Dave’s Dis N’ Dat: Hats Of To Hoppy AND The Hat!

The WHL is preparing for the post-season. The CFL is getting set for the season ahead and beyond. Plus, Memories from some greats that are retiring this week!

That and more in store for you with my weekly scattering of thoughts with some of Dave’s Dis N’ Dat.

Let’s start with hockey this week and the WHL regular season will come to a close this weekend. As is the cyclical nature of junior hockey a number of great players will play their final games for teams, that some, have been a part of since they were 14. Yes that’s six years or more than a quarter of their life!

For the Saskatoon Blades they will bid adieu to graduating forwards Sam McKechnie and captain Brett Stovin. For Stovie, I have had the privellege of knowing him since he entered the Blades organization back in 2010-2011 when he suited up for six regular season games. In addition to being a great leader for the Blades, Stovin was also an amazing community ambassador. His dedication to the fans and especially the young fans has not gone unnoticed. Here’s to all the best for Brett.

Continuing with the Stony Mountain, Manitoba product and Stovin provided my moment of the Blades Memorial Cup in 2013. Stovin had a penalty killing shift that I will never forget. After a disappointing start to the tournament, a 3-2 loss to London, the franchise needed a win to regain the support of the city and build a buzz around the tournament. The opportunity came in a Sunday night game against the eventual tournament winners from Halifax. In a hotly contested battle the Blades ran into penalty trouble in the second period. In the second of back-to-back penalty kills, Stovin and the other three killers were stuck on the ice with the Mooseheads throwing everything at them. Unable to get off the ice with the long change Stovin poured his heart out getting in the way of three Halifax shots. The penalty would expire and before Stovin who was now feeling the effects of those shot blocks could get off the ice, Andrey Makarov made a save and held onto the puck to bring us to the TV time-out. As Brett was being helped off the ice by his team mates the crowd erupted in a show of respect for his efforts, it was an ovation that I had never heard at the rink before and haven’t heard since! Spine chilling stuff.

The Blades will wrap up their season with a home and home series with the Medicine Hat Tigers. If you are asking why with the Tigers the answer can be found in history! The first game at the Medicine Hat Arena featured the Tigers hosting the Saskatoon Blades October 15, 1970. Therefore the rinks final regular season game will once again feature the same two clubs.

The Medicine Hat Arena was one of my favorite stops in the Eastern Conference! Not only is the organization and fans great it is also home to the legendary Bob Ridley. Rids is an icon to young broadcasters in the Dub and an opportunity to see, hear, speak and learn from Bob was always a blast. I’m sure that more visiting broadcasters have put a microphone in is face to fill a pre-game or intermission slot than have gone to interview Tiger players! My best story from the old barn was heading down to ice level in search of a Willie Desjardins pre-game interview. The, now Head Coach of the Vancouver Canucks, was in his office complete with sub-six foot ceilings under the stands just past the team’s laundry facility. Willie emerged and I asked if he would like to go somewhere with more room to do the interview. He quipped, “it’s a little cold outside.” What a beauty!

More from the WHL and you have to feel for the Regina Pats! A late season injury to star Sam Steele will have him out of action for up to eight weeks. Essentially the first two rounds of play-offs. While the Pats re-tooled their roster for the future in January the team still had a legitimate shot to make some noise in the post season. However, that opportunity has taken a serious hit with the loss of Steele. Unfortunately, this sounds like broken record for the Pats as heading into the play-offs last year the Pats lost Saskatoon-born goaltender, Daniel Wappel to an eerily similar injury.

To football and the Canadian Football League’s ability to keep the name of new commissioner Jeffery Orridge under wraps until just before the announcement was made was impressive. I think that Orridge will do well in the role and may bring a new approach to the game and the league. I will be curious to see how nice he will play with rights holder TSN as we was on the opposite side of that fence with his position at CBC.

From new to old (in no way is that a shot) the Saskatchewan Roughriders formally said goodbye to outgoing President and CEO Jim Hopson yesterday. To say that he left the franchise in a better spot than when he started is the under-statement of the franchise’s history. The legacy, I believe, that Hopson leaves behind is the principle that Saskatchewan no longer needs to settle for being good. We now strive to be the best, always!
I found it intriguing to hear in his exit news conference that the hardest thing that he had to do during his tenure was relieve General Manager Roy Shivers of his duties mid-season. In retrospect the move worked well as the club went on to win the Grey Cup the following year with his successors. Even more interesting to me is the Plaza of Honour Poll on the right. As of this moment Richie Hall is running away with the vote but interesting to me is that Danny Barret is ahead of both Roy Shivers and Ken Miller in the voting.

Now that I reminisced about others my favorite Jim Hopson moment is a no brainer! Mr. Hopson always had time for the fans and his generosity and humility always shone through. On game days he would take a moments to address concerns, greet all fans and most impressive of all is that he would look them all in the eye while doing it! Now there is a story I could tell following the 101st Grey Cup. Instead, my favorite moment was when Mr. Hopson took time away from sponsors, colleagues and fellow alumni to share some of his memories of his former friend and my coach Len Williams. The conversation lasted only about three or four minutes but the sincerity and ability to convey stories was amazing! Not a lot of people know what Mr. Hopson did for Lenny’s family or hundreds of others around the province and the country but that modesty is one of the things that makes him great! Enjoy some you time sir!