author: konstantin khariotnov | sports editor
Regina, thanks for the being the center of it this year!
Major Junior hockey is a particular interesting sports topic that has personally been an intriguing one ever since I stepped off the boat roughly 16 years ago. The very first hockey game that I attended was a match between the Calgary Hitmen and the Moose Jaw Warriors where the Hitmen squeaked out a 3-2 victory. However, the most standout moment from that memory didn’t happen there, but at my very first National Hockey League game, which was a Calgary Flames – Pittsburgh Penguins game, occurring shortly after the Hitmen game. There was a question that I asked: “Why is there more than one Calgary hockey team? Are the both in the NHL?”
It didn’t take too long to figure out the answer, and from there I was exposed to the Western Hockey League and its glory. Since the league does not nearly make the same amount of money that the big leagues does, tickets to go to games were considerably cheaper, and thus, I attended many more Hitmen games than Flames games. While following the Flames was more of a priority at the time, being exposed to Major Junior was what started my love for the sport, and why to this day, it is a more enjoyable experience than the professional game.
It is so much more fun.
The NHL is still the best league for true best on best competition in the whole world, but what makes junior hockey the more enjoyable experience is the enormous range of talent and the age of the players. In the WHL, players ranging from 15- (exceptional status) to 20-year-olds make up each of the teams, resulting in the players being on average younger than university students are the U of R.
Because these are still considered kids, the players are still learning and developing their skills, which leads to more mistakes being made on the ice. With those mistakes, fans see the high-scoring plays, the odd man rushes, and the wicked back and forth action that just don’t happen as often in the NHL, simply because players there are more developed and defined, with them being adults and all.
The Athletic’s Justin Bourne had put it best when talking about hockey works.
“In a way, hockey is an odd sport,” Bourne mentions. “When it’s played at its structural best, it’s terrible to watch.”
When there is such a large talent gap between players who are barely allowed to drive, and most are not legally allowed to drink, it makes for some of the most fun hockey on the planet. And this year, Regina is the centre of it all.
Unless you have been living under a watermelon all year, then you most likely have heard the announcement regarding the Memorial Cup being hosted in Regina. For those that might not know, the Memorial Cup is the last major tournament in Major Junior where the winners of each of the three Major Junior leagues’ (the WHL, the Quebec Major Junior League and the Ontario Hockey League) playoffs come to the host’s town and faceoff against each other and the host team for the ultimate trophy in Major Junior Hockey.
Basically, don’t be surprised around May. When the tournament is on there seems to be a bit more hockey around and in the air. The Pats have also made sure that this Memorial Cup is extra special.
The 2017-18 season marks the 100th in existence for the Pats, and for an occasion such as this, some throwback threads are in order. For the occasion, the Pats went out and got a beautiful maroon jersey with a cream line across the centre, with PATS spelled out at the front of the jersey.
However, while looking good is important for marketing, having a good team is important for winning. The Pats have known this to be the case, and have built a team that is worthy of a long playoff run.
The Pats must have let out a huge sigh of relief when captain Sam Steel was sent back to junior after getting a long look in training camp for the Anaheim Ducks, the team that drafted him in 2016. Coming off a 131-point season, and 15 so far this season, he is leading the team by example. Unfortunately, star defenceman Josh Mahura is currently out with a knee injury, but the team still boasts the likes of Jake Leschyshyn, Austin Wagner, and Matt Bradley. While a current record of 7-5-1 may not scream world-beater, it is also not a current representation of the true talent level of the team.
Recently, the Brandon Wheat Kings, who aren’t pushovers themselves, came to town to face the Pats, and I was able to go to and see the game in person. Boy, did the Pats ever dominate. Throughout the entire game, the Pats would not let the Wheat Kings get a clean zone entry, forcing them to dump it in and lose possession. On the offensive side, the Pats just kept hammering shots on Wheat King goaltender Logan Thompson. The final score of 2-1 for the home squad didn’t even do the Pats justice, as the team peppered Brandon with 46 shots, while only surrendering 27. Yeah, sitting front row behind the Pats goalie, Tyler Brown, there was barely anything to see for the first and third periods, but Brown was strong when he needed to be.
Regina has shown signs of dominance such as this at multiple times this season, and if they can continue to do so, then this magical year can be capped off the most magical way possible.
The game proved to be an encapsulation of everything that I love about junior hockey. It was lightning fast, so many odd man rushes and quick stick worth in front of the net. Its exciting that this is just the beginning. In just a few months, Regina gets to host the biggest celebration of Major Junior hockey in Canada, with the best teams coming to town and competing.