Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Best of the WMBL

This year I was fortunate enough to cover the entire Swift Current Indians season. It was a journey that spanned from the top of Telus Field in Edmonton to the rustic score keeper boxes of Pirie Field in Melville. It was a privilege to see every team, every ballpark, every promotion and every bit of the game day experiences from around the WMBL.

If you want to know who the best players in the WMBL were this year, click here. This is a 'best of' list of the things that surround the great game. Myself and my wife and camera person Christina pondered and debated this list at great length. I would advise any baseball fan to do a WMBL tour and hit each of the ten venues within the league to see what makes the WMBL truly special.

1. Best Stadium: Seaman Stadium, home of the Okotoks Dawgs.

This is a two horse race. On one hand, there is the gigantic Telus Field in Edmonton. Built in the 1990's to host professional AAA baseball in the Alberta capital, Telus Field is the second largest baseball stadium in Canada.  Telus sports a seating capacity of 10,000. A home plate lounge, luxury suites, scenic views of Edmonton and a dynamite concession (more on that later) give fans an experience similar to attending a minor pro game.

(the view of Swift Current Indians batting practice from the home plate lounge in Edmonton)

However, the size of Telus field works against it. The Edmonton Prospects draw crowds close to 1,000. That would be huge in most WMBL markets, but makes Telus Field appear mostly empty. While the Prospects drew 7,000+ for Canada Day, the mastadonic stadium remains less than 1/5 full for most of the season.

Seaman Stadium in Okotoks is a ball park designed to be the crown jewel of the WMBL. A venue that comfortably holds 3,000 people, the Okotoks Dawgs draw from the community of Okotoks and the massive metropolis of Calgary which is just minutes to the north.  Crowds in the thousands are routine in Okotoks. A great sound system, beautiful ballpark, numerous concession items, bar stools and counter high tables around the seating area give the Dawgs the title for best ball park. If you're a sports fan and able to get to Okotoks during the WMBL season, you owe it to yourself to go there.

2. Best Fans: Lethbridge Bulls

Spitz Stadium in Lethbridge is a tough park to win in. The Bulls are always competitive on the field, and in the stands Lethbridge has a smattering of world class hecklers. The fans in Lethbridge have got in the heads of opposition players and have factored into the outcome of games. Coaches from around the league are reading this piece and yelling 'don't encourage them!' at the screen.

The Edmonton Prospects are gaining ground on the Bulls in this category and may take the belt next year. The Regina Red Sox faithful can get in the minds of visiting teams too, but the best 10th man in 2015 goes to Lethbridge.

Honourable mention to the supporters of the Melville Millionaires. The Mils play in a market of 3500 people and need community support to stay alive. The town supports their Mils and easily draws the most fans per capita in the league. Melville and Yorkton would share the award for 'nicest fans' as well...even though they aren't nice to each other.

3. Best Concession Item: The Prospect Dog in Edmonton.

Take a large hot dog, cover it in melted cheese add chili and onions and serve with cactus cut potatoes. Voila, you have the primo concession item in the WMBL.  The bacon & ranch dog in Regina (hot dog with bacon and ranch) and boom stick (foot long hotdog) in Lethbridge are the close runner ups. The pulled pork in Medicine Hat is also dynamite.

4. Best Field: Mitchell Field in Swift Current

Unsightly weeds, dead grass and an unkempt infield can make life tough on players and make fans feel like they are watching a beer league game. Mitchell Field in Swift Current continues to provide WMBL players with the best playing surface in the league, which is also the nicest for fans to look at.  Mitchell Field also has the brightest lights which illuminate the surface perfectly for night games. Outfielders can get a tan from the lights on 19th avenue in Swift Current.

It is worth noting since Seaman Stadium in Okotoks stopped hosting as many minor ball games due to construction of adjacent fields, their field has improved incredibly and with more senior teams getting time on Mitchell Field, Okotoks may dethrone Swift next year.

5. Best Promotion: Day Off Pub Slingshot Contest in Medicine Hat

Players for the Mavericks get involved in this contest. A sling shot is used to fire tennis balls a hundred feet in the air. Contestants wear hip waders and try to catch the balls with a fishing net. It is visually impressive and always entertaining. No other promotion in the league touches it for entertainment value. Zip ahead to 1:35 in the video below to see this promotion in action.

The Dizzy Bats in Swift Current get the runner up prize. Contestants spin themselves dizzy on bats and have a foot race. Hilarity ensues.

