Bears alum Chief finds home with Huskies

Special to the Herald

SASKATOON, Sask. – When crunch time came, Jacquelyne Chief was hoping fate would create a way to stay close to home.

While playing her final campaign as captain of the Prince Albert Northern Bears female under-18 AAA hockey team last season, Chief committed to Maryville University Saints Women’s Hockey Team in Saint Louis, Missouri. The Saints are a Division I team in the American Collegiate Hockey Association.

Daily Herald File Photo. Jacquelyne Chief skated with the Prince Albert Northern Bears last season.

Originally, her goal was to play in the Canada West Conference in U Sports. As time drew closer to depart for the United States, the hand of fate sent a gift the smooth skating defender had been looking for.

“It was really late in summer like end of July,” said Chief. “I just got a message from (University of Saskatchewan Huskies Women’s Team head coach) Steve (Kook) saying that he had an unexpected D-spot open.

“He was just wondering if he could persuade me to come here to the U of S. Sure enough, it worked. It was a big decision to make since I had already been committed to the States, but I’m glad I am here.”

After deciding to join the Huskies, Chief hasn’t looked back. She has played in all of the Huskies 14 regular season games to date posting a plus-one rating in the plus-minus department.

It is pretty rare for first year defenders to play regularly in U Sports, especially being a fresh high school graduate. Chief is already seeing time on the Huskies penalty kill, which includes playing four-on-three kills in overtime.

She felt lots of joy about the fact she could stay relatively close to her home in the Onion Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan and to her parents in mother, Tammy Duffee-Chief, and father, Pete. The 18-year-old said people from her home community wouldn’t have been able to see her play as much in person, if she had gone down to the United States.

“The support of my family and my community in Onion Lake I think that helps me a lot, especially with my hockey career,” said Chief, whose Huskies are 9-3-1-1 so far this season. “They’ve all been such a big support system for me.

“I’m happy that I get to stay home, and they get to watch me in person instead of online, if I were to go away.”

She received a very much welcomed surprise during her second regular season game, which happened to fall on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30. Before the clash with the U of Manitoba Bisons at the Huskies home rink in Merlis Belsher Place, Chief took part in a pre-game ceremony, where elders from the Onion Lake Cree Nation wrapped her in a blanket as part of the traditional blanket ceremony.

“I was honoured,” said Chief, who stands 5-foot-6. “I think it was really important for everybody in the stands and both teams to experience something like that.

“It is becoming more normal, but I think it was important for everybody to see that this is part of my life, and it can be part of the game as well.”

On the ice, Kook said Chief’s strongest asset is her skating skill. The bench boss said the young defender is still learning all the nuances regarding positioning the defensive zone in the U Sports game.

Kook said Chief’s skating ability has allowed her to recover, if she gets in a bad spot in the defensive zone. When Chief gets the puck, Kook said she is able to get it out of traffic and get the play transitioning up ice.

While Chief has already played in some situations rookie defenders don’t normally play in at the U Sports level, Kook is planning to see where Chief’s role could further expand out to.

“I want to play her in a few more spots,” said Kook. “Some of those spots that I want to play her in will just come with experience.

“The only way that you do that is you play a game and you stick her in a few (spots). I’d like to get her in on special teams. I think she skates well, sees the ice well, moves the puck and passes really well.

“She just gets a little bit nervous up there, and sometimes expectations for a younger player can weigh on you more than what your skill level is.”

Kook said defence is the hardest position to learn and adjust to every time a player moves up a level in the game. The veteran coach said rookie defenders go through a learning curve of making plays in the defensive zone, and when they get the puck, they have to make the correct reads in transitioning the puck up ice.

Some of the reads might include bringing the puck up centre ice or passing it up centre ice, if opponents are taking away the boards. Most defenders at lower levels are focused on getting the puck out of their zone by clearing it out off the boards or glass.

Kook said Chief sees the ice at an advanced level and thinks the game at a high level too. The two-time U Sports coach of the year said the biggest adjustment Chief has had to make is in trusting her teammates are going to be in the right spots when it comes to making plays.

“I think the game is a little bit easier for her,” said Kook. “She just has to allow herself to play.

“When she comes around the back of the net or out of the corner, there is more than one choice for her, because players are where they are supposed to be. Sometimes, she just gets in her own way and worries a little bit too much. We’re just trying to get her to trust what she sees, because a lot of times it is the right call.”

Chief said you could quickly tell how much the experience of the players at the U Sports level makes the game a lot crisper than it is at the under-18 AAA level. At the U Sports level, Chief plays with and against players that can be 23 or 24-years-old including some who have had experience in Canada’s national team system.

When it comes to making plays, Chief said it has been a new experience playing with teammates who are consistently in the spots they are supposed to be in.

“I think it has been a lot more fun,” said Chief. “I am able to enjoy the game.

“It is not that I didn’t enjoy the game in (under-18 AAA), but I think there was a lot more stress when I was in (under-18 AAA). It was a big difference from (under-18 AAA) to here. Here, it is like everybody knows where they are supposed to be.

“It is like you put the puck there, and that is the girl who is there. It is easy to make plays.”

Chief also wants to set a good example for the youth and young girls in her home area and the Indigenous community as a whole. She would like to be the example of if they see her play they believe they can do it too.

“Because I am one of like a handful of players in Canada West that come from an Indigenous background or who are First Nations, I think the small group of us are being trailblazers for the youth,” said Chief. “Like back home, that is all I want to do not only for the female youth but all the youth just so they can see that it is possible.

“You do go through ups and downs, but you just have to really work hard and remember who you are and where you come from.”

Chief is aware that she is still relatively at the beginning as far as her U Sports career goes, and that she still has four-and-a-half seasons still to enjoy with the Huskies. She is looking forward to everything that comes with the journey ahead.

“I think it is super exciting, because here I can grow as a player and get better and maybe even go pro,” said Chief. “I think this is where I want to be.

“I can’t wait for the following years, because I know I will get stronger and stronger every year.”

Darren Steinke is a Saskatoon-based freelance sportswriter and photographer. He blogs frequently at

Stanks on Sports: Raiders grads always leave part of heart in ‘Hockey Town North’

For most or almost all alums of the Prince Albert Raiders, “Hockey Town North” will always be a second home.

If anyone needs to be reminded of that observation, all you have to do is strike up a conversation with a Raiders grad about their time in Prince Albert. The memories start flooding back.

One of the eternally cool things I get to do in now my 25th season covering the WHL is talking to former players, coaches and staffers. The Raiders have such a rich history dating back to their inception as a junior A club in 1971 that there are endless cool old stories to tell about the team.

I was reminded of that when I worked on my retrospective feature on the 1994-95 Raiders for the Daily Herald’s WHL preview content leading into the start of the 2023-24 campaign. Since I considered that the best Raiders team that never won WHL or Memorial Cup titles due to coming up one win short of the Memorial Cup tournament, I approached doing that feature like an NFL Films missing rings episode.

Those one-hour documentaries put together NFL Films feature teams that made it to the Super Bowl only to come up short in the league’s championship game. In order to keep the documentary focused, NFL Films interviews three team figures looking back on the club that was featured.

Not knowing who I would get after doing research at the John M. Cuelenaere Branch of the Prince Albert Public Library, I targeted trying to track down Denis Pederson, Shane Hnidy, Shane Zulyniak and assistant coach Dale McFee. With head coach Donn Clark having passed away after a long battle with cancer on March 2, 2019, I was still able to get him in with a spoken part into the story, because I remembered seeing a season wrap quote from him after the Raiders lost out in Game 7 of what is now known as the WHL’s Eastern Conference Championship series.

As my luck would have it, Pederson, Hnidy, Zulyniak and McFee all got back to me when they learned I was trying to track them down. I was hoping to get three out of the four never knowing what is happening in their current day lives. To get all four was a bonus.

I started each interview reading off Clark’s season wrap quote, where the late bench boss said that was the gutsiest team he had seen in his 12 years of coaching and that the guys would go to the wall for each other. From Clark’s quote, you could tell how tight that team was.

In every case, reading Clark’s quote sent Pederson, Hnidy, Zulyniak and McFee all back in time to 1994-95. They all said Clark was bang on with the quote.

Hnidy, who is now a TV analyst with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, was the first I reached, and he was adamant that he believed the 1994-95 Raiders were a championship caliber team, and that season was a missed chance when it came to winning a title. The former standout defenceman believed that Raiders team had all the intangibles and the tightness between the players you needed to win on top of the skill.

You almost got a chuckle talking to McFee when he drifted off and remembered out of nowhere that “Wild Thing” Mitch Shawara was on that team. McFee then paused and said that 1994-95 Raiders team was a really good bunch.

It felt like there were a lot of tidbits I couldn’t get in otherwise the piece would flow and would get really long. Pederson, who was the Raiders captain that season, said he was struggling that season until helping Canada win gold at world juniors. After returning from world juniors, Pederson really took off and had a great second half and post-season.

Zulyniak was a 20-year-old defenceman in that campaign, and when he graduated from the team, he held the Raiders record for most career regular season games played at 318, which still ranks as the third most in the history of the club. He talked about how invested he had been due to playing five complete seasons in Prince Albert. I wasn’t able to write out how in depth the Game 7 loss to the Wheat Kings in 1995 was to Zulyniak due to the long stretch he was in Prince Albert.

Hnidy talked about how great the fans were. He told a story about being at the final wrap up party the players had at a billet home before departing their separate ways. Hnidy said the fans knew where all the players were and were dropping off refreshments at the billet home, but I wasn’t able to work that tale into the piece.

McFee talked about the recollections he had of the people in Prince Albert embracing the 1994-95 Raiders like they did the 1984-85 Raiders team he played on that won the WHL title and the Memorial Cup. I wasn’t able to squeeze that recollection in.

Still, it felt good for the soul to hear Pederson, Hnidy, Zulyniak and McFee talk about those times. I’ve also gotten that same feeling talking with Raiders iconic coach Terry Simpson and Raiders all-time great Dan Hodgson about their time in Prince Albert.

It is always great to be reminded that no matter what era of the Raiders that players, coaches and staffers came from a part of their heart will always be with the team and Prince Albert as a city.

Post-Bedard WHL still has great players

The WHL won’t have the benefit of the Connor Bedard “bump” this season, but the circuit will still have tonnes of great players to watch.

