Friday, 1 December 2017

When The Bears Come To Town

Wow. I am running on no sleep, but I think the excitement and adrenaline is keeping me going right now. As you may have read yesterday, The Hockey Show was in Shilo, Manitoba for an amazing night of hockey as the CFB Shilo Stags played the Boston Bruins alumni to help raise funds for the Shilo Minor Hockey Association. To say that this night was incredible is seriously underselling how much fun we had out there, and I cannot say enough good stuff about the people and the town of Shilo in terms of their hospitality. We'll get to that in a minute, but let's do a little photo-blog for now!

I want to be upfront and say that all of these photos can be found on the CFB Shilo Stag newspaper Facebook site and the Shilo Stag Twitter account. Their ongoing coverage in and around the Shilo area is second-to-none, and they really captured some excellent visuals from the game! All photos were taken by CFB Shilo Stag editor Jules Xavier on this night with his Nikon camera, and he did an incredible job in photographing this game!

The Bruins lined up along the blue line prior to the game. They were announced individually much to the delight of the crowd, so let's run down the list of legends from farthest to nearest: Bob Sweeney, Terry O'Reilly (#24), Roy Nolan (goaltender), Bruce Crowder, Bruce Shoebottom (#40), Dan Lacouture, Tom Fergus (#28), Jay Miller, Al Iafrate (#43), Rick Middleton, #11 was a player named MacFarlane who joined the Bruins team, Ray Bourque, #17 is Sgt. Ian Taylor who put this whole thing together, #16 was another player who jumped aboard named Cullen, and the man nearest to the photographer was named Pandolfi!

The Bruins assumed the home bench in the game as they wore their iconic black-and-yellow jerseys. Jay Miller is standing in front of Tom Fergus on the ice while Rick Middleton and Al Iafrate take their spots on the bench.

Their opponents? The CFB Shilo Stags who looked sharp in their white uniforms! Standing at the far side furthest from the photographer in the #9 jersey is Montreal Canadiens legend Chris "Knuckles" Nilan! Stephen Black is the goaltender beside Nilan, and the shorter player beside Black is Isabelle Dubord. I'll talk a little about Miss Dubord below, but let me just say upfront that she stood out on the ice due to her incredible skill! #31 and closest to the photographer is Krista Eaton, and there was an incredible story written in The Brandon Sun by Ian Froese on the netminder earlier this year!

As you can see, a solid crowd filled the rink for the game with a lot of people decked out in Bruins merchandise. And jackets. Man, it was colder than a meat locker in Shilo Gunner Arena! And yes, it's a small rink, but Shilo isn't a big town. There isn't a major junior team there or anything, so it serves its purpose as a recreation center and rink. As you can see, the wooden rafters and ceiling show the rink's age, but it is really well-maintained. Honestly, there was a lot of character in the old barn, and it was a cool experience in seeing the old rink!

Let's talk a little about these Bruins legends because they can still play. Ray Bourque's first goal of the night saw him skate end-to-end past four checks like they weren't even there. He literally looks like he floats above the ice while he's skating. It's that effortless yet he moves like the wind. His goal was scored on the rush from the top of the right face-off circle where he fired a wrist shot that was more akin to a laser beam that beat Miss Eaton three inches off the ice and ripped through the netting behind her to land outside the goal. Ray Bourque can still play, and his seven points in the game is proof that his abilities have not diminished since retiring from the NHL!

While he didn't unleash any of his patented slap shots, Al Iafrate was also incredible on the ice. It's been twenty years since he last played in the NHL - man, I feel old! - but time hasn't slowed him down. Whatever was ailing his knees and back two decades ago wasn't slowing him last night. He turned on a dime when needed, picked corners on the poor Stags netminders like he was winning carnival prizes at the shooting gallery, and made some great stretch passes to the Bruins forwards. Between Iafrate and Bourque, they probably could have played two-on-five and the game still would have been competitive!

