who played for the Notre Dame Hounds back in the early 80s. Tonight's game featured the Battlefords North Stars taking us the Klippers, who were by far the worst team in the league, coming in at 11-39-6, a steep drop from their 2004 season when they were the national runners-up.

Meanwhile, Battlefords (named for the communities of North Battleford and Battleford) were a solid 2nd in the circuit at 39-15-2 and boasted the league's 2nd-leading scorer in Blake Tatchell.

The game was not without controversy. With the North Stars leading 1-0, Klipper Trent Hermary broke in alone and was hauled down. But the puck ended up in the net, easily witnessed by all of us sitting behind the goal. Keeper Connor Creech pulled the puck out of the net like nothing was amiss and the referee, who was out of position, didn't notice. Moreover, the red light didn't go on, so Hermary was awarded a penalty shot, which was blockered away by Creech (below).

Battlefords scored another from Blake Miller, assisted by Tatchell and Jordan Ethier before the period ended. Kindersley got one back midway through the second, but Miller quickly responded taking a perfect pass from Ethier and popping the puck into the open net in front of us. At that point, we realized that the red light was broken, as the goal judge merely raised his hand to signal a goal.

Soon after, Ethier got into the act, beating Klippers' Keeper Brandon Stone with a perfect shot just under the crossbar, again assisted by Tatchell and Miller.

The third period was more of the same with Ethier adding his 2nd (and 4th point) as the North Stars went on to an easy 6-2 win, ending the Klippers' home season on a disappointing note.


Players are eligible to play junior hockey if they are between 16-20 when the season begins. As we are now nearing the end of the slate, a lot of these players are seeing their careers end, including Mitch Berg (below), who played 47 games in the WHL a few years back but couldn't stick for whatever reason.

Watching these various levels of hockey, the differences in skill is clear, particularly in terms of speed and stickhandling, not to mention officiating. Along with the missed goal, the referee was inconsistent while the linesmen called an icing while the offending team was shorthanded.

That doesn't mean these lower leagues are not worth checking out though; there are over a hundred Junior A teams across Canada (and a few in the U.S. too) and if you are nearby, you should check one out if you have a chance.

Next Up

Today is Family Day in Saskatchewan and the Swift Current Broncos are hosting an afternoon game against the Moose Jaw Warriors. After that, we'll enjoy a long drive to Winnipeg where the Philadelphia Flyers are in town on Tuesday. I don't have tickets yet, so will be trying the scalper route. Check back to see if I got into the game.



1 comment:

  1. Sean

    The "Biggar" they are, the Harder they Fall.