The 18-year-old phenom centre has played his last game with the Regina Pats and the former Pats captain is already the star attraction for the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, who picked the North Vancouver, B.C., product first overall in this past June’s NHL Entry Draft. Bedard’s presence in the WHL brought numerous sets of eyes to the league that normally wouldn’t watch the circuit.

The fan craze for Bedard hit new heights in the second half of his final WHL campaign in 2022-23 after returning from helping Canada win gold at world juniors having broken numerous Canadian records. Sold out rinks around the league and having nightly highlights on TSN and Sportsnet from games involving Bedard were the norm.

Now that Bedard is not in the WHL, you will likely see a drop off of casual followers. Still, Bedard’s age group specifically was a special one from the depth perspective, and outside of Bedard, pretty much all the WHL players selected in June’s NHL Entry Draft will be back on the major junior circuit this season.

Already back are centres Brayden Yager of the Moose Jaw Warriors and Riley Heidt of the Prince George Cougars. Yager recorded three goals and two assists in his first two contests back.

 Heidt has been on fire piling up four goals and four assists in his first two outings after rejoining the Cougars. The Cougars will be in Prince Albert to take on the Raiders on Saturday, November 4 at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre, and that could be Heidt’s lone visit to “Hockey Town North” in his WHL career. Due to playing in Prince George, Heidt it can be argued doesn’t get the attention he should have as it takes scouts making a special trip to get out to the northern B.C. centre.

Others from that age group that will be back or are already back in the WHL include Zach Benson of the Wenatchee Wild, Kalan Lind of the Red Deer Rebels and Caden Price of the Kelowna Rockets. Benson has an outside shot of staying with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, who selected him 13th overall in the first round.

The Raiders were happy to get Terrell Goldsmith back from the Arizona Coyotes. Of course, Raiders fans will be looking for the first chance to once again send barbs towards Saskatoon Blades stars in offensive-defenceman Tanner Molendyk and import right-winger Egor Sidorov.

Warriors 19-year-old centre Jagger Firkus was named a player of the week for the WHL on Monday. Former Blades netminder Ethan Chadwick was named the goaltender of the week for the WHL on Monday suiting up for his new squad in the Everett Silvertips. The Silvertips picked up the 19-year-old puck stopper in an off-season trade.

Cougars 17-year-old right-winger Terik Parascak was named the rookie of the week for the WHL on Monday. In his first four games with the Cougars, Parascak has eight goals and four assists.

The WHL is still filled with players who are worth the price of admission, and they aren’t hard to find. Fans that decide not to buy tickets will be missing out.

Darren Steinke is a Saskatoon-based freelance sportswriter and photographer with more than 20 years of experience covering the WHL. He blogs frequently at

Captain’s role fine fit for Raiders’ Herman


Becoming the captain of the Prince Albert Raiders has brought out the best version of Evan Herman.
The 20-year-old centre was named the 47th captain in the club’s history on November 18. Herman was tabbed with the captain’s role just two days after the Raiders dealt their former captain in Nolan Allan to the Seattle Thunderbirds in a blockbuster trade.
In the Raiders first four games with Herman as captain, they’ve posted a 3-1 record. Over that stretch, Herman, who is from The Pas, Man., has collected four goals, four assists and a plus-four rating in the plus-minus department.
With their burst over the past four games, the Raiders improved to 10-13-2 and sit tied with the Swift Current Broncos (11-11) with 22 points for eighth place and the final playoff berth in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.
During Herman’s first 17 games with the Raiders this season, he recorded two goals, seven assists and a minus-eight rating. The early season statistical struggles were likely due to the fact more opposing teams are aware of where Herman is on the ice due to the breakout campaign he had last season.
In the 2021-22 campaign, Herman played in all of the Raiders 68 regular season games leading the team with 28 goals to go along with 19 assists for 47 points. At the start of the current season, Herman was named one of the Raiders alternate captains, and he was a player opposing teams paid more attention too, when the Raiders are on the attack offensively.
While the points weren’t coming on droves for Herman in his first 17 appearances for the Raiders this season, his effort was still there. Besides the offensive part of his game, Herman, who stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 153 pounds, is a player who is always willing to finish a check, block a shot or stick up for a teammate.
Herman is also a career member of the Raiders having suited up for three games as an associate player call-up in their 2018-19 WHL championship winning campaign and playing for the squad as a 17-year-old rookie in the 2019-20 season, when the Raiders finished first in the East Division.
Being named captain likely helped give Herman reassurance that he was putting in the right effort even if the points didn’t come in bunches the first 17 games of the current season. For some players when they are named captain, they naturally elevate their game, because they have a more tangible sign of having ownership on what happens with the team.
Herman has always been a player that has always cared about what happens to the Raiders, but he has likely discovered everyone’s eyes are on him now that he is the captain. When he is in the dressing room, the rookies and younger players will be watching everything he does and take their cues about how they are feeling from how Herman acts.
Some players when they become a captain of a team realize they have a new avenue to be a positive influence on their teammates. For Herman, every day you get to come to the rink is a great day, and even that small intangible will rub off even more on his teammates. As a bonus, Herman is starting to collect points at a more frantic pace.
He made a huge splash in his first game as captain on November 19 at the Art Hauser Centre. In a 5-4 victory over the Medicine Hat Tigers, Herman had two goals including the winner, an assist and a plus-one rating. He also engaged in a second period fight.
Last Friday, the Raiders started a stretch of playing five straight games on the road. Against a Hitmen team in Calgary that has been piling up wins, Herman had a goal, two assists and a plus-two rating in a 5-2 victory, which saw the Raiders sweep the three stars selections.
One night later, the Raiders faced a powerhouse Rebels squad in Red Deer and fell 6-1. While the Rebels dominated, Herman still had a solid game winning 10-of-17 faceoffs and posting a minus-one rating.
Last Sunday finishing a stretch of playing three games on the road in a time span of 48 hours, Herman recorded the winning goal, an assist and a plus-two rating in a 4-2 win over the Tigers in Medicine Hat.
It is unlikely the points will keep coming for Herman like the frantic pace they have been, but it would be good if they still came at a steady pace. It would also be huge for the Raiders, if Herman continues to flourish as captain as the team continues to battle for a playoff berth for the rest of the campaign.
Howe continues to benefit from Bedard spotlight, other notes
Tanner Howe is grabbing his share of attention as his Regina Pats started a road tour through the B.C. Division playing before sold out rinks coming to see North Vancouver product and phenom centre Connor Bedard.
On Friday playing the Vancouver Giants before a capacity crowd of 5,276 spectators at the Langley Events Centre in Langley, B.C., Howe, who is a Pats left-winger, had a goal in a 3-0 win. Bedard had an assist in that contest on Howe’s goal.
One night later playing the Royals in Victoria before a capacity crowd of 7,006 spectators at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena, Howe posted four goals, two assists and a plus-six rating in the Pats 9-5 victory. Bedard had three goals and an assist in that same contest.
While spectators came to see Bedard, there has been frequent overall talk from those games noting that Howe, who is from Prince Albert, is a pretty good player too. On Monday, Howe was named the WHL player of the week for the week ending on Sunday.
In 23 games with the Pats this season, Howe has 15 goals, 18 assists and a plus-11 rating. He turned 17-years-old on Monday, and due to his late in the year birthday, Howe won’t be eligible for the NHL Entry Draft until 2024.
WHL lineman and Prince Albert teacher Troy Semenchuk worked his first Grey Cup game on Nov. 20 in Regina on the officiating crew as an umpire. Semenchuk has worked as an official calling CFL games for six seasons, and he has served as a linesman in the WHL since the 2012-13 campaign. He was also the special teams coach for the Carlton Comprehensive High School Crusaders this past season.
On Tuesday, the Saskatoon Blades moved from eighth to sixth in the weekly CHL Top 10 Rankings. On Friday, the Blades fell at home 6-3 to the WHL leading Winnipeg Ice, but downed the Ice 5-2 one night later when the teams met again at the SaskTel Centre. The Blades sit fourth overall in the WHL at 16-5. The Ice, who lead the overall WHL standings with a 22-3 mark, fell from first to second in the latest CHL Top 10 Rankings.
Out in Prince George, Cougars 17-year-old centre Riley Heidt is having a stellar campaign recording 13 goals and 23 assists in 23 games. Heidt, who family lives just outside of Saskatoon, was taken second overall in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft by the Cougars right after the Pats selected Bedard. The Cougars and Pats go at it on Friday marking the first time Heidt and Bedard will play head-to-head in their WHL careers.
Darren Steinke is a Saskatoon-based freelance sportswriter and photographer with more than 20 years of experience covering the WHL. He blogs frequently at

