Tuesday September 02, 2014

EDITORIAL - Cheer loud but keep series in perspective


It is a local hockey fan’s biggest dream.

And, yes it holds the prospect of being a nightmare too.

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League finals has come down to our Yorkton Terriers versus their natural nemesis; the Melville Millionaires.

Fans in Estevan and Weyburn might argue the fact, the ones in Tisdale and Melfort too, but locally there is no rivalry more intense than the one pitting the nearby Highway 10 rivals.

It is one which starts in minor sports of all kinds, and extends to school athletics, and in no place is it more evident than when our Junior hockey teams clash.

The regular season games are marked on calenders, the rinks always a bit more crowded, the crowds a bit more boisterous when it is the Terriers and Millionaires in action.

The two teams have always been in the same division, and so while meeting often in the playoffs through their long histories, never has it been a series for the league crown.

A new playoff system in the SJHL was one implemented with the understanding it could lead to arch division rivals ending up against one another in the final, and here in the format’s first year, East Central Saskatchewan is the beneficiary.

The series, before getting to the winner and loser, is a windfall for both franchises.

If there are not sold-out signs on the arena doors for every game in the series fans in both cities do not deserve to see another finals game in their arenas.

There were 1924 fans at Friday’s semi final game in Yorkton. A final, and one against Melville should assure a packed to the rafters Farrell Agencies Arena. That is great news for the bottom line of the local club.

It will be the same scenario in Melville.

With the costs of operating a Junior hockey franchise always climbing, some extra revenue from a packed final has got to be welcomed by both franchises.

And then there is the hockey, and what it means to our communities.

Terrier head coach Trent Cassan tried to soften the pressure a bit after the Terriers earned their berth in the final Friday. He said while he appreciates there are expectations placed on a team by fans, those fans need to maintain perspective that it is a game being played by basically teenagers.

Of course Cassan is right. Hockey is a game, but that does not lessen what it means here in Canada. It is part of the community fabric, just as high school and college football is in much of the United States, and soccer is around most of the world.

As communities we garner a collective pride from the successes of our hockey teams and players.

We post signs outside our communities boasting of local players making it to the National Hockey League.

We organize parades when local Junior teams head to national tournaments.

So whether it is keeping things in perspective, or not, people in both cities are about to embark on a series where they will feel the exhilaration of every home team goal and win, as well as feel the despair of goals against, and of course losses.

In the end one team will hoist the Cup, the other … not.

For fans of the winning team will come bragging rights savoured for years to come.

The losers will get over the defeat, but it will forever be a cloud over our hockey psyches.

And here is where we must maintain the perspective Cassan spoke of. Fans, whether of winning teams, or losing, have been known to be over-exuberant, if not completely out-of-control. Our cities, rivals as they are, should still respect each other enough to avoid confrontations between fans, to cause damage whether revelling in a win, or dealing with the loss.

This should remain a hard fought battle on the ice. Let the skills of players determine a champion, and as fans just hang on for the ups and downs of the series ahead.

It should prove a most memorable ride.

Go Terriers!



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