Boys, girls high school hockey clubs back on the ice
The high school hockey season is in full swing once again across Winnipeg and beyond.
On Oct. 11, the Winnipeg High School Hockey League regular season kicked off with a Winnipeg Free Press Division matchup between Glenlawn Lions and the Kildonan-East Reivers, which Glenlawn won 2-1 in overtime.
“The kids are excited,” said Dana Gordon, president of the WHSHL and a student counsellor at Kildonan-East Collegiate. “We’re hoping to put a good product on the ice and hoping we’ll get the full season played and crown three divisional champions again in March.”
This season, 38 teams will compete across three divisions, playing 25 games between October and February. Perennial provincial heavyweights like St. Paul’s, River East, Sturgeon Heights, and Westwood are once again competing in the top Platinum Promotions Division. Meanwhile, defending Free Press Division champs Springfield have a chance to defend the title, while runner-up Collège Béliveau finds itself up in the top tier. Defending Price Division champs Léo-Rémillard and runners-up John Taylor are up in the Winnipeg Free Press Division this season.
While teams are able to travel out of province again to take part in tournaments again this season, a highlight of pre-pandemic hockey seasons for many schools, Miles Macdonell Collegiate and Glenlawn Collegiate each hosting special home tournaments.
Over the weekend of November 11 to 13, Miles Mac is hosting the second annual Buckeye Bowl at Seven Oaks Arena. Last year, the Mountain Mustangs from western Manitoba won the tournament, with Springfield coming in second and Miles Mac finishing third.
“We are hoping to win it this year,” said Gordon Fritzsche, coach of the Buckeyes boys team.
This year, eight teams will compete in the tourney. Defending champs Mountain Mustangs and seven WHSHL teams: Collège Jeanne-Sauvé, J.H. Bruns, Sanford, Springfield, Kelvin, and Kildonan-East. Teams will play between three and five games.
“(We’re) hoping to keep this tournament going long-term,” Fritzsche added.
Glenlawn Collegiate will be kicking off its 100th anniversary celebrations with the Glenlawn Heritage Classic, an outdoor tournament with boys and girls divisions, which will be held at Windsor Community Centre on Dec. 16 and 17.
“It’s bringing it back to the roots. When you look at 1923, they were playing outdoors,” explained Brad Nechwediuk, a teacher-librarian and hockey coach at Glenlawn Collegiate who is organizing the tournament. “You don’t get U18 tournaments outside. This is unique.”
The puck also dropped in the Manitoba Women’s High School Hockey League on Oct. 13.
The league, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last season, has changed its name from the Winnipeg Women’s High School Hockey League to reflect the fact a growing number of its teams are now located outside city limits, including Lorette, Portage La Prairie, Sanford, Selkirk, and Springfield.
The 25-team league is made up of three divisions.
Melissa Blaine, the head coach of last year’s CTV Division 1 champions Collège Jeanne-Sauvé Olympiens, is looking forward to the St. Vital-based team defending its title. Last year, the Olympiens beat Southdale-based J.H. Bruns Broncos 2-1 in the best-of-three series to take the title.
”Last year, we were very successful, so this year we’ll have a big target on our backs,” Blaine said, noting the team has many returning players this season. “This season, we’re refocusing and working hard to get the team back up to speed.”
As pandemic restrictions continue to ease, teams are once again thinking about out-of-province tournaments, and the Olympiens will be heading to Montreal in December.
“Team-bonding plays a huge part, and it’s important to have chemistry on and off the ice,” Blaine said, noting the team won’t be taking any of its opponents lightly this season.
“When the other teams play us, they’ll have nothing to lose, as we’re the team that won the championship last year, and they’ll want to go out to prove they can beat us. We’re just looking to improve as individuals, and as a team, between now and March.”
MWHSHL’s president, Guy Anderson, has any number of reasons to look forward to the new season, including the name change.
“The name change is a good thing, as it reflects the all-inclusiveness of the league,” Anderson said, noting other out-of-town teams such as Steinbach and Stonewall have also been in the league in previous years. “And with last year being our 25th anniversary, it was extra special to get things going again.”
Anderson is also the head coach of the Glenlawn Lions team that will compete in Division 1 this season having moved up from Division 3 last year by virtue of three alignment games, which the Lions won 7-0, 6-0 and 5-0.
“I’m not sure how we’ll fare this year, but the girls are all excited and up for the challenge. We’re excited to see how we compete and how things go,” he said.
Sheldon Birnie is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at email@example.com Call him at 204-697-7112
Simon Fuller is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 204-697-7111.