6. Best PA Announcer/Music: Medicine Hat

The right music/sounds at the right time over the PA system can dramatically increase the emotional investment in the game for a fan.  No one in the WMBL understands this more than Kim Johnston in Medicine Hat. When there's two strikes against a visiting hitter, the suspense is upped with the right sound effects. When the crowd is rocking after a home run, a good pumpin' tune always accompanies.  A controversial call from the umpire? The Hat is always ready with the right selection to bring emotion out of the crowd. The 20+ year radio vet is also the most pleasant announcer in the league to listen to. Honourable mention to the PA/Music crew in Moose Jaw who have two solid announcers in James Gallo and Chris Rasmussen and always play great tunes at Ross Wells Park.

7. Best Game Day Experience: Okotoks

The game day experience begins the moment you exit your car at the ball park and ends the moment you drive away. The Okotoks Dawgs lead the league in this category. You exit your car in a well laid out parking lot with no spots too far from the field. You enter a stadium that is only 8 years old, yet you feel like you are walking into a park with 100 years of winning tradition. The concourse is nicely laid out for fans to access souvenirs, concession, each team's lineups,washrooms and a wide assortment of beverages. Whether you enjoy the game from a regular stadium seat, a bar stool or the grassy knoll area down the 3rd base line, the views are great. There are elderly men dancing to YMCA, mascots firing up the crowd and kids can run the bases after the game.

Okotoks gets the crown for the best bang for entertainment dollars. The Dawgs can't get complacent though as Lethbridge, Edmonton and Medicine Hat are getting better each year and starting to nip at their heels.

8. Best Value Added Extra: Edmonton Prospects Cheerleaders

Watch the video below at the 58:50 mark to see Edmonton's cheerleaders.

Besides watching a ball game, what extras do the teams offer? An in-stand person with a cordless microphone? Between inning activities? The best value added extra in the league are the Edmonton Prospects Cheerleaders. A cheer team that could rival what some CFL teams bring in terms of cheerleaders and their uniforms; the crew in Edmonton add a well presented element in the WMBL.

Runner up: The Dance Team in Medicine Hat, The YMCA Dancer in Okotoks (an elderly gentleman wearing shorts and suspenders who leads the crowd in the YMCA) and Spencer in Okotoks (pictured below)

9. Nicest Game Day Staff: Tie Yorkton, Regina & Lethbridge

While the casual baseball fan doesn't give a rip how nice the people presenting the game are, it was big for Christina and I. No one was downright rude, but a visiting play by play guy isn't the norm in the WMBL. Some are more welcoming than others. It isn't always easy to jam a camera person and a play by play guy into an already crowded scorekeepers box. As is evidenced by the three way tie, it wasn't easy to narrow this choice to one and quite frankly any team on any day could win this one. Thank you Yorkton, Regina and Lethbridge for making us feel at home.

We look forward to being back in all the parks next year. If you have traveled around the leage and disagree with our assessment, please leave a comment!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Interview with Dressler

Weston Dressler was in Swift Current to speak at a Kidspot Charity Breakfast. We caught up with the most dynamic player in the CFL and threw some questions at him.

Friday, April 03, 2015

An Apology

I recently tweeted a very insensitive tweet and feel I must apologize.
It has been brought to my attention that several people where offended by the content of the above tweet. While my original intent was humour, I must apologize for several insensitivites housed within that tweet. 

I do not condone urinating outdoors when a restroom is readily available and do not encourage anyone to break any decency laws i.e: public urination, indecent exposure. 

The phrase 'I just stood' was not meant to offend anyone with any handicaps, mobility issues, alcoholism, narcolepsy or any other impediment, malady or injuries temporary or permanent which may affect one's ability to stand. 

The reference to 'taking a leak while standing' is also in poor taste as this clearly is chauvinistic and discriminates against women. 

Tweeting about being able to take a leak and referencing a strong urinary stream is also offensive. In my original tweet I did think of the tens of thousands of Canadians with bladder infections, urinary tract issues and those who require the use of catheters.

I hope that readers of my tweet do not feel I have negative feelings toward wind in Saskatchewan. Our strong prairie gusts generate jobs in the creation and maintenance of wind turbines which generate electricity. Wind can also greatly improve gas mileage in cars which makes the planet greener. 

My use of the community of Herbert was merely a comedic place-holder because of it's proximity to Swift Current (my home) and the direction of the wind that day. I respect the citizens of Herbert and it's strong history. I do not desire to urinate anywhere in the community outside of a restroom.

I also apologize to other communities that were left out of this tweet. As per the above paragraph, my choice of Herbert was merely a comedic place-holder. I do not favour Herbert as a community over any other in South-West Saskatchewan and respect the citizens and history of all of Saskatchewan towns, cities, villages and rural municipalities. 