Ice set to win now, Oil King paying price going all in


The Winnipeg Ice are the team to beat in the WHL, while the Edmonton Oil Kings are showing the consequences of going all in.
As all the teams in the WHL approach their respective 10-game marks, it is starting to become clear which clubs will be the teams to beat. The Ice top the list of the teams to beat, and they happen to be listed first in the CHL Top 10 rankings.
Last season, the Ice finished first overall in the WHL regular season standings with a 53-10-3-2 record. They advanced to the WHL Eastern Conference Championship series falling in five games to the eventual WHL champion Oil Kings.
The Ice roster is stocked with returnees from last year like Matthew Savoie, Zach Benson, Connor McClennon, Conor Geekie, Ben Zloty, Carson Lambos and Daniel Hauser. They have solid youngsters like defenceman Jonas Woo, who turned 16-year-old in November and played every game in the Ice’s playoff run last season.
They’ve started the season 7-1, and all those contests have been played on the road. The Ice actually open the regular season playing their first 13 games on the road while major infrastructure work is completed at their home rink the Wayne Fleming Arena on the University of Manitoba campus in Winnipeg.
Earlier this year, the U of M received federal funding to replace the ice plant, the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system for the Max Bell Centre, which the Wayne Fleming Arena is a part of. The Ice play their home opener on Oct. 29 against the Brandon Wheat Kings.
If the Ice come out of opening their first 13 games on the road with like only three losses, they will be in an enviable position going into the rest of the campaign with a home heavy schedule. It isn’t out of the realm of possibilities the Ice could be 12-1 after their first 13 contests all played on the road.
The Ice will have competition when it comes to being the WHL’s best. In the Western Conference, the Seattle Thunderbirds, who lost to the Oil Kings in six games in last season’s WHL final, are off to a 7-0 start. They currently have eight players averaging a point per game or better including former Saskatoon Blades star left-winger Kyle Crnkovic, who has six goals and five assists.
The Red Deer Rebels had a breakout season in 2021-22 posting a 45-19-2-2, and they’ve gotten out to a 7-0 start. Their roster got better early last week when star overage centre Ben King, who finished second last in the WHL’s scoring race, was returned to Red Deer by the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks.
The Portland Winterhawks, who have started 7-0, and the Memorial Cup hosting Kamloops Blazers, who have started 4-1, will be sure to make noise as the season goes on.
The Oil Kings will learn what it is like to live on the bottom side of the standings. They loaded up last season and finished second overall in the regular season standings with a 50-14-3-1 before moving on to win the WHL title.
This season they’ve started out 1-7-1 to sit last in the entire WHL. All of the Oil Kings key core players from last season have moved on.
They currently have nine returnees on their roster from last season, but most of those players were mainly youngsters who saw limited playing time. Edmonton is already on the road to building for future seasons.
As the season goes on, you can expect the Ice, Thunderbirds, Rebels, Winterhawks and Blazers to shine. It will be difficult for any of the WHL’s other 17 clubs to knock those five teams out of the top tier.
Time right for Raiders to tinker with roster
From the Captain Obvious observation department, it is safe to say the Prince Albert Raiders haven’t had the start they wanted to.
The Raiders reached the 10 games played mark posting a 2-6-2 record. Their roster isn’t near the place it needs to be to contend for a WHL title, but they should be a contender for a WHL playoff berth. It is still way too early to say the Raiders won’t contend for a post-season spot.
With that said, the 2022-23 season might be the time for the Raiders to have an off campaign or gear their focus to being a better club for next season or future campaigns. The Raiders would have to give up too much to get to the point where they can compete with the Ice, Thunderbirds, Rebels, Winterhawks or Blazers.
Prince Albert’s brain trust has already started to tinker with the Raiders roster as Trevor Thurston, Anton Yatsyshin, Vladislav Shilo, Jesiah Bennett, Tre Fouquette, Alessandro Segafredo and Tayem Gislason have all played games with the club but are now no longer with the team.
To complicate the competitive balance in the Eastern Conference, word on the street is Regina Pats ownership has told team head coach and general manager John Paddock that phenom centre Connor Bedard cannot be traded. As the 17-year-old is expected to be selected first overall in next year’s NHL Entry Draft, the Pats are trying to build a roster around Bedard to win this season.
The Pats have gotten out to a 6-4-1 start. They have a roster that should be able to capture a playoff berth, but it is not capable of knocking off the Ice or Rebels in the playoffs.
To make a long playoff run, the Pats have to hope a few players on their roster make quantum leaps in their respective games in the improvement department, or Paddock is going to have to make some deals that will continue to hurt the franchise for years to come. When the Pats made a massive amount of moves to ready their roster to host the Memorial Cup in May of 2018, they still haven’t returned to the post-season since that time after dealing away prospects and first and second round draft picks.
Raiders general manager Curtis Hunt has wisely sidestepped arms races in the trading department in the past, and it would be wise to continue to do that in the present.
Back in the 2016-17 season, the Raiders missed the playoffs, but they focused on bringing a consistent good work ethic and creating good habits with a younger roster looking to build to what happened in a magical 2018-19 WHL title winning campaign. If other teams in the Eastern Conference are going to try to do drastic things to knock off the Ice and Rebels, it is likely a wiser decision to go younger and build for future seasons, especially now when it is unlikely the COVID-19 pandemic will throw wrenches into seasons.
Darren Steinke is a Saskatoon-based freelance sportswriter and photographer with more than 20 years of experience covering the WHL. He blogs frequently at

Truitt natural fit for Raiders as WHL history repeats itself


WHL history ended up repeating itself and proved to be a natural fit with regards to the Prince Albert Raiders head coaching position.
On Friday, the Raiders held a press conference to announce assistant coach Jeff Truitt was promoted from the role of assistant coach to head coach. The 57-year-old fills the role vacated by a WHL coaching legend in Marc Habscheid. Habscheid, 59, resigned from the Raiders on July 14 to head to Europe to take the role as the first head coach of the Bemer Pioneers Vorarlberg located in Feldkirch, Austria.
This scene has played out before in the WHL.
Following the 2003-04 campaign, Habscheid stepped down as head coach of the Kelowna Rockets to become the head coach of Hockey Canada’s national men’s team. Truitt was promoted from associate coach to head coach with the Rockets.
He served as the Rockets associate coach for the 2003-04 campaign as they won the Memorial Cup as the tournament’s host team. Before that season, Truitt had been a Rockets assistant coach for three seasons on Habscheid’s staff from 2000 to 2003.
With Habscheid and Truitt behind the bench, the Rockets also captured a WHL title in the 2002-03 campaign.
After taking on the head coach position with the Rockets, Truitt guided them to a WHL title win in the 2004-05 campaign. He held the head coach role for two more seasons before departing to the professional ranks taking an assistant coach position with the now defunct Springfield Falcons, who were the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers at that time.
Truitt reunited with Habscheid joining the Raiders as an assistant coach before the start of the 2018-19 WHL title winning campaign. Before joining the Raiders, Truitt was an associate coach with the Red Deer Rebels from November 14, 2012 through to the end of the 2017-18 campaign, when he mutually parted ways with the Red Deer side.
With both Habscheid and Truitt behind the bench, the Raiders would win their second WHL title in team history in the 2018-19 campaign, when they topped the WHL regular season standings with a 54-10-2-2 record. In the post-season, the Raiders claimed the WHL crown in dramatic fashion as Dante Hannoun scored in overtime in Game 7 of the league championship series giving Prince Albert a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Giants before 3,289 spectators at the 2,580 seat Art Hauser Centre.
Truitt, who is a product of Rosetown, Sask., is a natural fit as Raiders head coach. Like he did in Kelowna, Truitt will be able to continue the work that Habscheid has done with the team over the years. Habscheid took on the role of Raiders head coach back on November 1, 2014.
Last season, the Raiders posted a 28-35-4-1 record in a reload type campaign with a younger roster that still saw them qualify for the WHL Playoffs finishing eighth overall in the Eastern Conference. In the post-season, the Raiders bowed out 4-1 in a best-of-seven first round series against a stacked Winnipeg Ice side.
Going into the upcoming 2022-23 campaign, the Raiders are going to have a large contingent of returnees that Truitt has worked with. Truitt is also familiar with the Raiders prospects the team has either drafted or listed.
Becoming head coach will be fairly seamless for Truitt as he knows the teams’ players along with the current assistant coaches, management and staff. Truitt’s promotion allows the Raiders off-season work to continue to flow in a fairly regular fashion.
Had the Raiders hired someone outside the club as the head coach, the team would have experienced a transition phase where the new person would have to learn about the players, the hockey club and likely Prince Albert as a city, if that person came from outside “Hockey Town North.”
Actually, when the Raiders hired Truitt as an assistant coach before the start of the 2018-19 campaign, he gave them the option to have a succession plan in place in case an opportunity came up in the professional ranks that Habscheid couldn’t resist.
With that said, there weren’t any thoughts about Habscheid moving on when Truitt came on board with the Raiders. Truitt came to Prince Albert to fill the assistant coach vacancy created when all-time Raiders great Dave Manson left become an assistant coach with the Bakerfield Condors, who are the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. Manson is now an assistant coach with the Oilers.
Inside the Raiders organization itself, there was a belief that the 2018-19 campaign could be a special one. Manson’s strengths as a bench boss were for being a player’s coach, someone who could be a sounding board and always created an upbeat good character type atmosphere.
When Manson left, his hole was a pretty big one the Raiders had to fill. Habscheid knew that Truitt’s strengths were the same ones Manson had, which set the wheels in motion for the two to reunite in Prince Albert.
Going into the 2022-23 season, Truitt has collected 136 wins in 253 regular season games worked as head coach which includes time Habscheid was absent in Kelowna and Brett Sutter was absent in Red Deer due to commitments with Canada’s world junior team.
Truitt is well versed in filling big shoes. The Raiders head coaching role is in good hands going forward.

Lauer leave Oil Kings for NHL’s Jets

The Edmonton Oil Kings are looking for a new head coach after Brad Lauer departed for the NHL.
On Thursday, it was announced that Lauer had resigned as head coach of the Oil Kings to become an assistant coach with the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets. The 55-year-old Lauer guided the Oil Kings to a WHL championship last season after posting the circuit’s second best mark in the regular season at 50-14-3-1.
The Humboldt, Sask., product joined the Oil Kings on June 27, 2018 right after the team finished last in the WHL regular season standings with a 22-42-6-2 record in the 2017-18 campaign. With Lauer behind the bench, the Oil Kings topped the WHL’s Central Division in each of the four seasons he was with the team.
Lauer leaves Oil Kings after posting a 154-46-13-10 record in regular season play. He also won the Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s coach of the year for the 2019-20 campaign.
In the 2022 WHL Playoffs with Lauer behind the bench, the Oil Kings swept the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the first round and the Red Deer Rebels in the second round. Edmonton took out the Winnipeg Ice 4-1 in the Eastern Conference Championship Series and proceeded to down the Seattle Thunderbirds 4-2 in the WHL Championship Series.
At the 2022 Memorial Cup in Saint John, New Brunswick, the Oil Kings posted a 1-2 mark in their three outings.
Darren Steinke is a Saskatoon-based freelance sportswriter and photographer with more than 20 years of experience covering the WHL. He blogs frequently at

Raiders created good memories in first full season back

Do you remember December of 2020 when the Prince Albert Raiders faithful wondered when the team would take the ice again?

Back during that time, restrictions and public health orders were out in big force as the world battled being in the grips of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Players from all WHL teams were sitting at home training and uncertain of when they would hit the ice. In Canada, almost all sports leagues had pretty much been shutdown.

Skip forward to the current day. The Raiders just completed a full 68 game WHL regular season with a playoff appearance.

