For eight decades senior hockey has been an integral part of the winter life of Theodore.
Hockey goes back even farther, with outdoor rinks paralleling the earliest days of the community.
Through the years the team has been the Generals, Mohawks, Wildcats and currently the Buffalos, continuing a tradition which Nov. 2-3-4 will be marked in the town by a reunion of former players.
"It's based on 80-years of senior hockey," offered Norm Thompson, who noted the community history book details that the first team to "have uniforms" was in 1932.
But the same book provides evidence of hockey before that in Theodore with a passage about the need to hang lanterns for evening skating on an outdoor rink dating back to 1915.
"So there's been hockey in Theodore a long time … It's a story about the hockey itself," said Thompson, adding in his mind it is a story which also transcends the sport. "It's also about a community that always made sure there was a facility for hockey."
Thompson said Theodore has had four rinks over the years, the first two were open air, the last two covered.
The current rink was initiated in 1981, although the complex, which includes the town hall, and would have an artificial ice plant added to the rink, would take a decade to fully complete.
"I think it (the rink) took two years to get into," offered Thompson. "It basically took 10-years to complete."
The new rink was something the community needed.
Thompson said the old rink was on its last legs.
"I guess there were shingles on it at one time," he said, adding as the years passed the shingles were falling away and on warmer days drips were commonplace on the ice.
Thompson said the effort to build the new rink was a testament to a community's interest in the sport.
"It's about a community really in love with Canada's greatest game," he said.
Thompson said Chris Bates, for whom the Bates League was named had a three ton truck and "hauled lumber out of the north," for the new structure, adding it was an undertaking when "there were no government grants, or blessed-all at the time," to help defray local costs.
So volunteers took over. Thompson said it was not unusual to go to a local elevator and find the doors closed as the agent was at the rink doing something. It was the same for business people throughout the community.
Thompson said businessmen have always seen the senior team as good business.
"They know if there's hockey in Theodore there'd be people in Theodore," he said, "The business people in Theodore made sure there was a hockey team."
Thompson is also among the many who have worn a senior hockey jersey in Theodore.
"My playing days were with the Mohawks," said Thompson, days dating back to the 1950s and '60s. "… I started playing hockey when I was about 17, and played about 12-years."
The Mohawks were in the now long defunct Bates League, and in the Thompson year's success came in providing local entertainment more than championship pennants.
"In my time I don't think we won the league," he said, adding they were in the playoffs regularly at least. " … There were some very good hockey players back then. Jedburgh had a very good team, and Foam Lake."
Thompson said in his day making the senior team was a goal for many young players. He recalled when he was in high school going to the local John Deere dealership in the fall and fielding the question "are you going to play this year?" He said the community has always been keenly interested in its senior team.
Ed Skiehar is one of those who has worked behind the scenes to keep the team on the ice.
A one-time Buffalo player, who admitted "played very little," he has been an ardent off-ice supporter.
Asked why he was involved, the answer came quickly to Skiehar.
"It's just to have recreation and to have some hockey entertainment in a small town like Theodore. That was my goal," he said.
It is a goal Skiehar continues to pursue as a member of the Buffalo's executive committee. While the committee takes a lead role in supporting the team, he said as a community Theodore has always been behind the team.
"I think the community support is great for the Buffalos," he said, adding the team has had to evolve over the years, but fans have stayed true through the changes.
The biggest change is where hockey talent comes from to fill the Buffalo roster.
Skiehar said young players are more apt to move out of the area for school and careers, and that means less local players in a community where populations have also declined in general.
Looking back to the 1970s when he first moved to Theodore Skiehar said "most of the players were local from Theodore, or at least the area, Insinger, Jedburgh."
Jump ahead to the 2012 version of the Buffalos which launch their first season in the Triangle Hockey League this Friday, Nov. 2, and the talent comes from farther afield.
"This season there are only three, or four local players," said Skiehar.
While less local players, Skiehar said the Buffalos switching to the Triangle League should heighten interest in the team.
"We're really, really excited about joining the Triangle League," he said, adding that the Fishing Lakes League was good to the Buffalos but the new league helps fulfill a desire "to be in a league a bit more competitive."
Henry Shumay was a Buffalo in the 1970s. He grew up in Yorkton, and played seven seasons of senior hockey with the Bredenbury Cougars before switching allegiances and skating with the Buffs through his 30s.
"I played there (Theodore) for seven years," he said, adding he was pretty successful as a Buff. "I won the scoring title three years."