I apologize to anyone who did not find the tweet funny. In every tweet I send, I strive for whole-hearted laughter from all who read them. In this instance I have failed. 

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Happy New Year!

Some random thoughts as we begin 2013...because readers enjoy randoms.

-As 2012 passes, I am grateful for friends, family and an erroneous Mayan Calendar.

-The Swift Current Broncos are hosting a Fan Bus.  It'll hit Edmonton on February 1st and Saskatoon February 2nd.  While I can't make the trip this time, I can say these trips are amazing!  Win or lose, hit the booze!

Call 773-1509 to sign up.  Register by January 12th.

-The Broncos are an entertaining team to watch.  Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose, but you always leave the rink talking about something cool that happened.  As of this moment, there is NO player in the CHL more fun to watch than Adam Lowry.  No there isn't!

-Southwest Saskatchewan's Pig Spleen Weather forecaster has been making the media rounds.  It looks like a wet 2013 is in store for us according to Jeff Woodward from Tompkins.

-A bizzarre news story from this past weekend.  A car is stolen in Calgary.  RCMP find the vehicle and attempt to pull over the perp along Highway 32 just northwest of Swift Current.  A high speed chase ensues.  The perp flees the vehicle on foot in Abbey (an hour NW of Swift Current).  RCMP use search dogs, search Abbey and find nothing.  Then, the RCMP decline to comment or release any further info.

Is there a car stealing fugitive on the loose?  I respect the work of the officers of the RCMP.  They put their lives on the line every day.  I sometimes wish I could wind back the clock and become an officer.  Their communications people may want to attend a seminar on 21st century communications...or look at bringing in a consultant.  :)

-Back to WHL hockey.  There is no rink in the league more inhospitable to visiting fans than The Medicine Hat Arena.  Not even Regina when the Broncos/Pats rivalry was heated.  I still enjoyed the atmosphere and a spirited tilt between the Broncos and Tigers this past weekend.  Some fans respect a good rivalry.  Med Hat just seems to have a lot people of judge you and dislike you based on what hockey team you support.  I have yet to attend a game at the Arena and NOT have some sort of run in with a "fan".

-What was the top news story in Swift Current for 2012?  Integrated facility?  Mayor Schafer winning the Mayor race by acclamation?  The Broncos miss the playoffs, but make a profit? From what I can see, pedestrian fatalities along Highway #1 generated the most discussion on Social Media.

-Wal Mart and Elmwood Grocery.  One is a giant Mega-store Mega-chain.  The other is a Ma and Pop corner store under 2,000 square feet on Chaplin Street in Swift Current.  One of them has two cashiers on staff during busy hours...the other seemingly never has more than one.

That's all for now.  If you're on Twitter, shoot me a Follow and I'll follow you back.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

NO Broncos Named to CHL Top Prospects Game

Yesterday the rosters were unveiled for the CHL Top Prospects Game.

No members of the Broncos were selected.  One could argue Dillon Heatherington could have been an option.

Here's the info...

40 top NHL Draft eligible CHL players will compete January 16, 2013, in Halifax, NS

Toronto, ON – The Canadian Hockey League in association with the three regional leagues, the Halifax Mooseheads Hockey Club, and Home Hardware Stores Limited, today announced the 40 CHL players that will compete in the 2013 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at the Halifax Metro Centre on January 16, 2013.

The 40 CHL players competing in the game were chosen by the 30 NHL clubs then divided into teams by NHL Central Scouting and include 14 players from the Ontario Hockey League, 14 players from the Western Hockey League, and 12 players from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. 

27 of the CHL’s 60 member clubs are represented in this game featuring three players on the host Mooseheads including Team Cherry captain Nathan MacKinnon alongside Jonathan Drouin, and goaltender Zachary Fucale.  Team Orr captain Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks will also be joined by a pair of teammates including forwards Oliver Bjorkstrand and Nicolas Petan.  The London Knights and Quebec Remparts also have a trio of players competing on Team Orr with forwards Max Domi, Bo Horvat, and defenceman Nikita Zadorov representing the Knights, while forwards Anthony Duclair, Adam Erne, and Nick Sorensen represent the Remparts. 

“Home Hardware congratulates the 40 players selected for the 2013 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game,” said Paul Straus, President and CEO of Home Hardware Stores Limited.  “This year marks the 18th annual showcase of the CHL’s top-40 NHL draft eligible players and it continues to be an event that Home Hardware is proud to support. These young players represent communities across the country, and like Home Hardware, they and the sport of hockey are truly a part of the fabric of Canada. On behalf of the Dealer-Owners of close to 1,100 Home Hardware stores in communities across Canada, I would like to wish this year’s  players the very best of luck.”