The last time it was possible for that to happen was the 2018-19 campaign, when the Raiders won the WHL championship. The COVID-19 pandemic threw many wrenches into the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.

In 2021-22, the Raiders were in a transitional reload type of phase and still created some good memories.

They managed to get into the WHL playoffs posting a 28-35-4-1 record to finish eighth overall in the Eastern Conference and capture the conference’s final playoff berth.

The Raiders proceeded to meet the Winnipeg Ice in a best-of-seven first round series. Prince Albert faced a daunting task as Winnipeg finished first overall in the WHL with a 53-10-3-2 record and were rated second in the final CHL Top 10 rankings.

The Ice took the series 4-1 with the Raiders posting their only win in Game 4 by a 3-1 final before an appreciative crowd of 2,568 at the Art Hauser Centre. While the Raiders battled hard, the Ice showed they are a skilled and deep powerhouse posting romps of 10-1 in Game 3 and 8-2 in Game 5.

Winnipeg is where Prince Albert was in the 2018-19 campaign.

Going back to the start of 2021-22, one of the first highlight moments for the Raiders was just being able to open the regular season at home against the Regina Pats on October 1, 2021. Before that contest came round, the last Raiders regular season home game was March 6, 2020, when the Raiders dropped a 3-2 decision in overtime to the Brandon Wheat Kings.

In the Oct. 1, 2021 clash with the Pats, 2,578 spectators packed into the Hauser and a feel good vibe existed regarding how great it was to see the Raiders play a game live again. Unfortunately for the Raiders faithful, Pats 16-year-old phenom centre Connor Bedard was opportunistic scoring a pair of goals in a 3-1 win for the visitors.

While it was great to see the Raiders play again, the excitement was tempered, because it felt like the Raiders were in a spot where they were a long ways away from being a playoff team. It was obvious that the Raiders needed to improve a lot in their team play and get contributions offensively throughout their roster in order to win games.

The first big highlight win for the Raiders faithful came on November 5, 2021 with a 5-1 triumph over the archrival Saskatoon Blades. It seemed like fans were waiting on the edge of their seats in that contest for the traditional playing of The Guess Who’s “Runnin’ Back to Saskatoon” as the victory anthem any time a hockey team from P.A. beats a foe from Saskatoon.

The Raiders five goals came from five different players as Reece Vitelli, Nolan Allan, Landon Kosior, Ozzy Wiesblatt and Terrell Goldsmith all netted singles in the win.

On February 23, a 1-0 win over the Hitmen in Calgary provided two highlight points. In that contest, Raiders bench boss Marc Habscheid picked up his 573rd career regular season head coaching win to sit alone in fifth place on the WHL’s career wins list.

Habscheid had 582 career regular season victories at season’s end.

That contest saw Raiders import rookie netminder Tikhon Chaika pick up his first career WHL regular season shutout making 26 saves on the night. Chaika’s emergence as the Raiders starting netminder was a big story on the campaign.

In 51 regular season appearances, Chaika posted a 22-21-4 record, a 2.79 goals against average, a .904 save percentage and three shutouts.

Vitelli and defenceman Remy Aquilon gave fond farewells as overagers. Vitelli led the Raiders in scoring with 51 points coming on 25 goals and 26 assists. All those offensive totals were career highs.

Aquilon played in all the Raiders 68 regular season games collecting three goals and 24 assists for 27 points for career highs in all those departments.

Speedy winger Evan Herman had a breakout year topping the Raiders with 28 goals to go along with 19 assists. Nolan Allan was a pillar on defence recording seven goals, 34 assists and a minus-four rating in the plus-minus department in 65 regular season games playing constantly against the best lines the opposition has.

Landon Kosior cemented himself as an offensive-defenceman posting 18 goals and 27 assists skating in all the Raiders 68 regular season games.

Wiesblatt, who is the team’s star right-winger, was limited to 43 regular season appearances due to injury but provided a steady hand posting 10 goals and 31 assists. He returned for the Raiders last three post-season games and provided a boost for the club.

Arguably, the Raiders top highlight came when they faced must-win situations in their final two regular season contests and pulled out victories on both occasions. Those wins pushed the Raiders into the playoffs and showed how much the team improved since dropping their regular season opener to the Pats.

The Raiders have pieces in place going forward into next season. Now that world events on the pandemic front appear to have settled down, Raiders general manager Curtis Hunt should be able to focus more on building a roster to challenge for a championship as opposed to dealing with unforeseen hurdles that needed to be jumped just to play games again.

Part hurdles include almost all teams in the WHL being shutdown over the first two weeks of January due to positive COVID-19 tests.

Hunt will likely face some extra work dealing with the living situations for Chaika and import rookie left-winger Vladislav Shilo, who are both from Belarus and will both be 19-year-olds next season. Due to the war in Ukraine, WHL clubs in Canada are working with Government of Canada officials to help Belarusian and Russian players currently on team rosters to remain in the country for a longer term. The WHL’s five teams in the United States didn’t have any players on their rosters from Belarus or Russia this past season.

In 2021-22, the Raiders got to play a campaign that more resembled those that came before the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world.
Figures are crossed that future seasons can more revolve around normal hockey talk as opposed to outside and unforeseen world events changing things.

Darren Steinke is a Saskatoon-based freelance sportswriter and photographer with more than 20 years of experience covering the WHL. He blogs frequently at

If the Prince Albert Raiders don’t win their next game, their playoff hopes will be dashed for 2022.


While followers of the WHL will likely be taxing their mathematical skills regarding which team will get the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, the story is simple for the Raiders as they head towards their final two regular season games. On Friday, the Raiders travel to Swift Current to take on the host Broncos (7 p.m., Innovation Credit Union i-Plex).
The Broncos sit in eighth place and currently hold the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference with a 26-34-5-2 for 59 points in the standings. The Raiders are two points behind the Broncos with a 26-35-4-1 mark.
If the Raiders lose that Friday clash be it regulation or extra time, they will be eliminated from playoff contention. They need to win that Friday game to ensure their regular season finale on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre against the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings remains meaningful as far as the post-season race is concerned.
The convoluted race for that final playoff berth includes the 25-33-6-2 Calgary Hitmen, who are one point behind the Broncos, and the 26-35-4-1 Regina Pats, who are two points back of the Broncos.
Fate has been dealing cards as far as wins and losses are concerned that have kept the Raiders in the post-season race. The hand of fate might deliver the Raiders some more favours.
In their last two games, the Hitmen host the Red Deer Rebels, who sit third in the Eastern Conference with a 44-18-2-2 mark, on Wednesday night. In their final three games, the Regina Pats face the Winnipeg Ice, who have locked up first overall in the WHL with a 51-10-3-2 record, twice.
They go at it on Friday in the Manitoba capital. A head-to-head encounter between the Pats and Ice set for Winnipeg on Thursday has been postponed due to extreme weather conditions that are forecast for that area. No makeup date has been set.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, they’ve let some opportunities slip through their fingers that would have put them in a better spot as far as the race for the playoffs is concerned. Two of those missed opportunities happened this past weekend.
Last Friday, the Raiders were in Saskatoon taking on their archrivals in the Blades. The 4,802 spectators at the SaskTel Centre that night included a healthy contingent of Raiders supporters, who made their way to “The Bridge City” from “Hockey Town North.”
The Raiders were locked in a 0-0 tie with eight minutes remaining in the third period. The Blades scored twice in the final eight minutes of the third to pull out a 2-0 victory.
Blades star overage netminder Nolan Maier skated away with sole possession of the WHL career regular season goaltending wins record with 121 victories.
The Raiders were left to ponder what might have been had they been able to get two standings points from a game that was very winnable.
One night later, the Raiders were in Regina to take on the host Pats at the Brandt Centre. The Raiders outshot the host side 27-18 and found themselves on the wrong end of a 5-3 final score that included an empty-net goal.
Early in the third, the Raiders were down 3-2 when left-winger Keaton Sorensen hit the crossbar on a penalty shot. Had a break there gone the Raiders way, they likely could have been heading to overtime to get at least one standings point, but when the dust settled, the setback in Regina was another missed chance to get two standings points.
In eight games with the Pats, the Raiders pulled out two wins and got a point from an overtime setback. The overtime setback came on home ice on February 18, when the Raiders took a 4-3 lead into the third period before falling 5-4.
Had the Raiders split their eight encounters with the Pats, that development would have helped the Prince Albert side.
The Raiders also had to lament a 6-4 home setback on January 22 to the Medicine Hat Tigers, who will finish in the basement of the WHL.
Against the Blades, the Raiders also dropped a 3-2 overtime heartbreaker at home on March 11 and a tough regulation 3-2 setback on Dec. 17, 2021.
On Dec. 7, 2021, the Raiders lost a 5-4 overtime heartbreaker at home to the Broncos after erasing a 4-1 deficit to force a 4-4 tie and extra time.
The Raiders players and coaches have lot of opportunities to dwell on where they lost standings points that could have helped out now.
With that noted, they are still alive in the WHL playoff chase with two games to play. Now, they just need to find a way to do themselves a favour by getting a couple of wins.
Western Conference playoff race has drama too
The chase for the final post-season berths is a heated one in the WHL’s Western Conference as the regular season is now in its final five days.
While the Tigers are the only team currently eliminated from playoff contention in the Eastern Conference, the Tri-City Americans are the only Western Conference club that has been knocked out of the playoff chase.
Due to the Western Conference having 10 squads, a total of four teams are vying for the last three post-season positions. The Vancouver Giants (24-37-4) sit sixth overall in the Western Conference with 52 standings points.
The Spokane Chiefs sit seventh overall and the Prince George Cougars currently hold the final playoff position at eighth overall both one point back of the Giants with identical 23-38-4-1 records. The Chiefs sit ahead of the Cougars winning three out of the four head-to-head matches between the two sides.
The Victoria Royals (22-38-5-1) sit ninth overall two points behind the Giants and one point back of the Chiefs and Cougars.
The Giants have three games remain on their schedule, while the Chiefs, Cougars and Royals each have two games to play.
The Chiefs and Royals meet head-to-head on Friday and Saturday nights in Victoria to close their respective regular season schedules. At the moment, those two contests might prove to be the deciding factor on who gets into the post-season and who doesn’t.
Darren Steinke is a Saskatoon-based freelance sportswriter and photographer with more than 20 years of experience covering the WHL. He blogs frequently at

Heckles for Bedard not surprising – taunts will always be part of major junior hockey


Darren Steinke

Special to the Herald

With all the attention Connor Bedard has received, it was inevitable he would get heckled.

