Saturday, February 18, 2012

Swift Current Broncos 3 at Saskatoon Blades 7 - February 17, 2012

After a beautiful winter's day drive from Edmonton to Saskatoon, Sharpy and I took in a junior hockey game in the evening. I've never felt more Canadian!

Credit Union Centre

The Saskatoon Blades play in one of the largest facilities in all of junior hockey, the Credit Union Centre with a capacity of 15,195, although much of the seating bowl is closed off for these games.

Opened in 1988, the facility was controversial due to its location in an industrial park at the north end of the city, just off highway 16. Access is limited to a few roads that lead to a large parking lot with free entrance; exiting after the game is very simple as well as you can reach the highway in just a couple of minutes.

One of the streets is named Bill Hunter Avenue after the man who tried to bring the NHL to Saskatoon back in the early 1980s. As well, hockey great Gordie Howe grew up here and is honoured with a street name and a statue outside the front entrance.

The venue has hosted two World Junior Hockey Championships, three Briers, and a number of other big sporting events, including some NHL pre-season games.

There are two ticket types: club seats in the upper rows of the lower bowl (note the darker seats above) where you can order food ($24.75); and the rest ($19.75). Be careful sitting low down next to the benches as the players stand up to watch and block your view when the play is in the other end.

The concourse is obviously more spacious than necessary given that the attendance is about a third of capacity. There are a couple of banks of TVs that are tuned to different channels that give you a chance to catch up on other games during the intermissions.There is a trophy case that displays all the Blades' trophies as well as the WHL Eastern Conference trophy, won by Saskatoon last year and hence on display for a few more weeks.

As mentioned, several upper level sections are blocked by curtains and the others have yellow tape to limit access to the upper rows.

Food options are quite limited, with nothing out of the ordinary here. There is a restaurant called the Backstage Lounge which offers burgers, ribs, and chicken strips that might be worth trying. I just had BBQ chicken bun which was acceptable.

There are several retired numbers, including Wendel Clark's #22 and a few championship banners in the rafters.

The scoreboard is four-sided with a video board that plays live action and replays, but doesn't include shots on goal, which are displayed on smaller counters above the lower seating bowl. There are two ribbon boards on either end of the rink as well that displayed upcoming events.

It is hard to believe that this facility is nearly 25 years old as it has been well-maintained and could easily house a pro team, although probably not the NHL. It is really too big for junior hockey and the atmosphere suffers as a result. I think this place would be great when it is full, so you might want to consider the 2013 Memorial Cup to make a visit.

The Game

Saskatoon were fourth in the East and fighting for home advantage in the first round of the playoffs, while Swift Current were 10th and playing out the string. I expected the Blades to have no trouble taming the Broncos, and that is how it turned out.

Saskatoon scored two power play goals in the first, including one by Canadiens' prospect Darren Dietz (above) on a beautiful shot that beat Jon Groenheyde up high.

In the second, Swift Current scored an early power play marker but Saskatoon quickly responded when Brett Stovin banged home a rebound (below).

The same scene repeated itself twice as the Broncos would draw within one only to have the Blades answer within a couple of minutes. After Swift Current made it 3-2, Dietz scored his second, converting a beautiful cross-ice pass from Leafs' prospect Josh Nicholls. Check out all the highlights here.

When the Broncos made it 4-3, Dietz again gave Saskatoon a two-goal cushion, tapping in a rebound for the hat trick. The fans didn't seem to get it as not a single hat was thrown on the ice. So Dietz did what had to be done. Thirty seconds after his 3rd goal, he added a 4th on a 4-on-1 and only then were a couple of chapeaus tossed over the boards.

Lukas Sutter (son of Rich) sizes up Dalton Reum for a hit

The third period was simply window dressing as the Blades added one more against back up goalie Austin Smith to make the final 7-3. The shots totalled 45-43 for Saskatoon, but many of these were of the harmless "throw it at the net" variety.

It's not often that you see a defenseman score 4 goals, and Dietz was obviously the first star. He had scored only 10 goals before this game, so it was definitely an unexpected surprise for him and the Blades. I wonder if we'll see him in Montreal in the next few years.


The Blades' keeper was Andrei Makarov, who played for Russia in the recent World Junior Championships, saving 57 of 58 shots in that stunning 1-0 OT loss that gave the title to Sweden. That's him below as Swift Current's Ryon Moser looks for the puck.

One interesting promotion is having the game puck delivered to the ref, who has to sign for it. I guess the promotion didn't work that well though, as I didn't notice the delivery company who sponsored it.

Next Up

We're staying in Saskatoon for the day to watch some CIS (that's the NCAA in Canada-speak) basketball as the U of S Huskies host Regina in both women's and men's action. Check back for updates on that.



1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the visit. Next time your in let us know in advance and we can give you a more endepth tour of the rink. Enjoy your time in Saskatoon.

    Michael Scissons
    Director of Sales
    Saskatoon Blades Hockey Club