Last season’s game in Kelowna, BC, featured 10 players that were selected in the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft including Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips who was selected second overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Since the event was first introduced in 1996 the game has featured 10 players that were selected with the first overall pick in the NHL Draft including Chris Phillips, Joe Thornton, Vincent Lecavalier, Rick Nash, Marc-Andre Fleury, Patrick Kane, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Taylor Hall, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

2013 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game Rosters (WHL Players bold/red):

Team Cherry:

Head Coach – Don Cherry

Zachary Fucale (Halifax Mooseheads)
Tristan Jarry (Edmonton Oil Kings)

Samuel Morin (Rimouski Oceanic)
Josh Morrissey (Prince Albert Raiders)
Mirco Mueller (Everett Silvertips)

Darnell Nurse “A” (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds)
Ryan Pulock (Brandon Wheat Kings)
Eric Roy (Brandon Wheat Kings)

William Carrier (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles)
Jason Dickinson (Guelph Storm)
Jonathan Drouin “A” (Halifax Mooseheads)
Frederik Gauthier (Rimouski Oceanic)
Stephen Harper (Erie Otters)
Ryan Hartman (Plymouth Whalers)
Morgan Klimchuk (Regina Pats)
Ryan Kujawinski (Kingston Frontenacs)
Nathan MacKinnon “C” (Halifax Mooseheads)
Anthony Mantha (Val-d’Or Foreurs)
Zach Nastasiuk (Owen Sound Attack)
Valentin Zykov (Baie-Comeau Drakkar)

Team Orr:

Head Coach – Mike McPhee

Eric Comrie (Tri-City Americans)

Spencer Martin (Mississauga Steelheads)

Chris Bigras (Owen Sound Attack)
Madison Bowey (Kelowna Rockets)
Seth Jones “C” (Portland Winterhawks)

Jan Kostalek (Rimouski Oceanic)
Shea Theodore (Seattle Thunderbirds)
Nikita Zadorov (London Knights)

Justin Bailey (Kitchener Rangers)
Oliver Bjorkstrand (Portland Winterhawks)
Max Domi (London Knights)
Anthony Duclair (Quebec Remparts)
Adam Erne (Quebec Remparts)
Bo Horvat (London Knights)
Curtis Lazar (Edmonton Oil Kings)
Sean Monahan “A” (Ottawa 67’s)
Nicolas Petan (Portland Winterhawks)
Kerby Rychel (Windsor Spitfires)
Hunter Shinkaruk “A” (Medicine Hat Tigers)
Nick Sorensen (Quebec Remparts)
One doesn't have to go back too far in history to remember the last Bronco to play in the game.  Last year, Coda Gordon suited up for Team Orr. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Teddy Bear Toss on Sunday

Swift Current, SK – The Swift Current Broncos and Kurt’s KFC are proud to announce the annual Teddy Bear, Toque and Mitts Toss which will happen Sunday, December 16th when the Kootenay Ice come to town.

Fans are encouraged to bring teddy bears, toques and/or mittens to Sunday night's contest.  The respective items will be thrown onto the ice immediately following the first Bronco goal.  All teddy bears, toques and mittens accumulated will be donated directly to the Swift Current Salvation Army.
Last year the Broncos donated a total of 692 teddy bears to the Swift Current Salvation Army.
The Broncos will also be offering an exclusive “Teddy Bear Toss” ticket package leading up to the game.  Fans can purchase a ticket and Charlie Horse teddy for only $25.

Fans can purchase tickets at the Early Bird Price up until 5PM of game day ($10-Adults, $6-Students, $4-Children and $25-Family of Four).  Stop by the Broncos souvenir store, The Stable, or call 306-773-1509 for more information.
This will be the second of four meetings between these two teams this season.  The Broncos currently hold a 1-0-0-0 record against the Ice in their season series.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It's A Small World...and a Good One!

This is Premier Brad Wall's annual Christmas video.  He usually flies this mission solo, but this year he recruited some help.

Jeremy, Brad's co-star, can often be found at Swift Current Bronco games.  Jeremy's Mom is Rri Olson.

If you're a Bronco fan, the name will ring a bell.

Rri is the anthem singer for the Broncos.  For my money, she is the best in the league.  

She's also good at Twitter.  @rriolson.

Merry Christmas.