With seemingly every high-profile media outlet especially at the NHL level constantly saying how great the 16-year-old Regina Pats phenom centre is for about the last three years, the attention by itself will bring out haters. There will even be people out there that didn’t start out hating Bedard end up developing a dislike for the North Vancouver, B.C., product due to all the attention he has received.

Last Friday, the Saskatoon Blades drew a season high 7,523 spectators to the SaskTel Centre for a game against Bedard and the Pats. While the Blades had a children’s night promotion going on, it was obvious Bedard was a big drawing card.

The Blades won the contest 3-1 and that final score was pinned on the scoreboard for the last 16:49 of the contest. Saskatoon ended Bedard’s streak of going 21 straight games of recording at least one point, which is the longest such streak in the WHL this season.

With 11:11 remaining in the third and again with 5:45 left to play in the frame, some of the spectators started the “overrated” chant for Bedard. Bedard was also subject to other heckling in the game.

Of course with a large number of eyes following everything associated with Bedard outside of the fanbases of the Pats and Blades, word of the “overrated” chant gained a little extra reaction on social media lines. Naturally, Pats fans chimed in that the taunt was classless. People who have no fan connection with either team or the WHL said the taunt was classless referencing the fact Bedard is 16-years-old.

As I’ve gotten older, I personally have grown more uncomfortable with taunting players who are still in their teenage years. It is something I wouldn’t do.

The reality is that for as long as major junior hockey or junior hockey has existed for that matter, heckling has been part of the game, and it will be part of the game for the foreseeable future.

I remember a visit I once had with former Blades owner Jack Brodsky. He told me that the fans paid money for the ticket, and if they don’t like the product they see on the ice, they have a right to “boo” or voice their displeasure with the product. The context of that visit did focus on the hometown fans being critical of the home team.

Major junior hockey is supposed to help prepare players for life in the professional ranks, and dealing with hecklers is part of that training too. If you don’t learn how to deal with that in rinks with 5,000 spectators, how do you deal with that in professional rinks with 18,000 spectators?

Of course, there is a line. Fans shouldn’t do anything that physically harms a player, yell something derogatory based on race or scream you wished a certain player was dead.

During my travels, I have been in WHL rinks where I have heard a spectator yell about wishing a player was dead, but at least the last instance of that was over 11 years ago. Wishing a player was dead is something that is never cool at any time.

Overall in Bedard’s case, I suspect he has developed thick enough skin, and he can chuckle about an “overrated” chant.

With that noted, Bedard and the Pats visit Prince Albert this coming Saturday to take on the Raiders at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre. The Raiders drew a season high crowd of 2,962 spectators to their 2,580 seat home rink the last time Bedard was in town on February 18.

He netted the OT winner in a 5-4 Pats victory that night. In the past, Raiders fans have gotten on opposing players they disliked like former Saskatoon Blades centre Kirby Dach in recent times, but they did it in a way no lines were crossed.

Still, there are a lot more eyes following Bedard’s every move, so hopefully those that decide to heckle are mindful about not going over the line.

Ice make case as WHL’s best team

The Winnipeg Ice are gaining more of an edge in the debate of who might be the WHL’s best team this season.

At the start of the season, the Ice often occupied first place in the WHL’s overall standings, and when they did slip out of the top spot, they were inside the top four overall in the league. They’ve usually shared the debate with the Central Division leading Edmonton Oil Kings, the B.C. Division leading Kamloops Blazers and the U.S. Division leading Everett Silvertips.

Going into action on Tuesday, the Ice were riding an 11-game winning streak that vaulted them back into first overall in the league. With a 47-9-3-2 record, the Ice, who have locked up top spot in the East Division, lead the 46-13-2-1 Oil Kings by four points for first overall.

Due to getting rescheduled home games that were postponed due to COVID-19 capacity restriction in January and February in Manitoba, the Ice had to play 15 games in the span of 27 days in March.

The Ice posted a 12-0-1-1 record in the first 14 contests of that stretch that was slated to close Tuesday with a home game against the Moose Jaw Warriors. The Ice showed off their depth during that run.

Going into action on Tuesday, the Ice have points in their previous 15 games posting 13 wins, an overtime loss and a shootout loss.

The Ice have nine players so far who have recorded 40 more points this season in Matthew Savoie, Connor McClennon, Mikey Milne, Conor Geekie, Jakin Smallwood, Benjamin Zloty, Zachary Benson, Jack Finley and Carson Lambos. They are getting solid goaltending from Daniel Hauser and Gage Alexander.

If the Ice enter the postseason playing as well as they are now, that could make the difference in them going all the way to the WHL final and winning it.

Raiders start “go time” stretch on hot streak


The Prince Albert Raiders might be catching fire at the right time to give the 2021-22 campaign a memorable ending.

The current season has been a reload, reset or transition type campaign for the Raiders. On the ice, the team aims to set groundwork that will result in benefits in future seasons as only 19-year-old forward Ozzy Wiesblatt remains from the 2018-19 WHL Championship winning team.

In the present, the Raiders are in the thick of the race to earn a post-season berth, and the team’s current group could leave a memorable mark with how they do in this push.

To start their final 18 games or about the final quarter of their regular season schedule, the Raiders have rolled off four wins and one extra time setback. Entering play on Tuesday, that little hot stretch vaulted the Raiders into eighth place and holders of the final playoff berth in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.

The 23-28-3-1 Raiders sit two points behind the 24-27-3-1 Lethbridge Hurricanes for seventh overall in the conference. The Raiders are two points ahead of the 22-27-3-1 Regina Pats and the 20-28-6-2 Calgary Hitmen, and Prince Albert is three points ahead of the 20-30-5-2 Swift Current Broncos.

The WHL has decided to go to the conference style format for this year’s playoffs which was last used in the 2013-14 campaign. Following the two division winners, the teams with the next six best records in the overall conference standings make the playoffs.

Basically, there are five teams at the moment battling for the last two playoff berths in the Eastern Conference, which means fans will be doing a lot of scoreboard watching. The Pats and Hitmen were in action on Tuesday night following the deadline for this column, so those results could potentially tighten up the scenario that has been laid out.

If the Raiders can extend their streak where they avoid losing in regulation, it will be a huge help in nailing down the post-season berth. To keep a current steak like the one they have going, the current team has to find different ways to win.

That means one night the power play might be hot, the next night someone on the third or fourth line scores a key goal, another night a first liner comes through with a four-point night or a team effort grinds things down defensively for a 1-0 win on another night.

During their last five games, the Raiders are seeing benefits from the improvement of import rookie netminder Tikhon Chaika. Chaika has stopped 140-of-148 shots and posted two shutouts backstopping the Raiders to a 4-0-1 record in their last five outings.

On Monday, Chaika was named the WHL’s goaltender of the week for the week of March 7 to 13 and on Tuesday he was named to the CHL’s team of the week for that same time period.

At the moment, the Raiders current season has some similarities to the 2017-18 campaign. Late in 2017-18, Raiders went on a stretch where they earned standing points in 11 consecutive contests, which include a run of nine straight wins.

That vaulted the Raiders to a 32-27-9-4 regular season record and into the playoffs, where the dropped a tightly contested seven game first round series to the Moose Jaw Warriors, who topped the WHL’s regular season standings that season. The finish of the 2017-18 campaign gave the large group of returning Raiders players the confidence and belief they could accomplish special things in 2018-19, when the team won the WHL title.

For the current Raiders, a good push to earn a post-season spot will make a statement they are a team to be reckoned with and won’t be an easy out.

Pachal set to make NHL debut, other notes

Brayden Pachal, who was the captain of the Raiders 2018-19 WHL Championship team, was set to make his NHL debut Tuesday with the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Knights were in Winnipeg to face the Jets, and Pachal was called up to help a Vegas squad that is expected to have 10 regulars out of the lineup. The 22-year-old defenceman is captain of the Knights AHL affiliate, the Henderson Silver Knights.

In 47 games with the Silver Knights this season, Pachal has posted one goal, seven assists and a minus-seven rating in the plus-minus department.

In the WHL, Pachal joined the Raiders part way through the 2016-17 campaign in a trade with the Victoria Royals. In 164 career regular season games with the Raiders, Pachal posted 25 goals, 64 assists and a plus-65 rating.

  • The Edmonton Oil Kings current 14-game winning streak is a franchise record. They will try to extend it Wednesday, when they host the Saskatoon Blades. The Blades are the last team to beat the Edmonton side with a 6-1 triumph back on Feb. 4 at the SaskTel Centre.
  • The head-to-head series between the Raiders and Blades this season seems to favour the road teams. The Blades have won three out of four meetings in Prince Albert, and The Raiders have claimed three out of four meetings in Saskatoon. They will collide again on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre for their second last head-to-head meeting of the campaign.
  • Just a reminder that the Raiders host the Swift Current Broncos on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre. That contest was rescheduled from Jan. 8 due to COVID-19 protocol factors.

Darren Steinke is a Saskatoon-based freelance sportswriter and photographer with more than 20 years of experience covering the WHL. He blogs frequently at, where he covers the Saskatoon Hilltops, Saskatoon Valkyries, University of Saskatchewan men’s and women’s hockey, U Sports football and Saskatchewan Female U18 AAA Hockey. He has the distinction of being in the building both times Game Seven of the WHL final went to overtime, including 2019 in Prince Albert.

Let’s keep CHL imports out of crossfire in tensions with Russia

Darren Steinke

Special to the Herald

Due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, what will be the fate of Russian and Belarusian players skating at the moment in the Canadian Hockey League?

That question will hopefully clear up in the coming days, weeks and possibly months.

The war between Russia and Ukraine was an issue Russian and Belarusian players in the CHL never saw coming at the start of the 2021-22 season. When the season started, the biggest concern was navigating the differing and changing restrictions regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

A lot of imports playing in the CHL elected to spend their Christmas breaks in North America instead of going home including the Prince Albert Raiders two Belarusian players in Tikhon Chaika and Vladislav Shilo.

