Although Brett Novak hoped that his record as the player who suited up the most for the Prince Albert Raiders would stay intact, he’s pleased that the mark will be in good hands with current overage forward Sean Montgomery.
“I figured it would be some time before it eventually happened, but records are meant to broken,” Novak said. “I’m happy that Sean’s been able to have a healthy career and has been able to play long enough to not only match my record, but to also be able to pass it.
“You have to have some luck involved and be a tough player to get through all the little injuries you have in this league, and Sean has certainly shown that.”
Montgomery tied Novak’s mark of 330 games Monday night against the Edmonton Oil Kings and will set the record outright Friday evening in a road meeting with the Calgary Hitmen.
The two players met for the first time in September as Novak went to Warman to watch the Raiders take on the Saskatoon Blades in a pre-season matchup.
“After the game I went down to talk with (Raiders trainer Duane) “Puff” (Bartley), who actually started with the team around the same time that I did,” Novak said.
“While we were chatting, Sean came out and “Puff” took a picture of the both of us as he told me that ‘this is the guy that’s going to break your record.’ If you want someone to break a record, you hope it’s a guy like Sean. He’s a nice guy and a total professional. It’s hard not to pull for someone like him.”
The Portland Winterhawks originally drafted Novak, who was born in Grayson but later moved to Melville, in the second round of the 2000 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft but he had his rights dealt to the Raiders at the 2001 trade deadline in exchange for forward Garrett Prosofsky.
He suited up in two games that season as an affiliated player before making the full time jump to the Raiders roster for the 2001-02 campaign.
Novak would eventually surpass Shane Zulyniak’s then record of 318 games played for the team during the 2005-06 season.
“As the years went on and the games started to pile up, it started to set in a little bit that my teammates and I had been there quite a long time and we had all played a lot of games together,” Novak said.
“Those five years went by quick and it was a proud moment when I got the record, but to be honest we were more focused at the time on making it to the playoffs. I don’t think it really set in for me that I had the games played record until the season had ended.”
Novak’s best campaign was when he had 41 points in 72 games during the 2004-05 season, as the Raiders made a run to the Eastern Conference final after finishing in third place in the East Division and upset the Saskatoon Blades and the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first two rounds.
“We lost our two big gunners in Jeremy Colliton and Kyle Chipchura to injuries during the regular season, but we turned that into a positive as it allowed guys like myself to step into bigger roles and our team bonded through working through the adversity,” Novak said.
“It was an instant jolt to our lineup when we got Jeremy and Kyle back from their injuries and we all felt like we could go all the way. It obviously stung quite a bit after we lost to the (Brandon) Wheat Kings in Game 7 and we were so close to making it to the WHL final, but it created a bond between all of us on our team and it’s something we won’t forget.”
After his overage campaign was cut short due to injury, Novak spent two season with the Saskatchewan Huskies in U Sports while studying kinesiology and education, which led him to his current job as a teacher at St. Thérèse of Liseux Catholic School in Saskatoon.
“Having my books and tuition paid for five years through the WHL’s Scholarship Fund was a huge help and being able to play in the league really helped to open some doors elsewhere,” Novak said.
“There aren’t a lot of teachers that can put five years of playing in the WHL on their resume. The strong work ethic and the ability to persevere through challenges on the ice are things that you can apply to the world of teaching.”
Novak is still out on the ice during the winter months as he plays senior hockey for the Eston Ramblers.
“I’m hoping to come up to the Raiders home game next Friday against Brandon when they will honour Sean, but that’s also a potential deciding game in our playoff series against Beachy,” Novak said. “I’m sure the guys would understand if I wasn’t able to make it, but hopefully we won’t be in a situation where I have to choose between the two.
“You’ll definitely see me in Prince Albert to support the boys during the playoffs though. It’s been a storybook season and I hope they can surpass our run from 2005.”