At the time Shumay was on a line with Bill Fofonoff and Clayton Serby.
"We were pretty fast at that time," recalled Shumay, now 70 and still playing the game in Yorkton. "We passed the puck around pretty good. We all skated hard and that made the difference."
The hard skating might have been out of necessity at times. Shumay said the old rink, an uninsulated structure was a cold one.
"You better believe it was cold in there. You had to skate hard to keep yourself warm," he said.
As a team the Shumay-era was a good one for the Buffaloes.
"When I played there we won the championship four times, well four, or five times, out of seven seasons," he said, admitting after some 40 years the exact number eluded him. "We did pretty good," he said.
Clay Serby was born and raised in the Theodore area and aspired to be in a Buffalo uniform, even one a few steps removed from his hometown.
"I thought of being a Buffalo Sabre," he said. "I just loved hockey."
The National Hockey League might have eluded Serby, but at age 19 he joined the local Buffalos. He would move away for a few years to pursue education, playing hockey along the way in Harris and Birch Hills, before coming home and resuming his Buffalos career.
"I played for about 25-years," he said, adding while retiring at 42, "I came back and played a couple of games after that."
So how does Serby recall the calibre of hockey?
"It was probably not quite as fast as it today. Some of the skills are a little better than it was then," he said, adding that is likely a result of better programs through minor and Junior hockey leagues now. "… They're coming with greater skills than we did."
Hockey also had more of an edge in Serby's day.
"It was a bit more bruising, if I might use that word," he said. "It was far more of a contact sport back then. There was more clutching and grabbing that you can't do today."
It went beyond clutching and grabbing too, admitted Serby.
"There wasn't a game there wasn't a fight. There was always a fight," he said, adding "small towns are so competitive with each other, so it wasn't hard to get into a fight."
That said Serby said he never dropped the gloves. A converted goaltender, Serby was a goal scorer, with several team scoring titles, a couple of then Bates League scoring crowns and league Most Valuable Player awards, achieved centering a line with Wayne Gay and Kieran Daunt.
"We played together for most of the time I played for the Buffalos. We were the first line for a long, long time," offered Serby. "We scored a ton of goals."
As the top line they were often challenged on the ice, but Gay was the enforcer. "He was our Dave Semenko," he said referencing the tough winger who played with Wayne Gretzky in Edmonton. "He (Gay) had a process of setting other guys straight when we needed that done."
So among the many goals, fights, and MVPs, what stands out most for Serby?
It was a league final against Ituna in the spring of 1978.
"They had a very, very good team, and we beat them in a seven game final," he said, adding that edition of the Buffalos was equally talented.
"It was probably the best team I ever played with," he said, recalling the likes of talented forward Barry Marianchuk, and defenceman Garry Gawryliuk and Ron Hart.
"Every game was within a goal," Serby said of the final, noting three games went to overtime, with the Buffalos finally prevailing in Game 7 on home ice.
"There was great camaraderie on that team."
And the story of the Buffs continues.
After taking a year's leave-of-absence from senior hockey in the fall of 2011, the team is back this fall as a new member of the 10-team Triangle Hockey League.
Dustin Nehring is a member of the current edition of the Buffalos which are about to embark into action in the new league. He said the change will be a good one as the level of the Triangle is simply better.
"Esterhazy will be a powerhouse. Langenburg has a great hockey tradition. Rocanville will be solid," he said, adding the Buffalos had basically outgrown the Fishing Lakes Hockey League winning for league titles in as many years.
"In the Triangle there's not going to be any 14-2 decisions. It's going to be some tight hockey."
For Nehring competitiveness is important.
"Being a competitive guy I don't want 10-plus goal wins," he said.
The fans should be more intrigued too.
"They should be a lot interested in the games," offered Nehring, adding fans for senior hockey are generally rabid ones.
"It might be a small barn, 500 fans, but the atmosphere in amazing," he said, adding players can feel the fans' passion."
Nehring said the Buffalos weren't exactly a dream as a young boy growing up in nearby Springside, but he added it is a great place to play in the later years of his competitive hockey career.
"I don't know if it was a dream as young kid. You want to play at a higher level," he said. But when the pursuit of higher levels of hockey give way to careers away from hockey it became "a great option to play closer to home. That's definitely a good thing."
Thompson said for the players through the decades it has always been about the game.
"It's been almost like an addiction. It's all about the camaraderie and being able to play the game," he said.
There is also a realization the team is almost like the soul of Theodore.
"It's one of the lifelines of our community, and has been for many years," said Thompson.