About a week ago, Russia began its invasion of Ukraine and war resulted as Ukraine continues to put up a fierce defence.

Various sanctions have been imposed in the political world and the sports world.

On Monday, the International Ice Hockey Federation kicked all Russian and Belarusian national teams and clubs from its competitions until further notice. The IIHF stripped Russia as host of the world juniors that were to be held this coming December and January in Saint Petersburg.

Belarus was kicked out for allowing Russian forces to travel through Belarusian territory to invade Ukraine.

Hockey Canada issued a release on Monday condemning the Russian attack and said it supports the IIHF decision. Hockey Canada also stated it won’t allow the participation of teams from Russia and Belarus in events held in Canada that don’t fall under the IIHF’s jurisdiction.

At the NHL level, there have been calls for contracts with Russian players to be suspended most notably by Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Dominik Hasek, who is from the Czech Republic. There have been fans phoning into sports talk shows mirroring Hasek’s sentiment.

On Monday, the NHL did suspend its ties with Russian business partners.

On the CHL front, the OHL was the first of the three member leagues including the WHL and QMJHL to issue a statement. On Tuesday, the OHL condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and supported the measure brought in by the IIHF and Hockey Canada.

The OHL statement added, “The OHL remains in communication with its member teams, monitoring the well-being of all players and especially those European players originating from countries directly impacted by the conflict. These young student-athletes have the full support of the Ontario Hockey League as they continue to represent their respective teams, regardless of their country of origin.”

On Monday, Jeff Marek of Sportsnet reported the CHL will hold an executive call Wednesday to discuss the Russian situation.

For Russian and Belarusian players currently playing in the CHL, they should be allowed to play out the rest of the 2021-22 campaign in the short term. They came to the CHL to pursue hockey dreams of making the NHL, and all the decisions made regarding the war between Russia and Ukraine are way above their heads.

At the start of the season last October, most people in the world didn’t imagine Russia would invade Ukraine.

The Russian and Belarusian players in the CHL aren’t professionals making millions of dollars. In the grand scheme of things, they are just starting out in life.

They aren’t Washington Capitals superstar captain Alexander Ovechkin, who is getting hammered for his links to Russian president Vladimir Putin and for not taking a tougher stance against the Russian invasion. You could easily spend an afternoon doing an online search to check out all the heat Ovechkin is getting.

When the 2021-22 campaign is complete, the fate of Russian and Belarusian players in the CHL is uncertain. It is possible they might not be able to get home, even if they wanted to return home.

It would be hard for any team to take any Russians or Belarusians in the next CHL Import Draft, because there is no certainty they could come to North America. It is possible a decision could be made to ban the selection of Russians and Belarusians in the next Import Draft.

In the present, the Russian and Belarusian players that are already in the CHL should be supported by the teams and communities they play in. The only certainty they have right now in life is preparing for the next hockey game as the sports still provides daily structure.

Ultimately, they are not the enemy, are still teenagers, are far from home and no one envisioned they would be put in this spot.

Blades’ Maier chases career win record

On a more cheerful note, Saskatoon Blades overage netminder Nolan Maier is in striking distance of breaking the WHL record for career regular season goaltending wins.

On Sunday, Maier picked up his 115th career win when the Blades downed the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors 4-2 at the SaskTel Centre. He is five wins away from equaling the WHL record for career regular season victories.

The record of 120 wins is held jointly by Corey Hirsch and Tyson Sexsmith.

Hirsch picked up his 120 victories playing four seasons with the Kamloops Blazers from 1988 to 1992. Sexsmith collected his 120 wins over five seasons with the Vancouver Giants from 2004 to 2009. He also had one non-decision relief appearance as a loaned out player to the Medicine Hat Tigers late in the 2004-05 campaign.

The Blades have 18 games remaining on their regular season schedule, so Maier has a pretty good chance of breaking that record.

Protas still missed in “Hockey Town North”


Aliaksei Protas will always be a favourite and a hero in “Hockey Town North.”
In two seasons from 2018 to 2020, Protas left an unforgettable mark playing for the Prince Albert Raiders appearing in 119 regular season games posting 42 goals, 78 assists and a plus-61 rating in the plus-minus department. He showed how much import players can be taken into the hearts of a fanbase of a WHL community, which included picking up the nickname “The Viper of Vitebsk” during his time in P.A.
As a 17-year-old rookie in 2018-19, Protas, who is from Vitebsk, Belarus, appeared in 61 regular season games collecting 11 goals, 29 assists and a plus-24 rating. Raiders fans were drawn towards the good-natured forward that stood 6-foot-6 and weighed in at 210 pounds.
His fan favourite status skyrocketed to hockey cult hero level during the 2019 WHL playoffs. In the Raiders march to winning the WHL Championship, Protas broke out to another level collecting 12 goals, 10 assists and a plus-12 rating appearing in all 23 of his team’s games in the WHL post-season.
The skilled centre had an impressive follow up 18-year-old sophomore season in 2019-20 leading the Raiders in scoring piling up 31 goals, 49 assists and a plus-37 rating in 58 games. The Raiders won the WHL’s East Division title.
They never got to find out just how good that campaign could have been as the tail end of the regular season and the post-season was nixed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has gripped the world.
In March of 2020, no one envisioned Protas would never suit up for the Raiders again. When the Raiders played an abbreviated 24-game regular season in a bubble environment in Regina, Protas remained mainly at home in Belarus playing on loan for HC Dinamo Minsk of the KHL.
Raiders fans tracked Protas online as he appeared in 58 regular season games posting 10 goals and eight assists. He helped HC Dinoma Minsk win the Belarusian Cup as the national champions of Belarus.
With the NHL playing more of a normal schedule this season, Protas got to more seriously pursue making the Washington Capitals, who selected him in the third round and 91st overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
So far this season, Protas has appeared in 33 regular season games with the Capitals collecting three goals, six assists and a plus-four rating. Last Friday, he was reassigned to the Capitals AHL affiliate the Hersey Bears.
Raiders fans have still been following Protas’ time in the Capitals system and celebrating the high points like his first NHL goal. Protas proved import players can leave enduring legacies in the WHL communities they play in even if they are just there for a couple of seasons.
Lowly Chiefs end Winterhawks monster streak, other notes
The Portland Winterhawks had a monster success streak going that was brought to an end by the lowly Spokane Chiefs.
Last Saturday, the host Chiefs downed the visiting Winterhawks 3-2 at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. That brought an end to an 11-game winning streak by the Winterhawks.
The Chiefs win also halted the Winterhawks streak of getting at least one standings point in 18 straight games. During that streak, the Winterhawks posted 17 wins and lost one contest after a tiebreaking shootout.
Going into Tuesday’s action where the Winterhawks and Chiefs are slated to meet again in Spokane, the Winterhawks sat third overall in the Western Conference with a 29-12-3-2 record, while the Chiefs were second last in the conference with a 13-27-3-1 mark.
While the Winterhawks had an impressive run, their setback to the Chiefs is a reminder that teams near the top of the standings aren’t automatically given a pass when it comes to beating clubs near the bottom of the standings.
Saskatoon Blades veteran left-winger Kyle Crnkovic leads the WHL in scoring with 69 points coming on 30 goals and 39 assists. The last Blades player to win the WHL scoring title was centre Mark Deyell back in the 1995-96 campaign. Deyell had 159 points coming on 61 goals and 98 assists appearing in 69 regular season games in that campaign for the Blades.
Since being acquired in a trade with the Prince George Cougars late this past December, overage netminder Taylor Gauthier has won his first 10 starts with the Winterhawks posting a 1.29 goals against average, a .955 save percentage and three shutouts. He seems set to finish his WHL career playing at an on fire level.
Olen Zellweger of the Everett Silvertips leads the WHL in scoring by a defenceman going into action on Tuesday. The 18-year-old has 48 points coming on 10 goals and 38 assists in 35 appearances with the Silvertips. Zellweger has a plus-38 rating to go with his point totals as well.
The NHL’s Edmonton Oilers won their first two games with Dave Manson behind the bench as an assistant coach and gave up only one goal in the process. The Oilers picked up their first shutout win of the season on Monday blanking the Sharks in San Jose 3-0. For those in Prince Albert that have seen Manson coach the Raiders back end as an assistant and associate coach in the 2000s and 2010s, the Oilers immediate statistical improvement won’t come as a surprise. Manson has a vast base of knowledge to pass on playing for the Raiders from 1982 to 1986 and 1,103 career regular season games in the NHL from 1986 to 2002.
Darren Steinke is a Saskatoon-based freelance sportswriter and photographer with more than 20 years of experience covering the WHL. He blogs frequently at, where he covers the Saskatoon Hilltops, Saskatoon Valkyries, University of Saskatchewan men’s and women’s hockey, U Sports football and Saskatchewan Female U18 AAA Hockey. He has the distinction of being in the building both times Game Seven of the WHL final went to overtime, including 2019 in Prince Albert.

Emergence of Kosior important for Raiders in reload


Darren Steinke

Special to the Herald

When a team is going through a reload, you need someone to be an example of the good that comes when you do things right every day.

Landon Kosior has become that example for the Prince Albert Raiders. The 19-year-old Regina product stepped in the role of offensive-defenceman especially after the Raiders traded star rearguard Kaiden Guhle to the Edmonton Oil Kings in a blockbuster deal on Dec. 1, 2021.

In 39 regular season games, Kosior has collected nine goals and 16 assists for 25 points. His goal and point totals are career highs.

Playing in his third season in the WHL, Kosior is finding the offensive touch he had when he played in younger age groups coming up through minor hockey. Before joining the Raiders, Kosior had his most memorable campaign playing for the Tisdale Trojans under-18 AAA team in 2018-19.

With the Trojans that season, Kosior led the SMAAAHL in defenceman scoring with nine goals and 43 assists in 44 regular season games being named a first team league all-star.

Even with that past success, there were no guarantees for Kosior when it came to cracking the WHL. He was never drafted by any WHL teams likely due to a perceived lack of size for a major junior defenceman. Kosior stands 5-foot-11 and weighing 189 pounds this season.

That stellar season with the Trojans was enough for to earn Kosior a training camp invite from the Raiders in 2019. The Raiders were fresh off winning the WHL championship in May of that year.