I'm not certain about the rules, but I believe Terry O'Reilly is breaking a number of them in carrying this minor hockey player! O'Reilly was up to his usual jovial ways on the ice as he was making others smile while playing his brand of old-time hockey. For a guy who is 66 years-old, O'Reilly looks like he still loves the game as he did when he was a central figure for the Big Bad Bruins in the 1970s. In speaking to him after the game, he's one of the nicest men you'll ever meet as well, making it hard to imagine that he was once one of the toughest hombres to lace up the skates in the NHL!

Among the many people I met in Shilo while doing the ol' radio thing was Isabelle Dubord who wore #2 for the Stags. Isabelle came out onto the ice wearing a GoPro, so she immediately stood out thanks to the added protuberance on her helmet. The GoPro was the last thing we talked about once the game started, however, because Isabelle's skill on the ice stood out in terms of how good she was. She's an excellent skater, she reads plays extremely well and often finds herself with the puck because of this skill, and she had some moves and jukes that Al Iafrate had to defend a few times!

What we didn't know at the time the game started was that Miss Dubord has professional hockey experience! Isabelle was a member of the Quebec Avalanche in the original NWHL back in 2005-06! In her rookie season, she scored a pair of goals in 17 games! How cool is that? Needless to say, we talked about that on the broadcast once we found out that Miss Dubord had quite the hockey history!

I will say this about the people of Shilo: they're awesome! We met Karen who was our heroine on this day. Anything we needed, she made it happen. From getting us a roster for the Stags to making us coffee to keep us warm in the frigid arena to checking on us routinely to ensure everything was going well, Karen was our first star of the night without any doubt! Thank you, Karen, for your incredible hospitality and allowing us to invade your arena!

The MVP of the night can be no other than Sgt. Ian Taylor of CFB Shilo. It was he who contacted Rick Middleton of the Bruins alumni team and helped to facilitate this amazing night of hockey and festivities. Having met and chatted with him at the after-party, Ian is a humble guy who loves his hockey and the Bruins, and he deserves a pile of recognition and kudos for all the hard work he did behind the scenes to make today happen. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that he picked up an assist in the third period while playing for and with the Bruins!

The staff at both the Garrison Grill, where the radio party picked up dinner, and at the Shilo Gunner Arena canteen were beyond phenomenal, and I can't recommend them enough if you have a chance to stop there. They are the happiest, smiley-est, outgoing-est people I have ever met, and their incredible spirit was genuinely welcoming. I cannot say enough good things about the people of Shilo, and I am better off for having met a number of them!

In the end, the Bruins officially won the game 13-8, but the score on the scoreboard was of little concern to all those in attendance. There was an electricity in the crowd in seeing the Bruins legends take the ice, and there was genuine happiness from all those working at the rink as they made a bundle of money for Shilo minor hockey. That was precisely the goal of the evening, and I'm happy to report that the Shilo Minor Hockey Association will be in good hands for some time.

It's not often one gets to mingle with the likes of Bourque, Iafrate, Middleton, O'Reilly, Crowder, Shoebottom, Miller, Sweeney, Fergus, Lacouture, Nilan, and Dubord in terms of professional hockey players, but the town of Shilo welcomed them with open arms and showed them just how big the heart of small town can be. The Bruins, for their part, put on quite a show in helping the Shilo Minor Hockey Association raise a boatload of cash, and that's the best part of this story.

I, Joel, my father, and The Hockey Show were proud, honoured, humbled, and privileged to be a part of this amazing day in Shilo, Manitoba, and I have a feeling that I'll be visiting again in the future! Thank you for allowing us to take part in this great event!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Unknown said...

Nice blog from Gunner Arena — For your Bruins alumni game at CFB Shilo, your photo blog featured photos you poached from the Base newspaper's FB page. You could at least credit the photos to the Shilo Stag, and its editor who covered the game with his Nikons. Photo credit is important when using another media's work. Thanks.

Teebz said...

I apologize, Jules, and you're absolutely right. The images were sent to me via email, and I didn't do my due diligence in appropriating the photos to those who did the work. I have made those corrections now, and credited all media to back to you for the hard work you did. Thanks for calling me out on this!