With the Raiders needing to fill three regular spots on defence for the 2019-20 campaign, Kosior impressed enough that the Raiders signed him on Sept. 3, 2019, and he has been a regular on the back end ever since.

He has continued to improve even with club playing an abbreviated 24-game campaign last season in a bubble environment in Regina due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has gripped the world.

Even with the challenges the pandemic has presented, Kosior showed it is possible to get better with training time and abbreviated game time on the ice.

For the rest of the Raiders players going forward especially for the younger players, they can look at Kosior to see what can happen when you bring an honest effort to the rink every day. Plus, the Raiders will likely have him next season as 20-year-old player, and he will continue to be a good example of what is possible for the rest of the squad.

Going the rest of the way this season, the Raiders are looking to be in tough to capture a playoff berth. They currently have 32 points in the standings coming from a 15-22-1-1 record and are three points behind the 15-21-4-1 Swift Current Broncos for the final wildcard berth in the Eastern Conference with two games in hand.

The Raiders have to contend with the fact two sit between them and the Broncos in the standings. Both the Regina Pats (16-19-0-1) and Lethbridge Hurricanes (15-18-2-1) are one point ahead of the Raiders and both those clubs have three games in hand on the P.A. side and five games in hand on the Broncos.

It is possible the Raiders could go on a nine game winning streak like they did late in the 2017-18 campaign to vault into a playoff spot in a building season. At the moment, it can get daunting looking at the standings every day.

In the present, the Raiders come to the rink each day looking to get better and over time they will see the improvement that Kosior has had in his personal game.

Memorial Cup might get pushed back

The QMJHL appears set to finally return to action, but the circuit’s missed time might push back the dates of the Memorial Cup.

Last Friday, the QMJHL announced all 18 of its franchises will have resumed team activities as of this coming Thursday. The QMJHL last hit the ice with games on Dec. 18, 2021 before the circuit went on its Christmas break. It hadn’t been able to return to action due to various issues regarding COVID-19.

In the announcement last Friday, the QMJHL said it intends to play a full 68-game regular season that will conclude on May 1. The league has slated its playoffs to run from May 5 to June 15.

The Saint John Sea Dogs, who are QMJHL members, are scheduled to host the Memorial Cup tournament to determine a CHL champion from June 4 to 13 in Saint John, New Brunswick.

The QMJHL followed with a schedule announcement, and the circuit is scheduled to resume play this coming Friday with five games. The circuit is still working through how its remaining schedule will look and on Tuesday it announced how games are to look for the week of Feb. 7 – 13.

No announcement has been made regarding the Memorial Cup schedule. The schedule conflict is quite obvious.

Of course, the league champions of the WHL and OHL play in the Memorial Cup. While both the WHL and OHL have dealt with numerous schedule postponements due to COVID-19, both circuits are still aiming to complete their regular seasons by April 3.

This will be a storyline to keep an eye on as the CHL campaign continues to unfold.

Darren Steinke is a Saskatoon-based freelance sportswriter and photographer with more than 20 years of experience covering the WHL. He blogs frequently at, where he covers the Saskatoon Hilltops, Saskatoon Valkyries, University of Saskatchewan men’s and women’s hockey, U Sports football and Saskatchewan Female U18 AAA Hockey. He has the distinction of being in the building both times Game Seven of the WHL final went to overtime, including 2019 in Prince Albert.

Stanks on sports: regular milestones like first goals always special in WHL


Darren Steinke

Special to the Herald

Sometimes the best memories in a WHL season come from regularly occurring milestone moments.

One of those moments comes from scoring your first career goal in either regular season or post-season play. Pretty much everyone who plays in the WHL remembers their first goal in a meaningful game.

In the Prince Albert Raiders’ final contest before they headed off for their WHL Christmas break last Saturday, Tayem Gislason experienced that special milestone.

With the Raiders locked in a 1-1 draw with the host Saskatoon Blades at the SaskTel Centre, Gislason, who is playing in his second WHL campaign, put a point shot on goal through a screen that ended up inside the Saskatoon net.

That tally gave the Raiders a 2-1 lead with 7:46 remaining in the third period and stood up as the winner after Prince Albert added two empty-net goals to round out a 4-1 victory. Gislason’s tally was his first career WHL goal, and it came in a timely spot.

Following that game, I went to down to interview Gislason about his big goal. When I reached the ground floor of the SaskTel Centre, a familiar scene that played out many times before occurred.

After interviewing Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid, I went to see Raiders long time athletic therapist Duane “Puff” Bartley about getting Gislason. The entrance to the visitors’ dressing room isn’t far from the main hallway of the ground floor of the SaskTel Centre, and you can often hear big cheers when they are made.

Bartley went into the Raiders dressing room, and to get over all the dressing room conversations, I could hear Bartley raise his voice to tell Gislason that he was needed for an interview.

All of a sudden, Bartley’s request was greeted by the rest of the team with a big “Woooo!”

That reaction showed Gislason is well liked by his teammates. As a defensive-defenceman, Gislason doesn’t get to do too many interviews, so there was happiness seeing he would get a bit of a spotlight.

He emerged from the dressing room with a big smile on his face and his emotions were a mix of happiness and nervousness about being interviewed. Overall, I thought he did a good job talking about scoring his first goal.

He said it was exciting to get that tally, and it felt like a weight off his shoulders to score a goal in the WHL. Gislason said he thought the shot was tipped in by someone so there was some surprise to know he was being credited with the goal.

Obviously, Gislason had quite the good recent story to tell family and friends back home in Winnipeg, Man., when the Raiders departed for their WHL Christmas break after that game.

For myself, it never gets old talking to a player about scoring his first career goal in the WHL. In dressing rooms across the WHL, that series of steps including teammates cheering the fact a first time goal scorer is going to be interviewed has played out many times before.

Each time it happens, it is a great scene. It is those moments that add to making a WHL season enjoyable.

With many leagues like the NHL, NBA and NFL having postponements recently due to positive coronavirus (COVID-19) tests, you cross your fingers hoping the WHL season can progress as straightforward as possible.

That would allow more special moments and memories to be created like Gislason’s first goal.

WHL news and notes: Ice are legit good when they are on

The WHL leading Winnipeg Ice are the class of the league, when they are at the top of their game.

After falling 4-1 to the Raiders at the Art Hauser Centre on Dec. 14, the Ice went into Saskatoon the next night and thumped the host Blades 6-0 at the SaskTel Centre.

In the win over the Blades, five different players accounted for the Ice’s goals, and their play on the ice was as convincing as the final score.

The Raiders have to be pleased they’ve been able to beat the Ice twice this season.

Still, the Ice are scary good, when they are playing at the top of their game.

  • • Former Raiders and current Edmonton Oil Kings star defenceman Kaiden Guhle was named the captain for Canada’s entry at world juniors that start this coming Sunday in Edmonton and Red Deer. It is a well-earned accomplishment for one of the best rearguards in the world at the junior age level.
  • • Steve Konowalchuk has had a big impact taking over as the head coach of the Red Deer Rebels before the start of this season. In an abbreviated campaign last season, the Rebels posted a 4-15-4 record in the 23 contests they played. So far this season, the Rebels are 20-9-1-1 at the WHL Christmas break.
  • • With it being the holiday season, I hope everyone out there has a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. I hope this time treats everyone well.

Raiders got offer they couldn’t refuse in Guhle trade


Darren Steinke

Special to the Herald

About 10 years ago a veteran WHL executive told me you could trade for anyone in the league, and it just depended on what you wanted to give up.

For the Prince Albert Raiders, the return on what they could get for captain Kaiden Guhle ended up being too good to pass up. Just seven days ago, the 19-year-old star defenceman was dealt to the Edmonton Oil Kings in a blockbuster deal.

In return, the Raiders received 18-year-old forward Carson Latimer, 17-year-old defenceman Eric Johnston, the 13th overall selection on the WHL Prospects Draft that is set for Thursday, a sixth round pick in the 2022 Prospects Draft, a first round selection in the 2023 Prospects Draft and a conditional third round selection in the 2025 Prospects Draft.

The trade came hours after it was announced Guhle was invited to the selection camp for Canada’s world junior team that begins on Thursday in Calgary.

Guhle, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 200 pounds, can be considered the best blue-liner in the WHL. He was selected in the first round and 16th overall in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens and has a signed NHL Entry Level contract with the storied franchise.

Guhle was a regular on the back end as a 16-year-old rookie helping the Raiders win a WHL championship in a spectacular 2018-19 campaign for the community owned franchise. He also helped Canada earn a silver medal finish at world juniors last season.

He has two goals, 15 assists and a plus-two rating in the plus-minus department in 19 games split between the Raiders and Oil Kings this season.

The reason the Raiders got such a good return for him was due to all those accolades combined with the fact the Raiders likely didn’t want to trade him. The Raiders are still in the hunt for one of the four lower playoff seeds in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.

The Oil Kings sit second overall in the Eastern Conference with an 18-4-2-1 record. They are looking for a way to get on more of an even footing with the Eastern Conference leading Winnipeg Ice, who have a 22-2-1 mark.

In the present, the Oil Kings really wanted Guhle, who grew up just outside of Edmonton in Sherwood Park. To get Guhle, they were ready to pay the price.

For the Raiders, the offer was something they couldn’t refuse.

They got great draft picks to help with the future, and Latimer and Johnston might be able to help with the present and future.

Ice set arms-race with Finley deal?
The Ice appear to be setting the stage for an arms race between the two leaders in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.

On Monday, the Ice made a blockbuster trade to acquire Spokane Chiefs 19-year-old captain and power forward Jack Finley, who stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 223 pounds. Finley has a signed NHL Entry Level contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning and will attend the selection camp for Canada’s world junior team that begins on Thursday in Calgary.

Finley and a seventh round selection in the 2024 WHL Prospects Draft were sent to Winnipeg in exchange for 18-year-old right-winger and Prince Albert Mintos under-18 AAA grad Chase Bertholet, 19-year-old centre James Form and a second round selection in the 2024 WHL Prospects Draft.

Finley has eight goals, eight assists, 40 penalty minutes and a minus-four rating appearing in all of the outings in the Chiefs 6-12-2-1 start. As a 17-year-old in 2019-20, Finley collected 19 goals, 38 assists and a plus-32 rating in 61 games with the Chiefs.

The Ice likely made this deal to help counter the trade the Oil Kings made to acquire Guhle from the Raiders.

With the WHL U.S. Priority Draft set for today and Prospects Draft slated for Thursday, these deals by the Oil Kings and Ice might be the prelude of more trades to come.

Stanks on sports: Raiders underdog Peekeekoot is an easy player to root for


Darren Steinke

Special to the Herald

Based on just his draft status, Dallyn Peekeekoot might always be an underdog story.

Peekeekoot was selected by the Prince Albert Raiders in the 10th round and 220th overall in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft, which is now know as the WHL Prospects Draft. With that selection, the product of the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation had no guarantees of being a WHL regular.

The draft selection meant he would have a chance to come to at least a couple of Raiders training camps to try and make an impression. The high energy right-winger ended up being able to do just that.

Peekeekoot cracked the Raiders roster as a 16-year-old to play a shortened regular season in a bubble environment at the Brandt Centre in Regina this past March and April against the WHL’s other member teams from Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The shortened season was developed to allow teams to play with health orders that were in place to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Peekeekoot, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 208 pounds, got into 15 of the Raiders 24 games in the Regina hub centre posting four goals, two assists and a minus-two rating in the plus-minus department.

His best outing came on April 8, when he had a goal, two assists and took part in a fight in 5-3 setback against the archrival Saskatoon Blades.

During that shortened campaign, it was common for the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation to hold drive-in watch parties to watch Peekeekoot play on big video screens.

He played with a lot of energy and feistiness, but he was under control. Peekeekoot only had 12 penalty minutes for the campaign.

With the way he played that season, Peekeekoot fit the mould of the romantic vision of the textbook Raiders player.

Add in that he came from the place that is the home to late great hockey ambassador Fred Sasakamoose, it amplifies Peekeekoot’s story in that he is following in Sasakamoose’s strides.

So far this season as a 17-year-old sophomore, Peekeekoot has a goal and a minus-one rating appearing in all of the Raiders games as they struggled out to a 2-7 start. Despite the start, Peekeekoot has still brought a good effort level to each game.

As a 10th round draft selection, he has already surpassed any expectations of what a team can get from a player picked in that spot.

Still, you hope Peekeekoot continues to give more reasons to cheer him as his WHL career goes on.

WHL notes: Blade dynamic duo start hot, Pats struggle

The Saskatoon Blades dynamic duo of Tristen Robins and Kyle Crnkovic have picked up where they left off the past two seasons.

In helping the Blades get out to a 6-1-1 start, Robins, who is his 20-year-old and is signed by the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, has four goals, 11 assists and a plus-four rating playing his centre position. Crnkovic, who has been the left-winger on Robin’s line since the start of the 2019-20 season, has six goals, six assists and an even rating.

For the bulk of their WHL careers, Robins and Crnkovic, who is 19-years-old, have been consistent scorers. In their swan song season as linemates, you can expect them to continue to score and help the Blades pile up wins.

  • Safe to say a 9-0 start makes the Winnipeg Ice the team to beat in the WHL this season. On a side note, Brian Munz, who was the Raiders play-by-play voice from 2001 to 2004, became the Ice play-by-play voice at the start of this season.
  • Phenom centre Connor Bedard is starting to encounter some struggles 16-year-olds go through in the WHL. The Pats have slipped to 2-7 and are currently on a seven-game losing streak. Over those nine games, Bedard has four goals, two assists and a minus-nine rating.

Darren Steinke is a Saskatoon-based freelance sportswriter and photographer with more than 20 years of experience covering the WHL. He blogs frequently at, where he covers the Saskatoon Hilltops, Saskatoon Valkyries, University of Saskatchewan men’s and women’s hockey, U Sports football and Saskatchewan Female U18 AAA Hockey. He has the distinction of being in the building both times Game Seven of the WHL final went to overtime, including 2019 in Prince Albert.

Great Raiders memories live on despite nixing of logo


Darren Steinke
Stanks on Sports

The Prince Albert Raiders traditional logo may have been nixed, but the great memories the team created while using that insignia will live on.

With a late release that was sent at 9:29 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2, the WHL issued a statement about the Raiders new alternate uniforms that were unveiled one day earlier. They were patterned after jerseys the club wore from 1982 to 1996.

The statement seemed to bring an end to the Raiders continuing use of their traditional logo with the Arab on skates caricature.

While Raiders followers were disappointed over this decision, it doesn’t erase the memories the team created. That old logo was drawn up part way through the 1973-74 season, when the Raiders were still playing in the junior A ranks.

They won their four Centennial Cups as national junior A champions and the WHL title and Memorial Cup as major junior champions in 1985 wearing that logo. Terry Simpson’s lengthy list of wins as the team’s head coach and general manager came in that era.

Raiders fans saw Dan Hodgson, Dave Pasin, Emanuel Viveiros, Pat Elynuik, Dave Manson, Mike Modano, Dean McAmmond, Jeff Nelson and Chris Phillips perform heroics wearing jerseys that the dumped alternate third jersey was styled after.

All those moments from that era remain in Raiders lore.

I believe the WHL and the Raiders took a reading about possible heat after the new alternate third jersey was unveiled and made a decision to get ahead of the story. That move ultimately made the heat disappear.

It feels like the pressure against the third jersey and logo originated from outside of Prince Albert. The criticism is the logo is insensitive to Middle East cultural groups.

The Raiders had been selling merchandise with that old logo for years, because it was that well loved by Raiders fans, who bought the products. Here is hoping the team is allowed flexibility to clear out the inventory of items they have with the old logo.

No matter where you sit on this matter, the memories of the Raiders great past history will remain.

Guhle returns, P.A. deals for Stanick

The Raiders are getting some much needed help with the return of their captain Kaiden Guhle.

They also attempted to strengthen up their forward group as well.

On Monday, Guhle was assigned by the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens back to the Raiders. The Sherwood Park, Alta., product is a gifted enough player that he will add a tremendous boost to the Raiders back end.

That should help the team break out if its 0-4 start.

On Tuesday, the Raiders traded 18-year-old defenceman Adam McNutt, who stands 6-feet and weighs 200 pounds, to the Regina Pats for 18-year-old left-winger Sloan Stanick, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 177 pounds.

McNutt was a minus-four in the plus-minus department in four games this season, while Stanick had two goals and two assists in five games for the Pats.

Stanick put up points coming up through minor hockey but hasn’t had a breakout in his first two complete seasons in the WHL. The change of scenery might help give him a new start.

I should note, the Raiders were 99-39-11-7 over the last three regular seasons, and in junior hockey, the reload does eventually catch up to you. It appears the Raiders will be working through that this season.

Darren Steinke is a Saskatoon-based freelance sportswriter and photographer with more than 20 years of experience covering the WHL. He blogs frequently at, where he covers the Saskatoon Hilltops, Saskatoon Valkyries, University of Saskatchewan men’s and women’s hockey, U Sports football and Saskatchewan Female U18 AAA Hockey. He has the distinction of being in the building both times Game Seven of the WHL final went to overtime, including 2019 in Prince Albert.

The Art Hauser Centre – One of WHL’s last great fabled homes


Darren Steinke — Special to the Herald

The Art Hauser Centre is one of the WHL’s last great storied rinks.

When you step inside, you always envision Dante Hannoun scoring his Game 7 overtime winner to deliver the WHL Championship to the Prince Albert Raiders in May of 2019. It is the signature moment in the building’s history that has been home to a Raiders franchise that won four Centennial Cups as junior A champions, two WHL titles and captured the Memorial Cup in 1985 reaching the CHL’s mountaintop.

On Friday, the Hauser will host is first meaningful WHL game since March 6, 2020 when the Regina Pats make a 7 p.m. visit for the regular season opener for both sides. Of course, the absence of meaningful Raiders home games was caused due to the world’s battles with the COVID-19 pandemic.

When comes time for the faithful in “Hockey Town North” to take their seats on Friday, you can expect memories cheering the likes of Alvin Moore, Theran Welsh, Dave Manson, Mike Modano, Kyle Chipchura, Parker Kelly and Sean Montgomery will cross the mind.

It might even feel like Terry Simpson is behind the Raiders bench teaming with Marc Habscheid on the coaching front.

It will seem like supporters like late Raiders president Doug Winterton is still taking his seat in spirit in the front row of the northwest corner of the building.

Of course, the echoes of “The Song in Prince Albert is Go Raiders Go” through the building’s rafters make the Hauser feel like home for Raiders fans.

Slowly throughout the WHL over the past 10 years, great old storied buildings like The Arena in Medicine Hat and the Moose Jaw Civic Centre, which was famously known as “The Crushed Can,” have met their ends.

The Hauser is becoming the last of its kind, and any moments spent inside its walls are times to be cherished.

Bedard attention a good thing

Get used to the extra attention Regina Pats phenom centre Connor Bedard will get from media at the local, provincial and national levels, because it won’t go away.

The 16-year-old is likely a lock as the first overall selection in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. There will be a sizable amount of people that will moan about the attention Bedard receives.

Still, Bedard’s presence gives the WHL an extra spotlight it would not normally have. For the league, that is a good thing.

  • • I wish the best of luck to now Daily Herald sports scribe alum Lucas Punkari on new adventures with the Brandon Sun. P.A. was lucky to have Punkari. I’m sure he’ll keep the Brandon locals informed of the latest happenings with the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
  • • Safe to say the hockey world wishes a speedy recovery to Medicine Hat Tigers iconic play-by-play voice Bob Ridley, who announced on Monday he will miss the start of the WHL regular season to undergo radiation treatment in Lethbridge. Since the Tigers first hit the ice in 1970-71, Ridley has call 4,021 of the club’s 4,022 games played in the WHL regular season, post-season, one standings tiebreaker and the CHL’s Memorial Cup tournament. He drove the team bus for most of that time. One day, he should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Darren Steinke is a Saskatoon-based freelance sportswriter and photographer with more than 20 years of experience covering the WHL. He blogs frequently at, where he covers the Saskatoon Hilltops, Saskatoon Valkyries, University of Saskatchewan men’s and women’s hockey, CIS football, and Saskatchewan Female U18 AAA Hockey. He has the distinction of being in the building both times Game Seven of the WHL final went to overtime, including 2019 in Prince Albert.