Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Legionnaires Wrap

It's that time of year again. The Legionnaires wrapped up their season on Sunday, and the end of it usually brings about some final thoughts, thank you's and such.

From a win/loss standpoint, there is little to say. It was an extremely tough season. Out of their 9-25-7-2 record, the Legionnaires lost 14 games by two goals or less, two of those in overtime. In addition, they finished with a league-leading seven ties. That means that out of 44 games, only 14 were one-sided losses for a team that finished second-last in the league standings. Combined with a look at their roster, that should give you an idea of how taxing the season was, both emotionally, and very much so physically. They didn't start with nearly the scoring power of last year and carried over only six players; it was a tough go. Arguably, the Legionnaires had one player in Jordan Wittman whose scoring talent was comparable to that of three guys on last year's front end. A little success at the beginning was great but scheduling caught up to them a little bit later. When the score got ran up, it was usually bad. But more often, when they were in all those games and missed by inches, it was equally tough to swallow.

I think there were bigger and more positive developments off the ice. Head coach Dale Vossen and assistant coach Larry Empey inherited the mess from last year and did an admirable job. Vossen, who was courageous to take it over in the first place, didn't promise the world when he came in. He had little time, but used his scouting experience and some connections to quickly put together a modest group of kids and promised they would work very hard. They did. He said that under him and coach Empey, they would be a respectable bunch around the community. They were. And most importantly, he said things would change with regards to parent involvement and the general stability of the program, which has lacked grossly in years past. They did. There were no mid-season implosions, no handfuls of kids quitting, and no doubts whatsoever as to what the rules were and how the team would be operated. In my seven years of working for/with the Legionnaires, these things have never truthfully been said of the team. Given the team's situation, these achievements are greater than a playoff spot. (have a look at last year) Success doesn't necessarily start with wins. Despite the troubles in the win column, it was an enjoyable experience. With the help of manager Kim Bachek, who got little recognition for countless hours in the office and taking care of everything short of driving the bus on the road, and Steph Sinclair, the Legionnaires trainer, things ran smoothly. This move worked for Swift Current Minor Hockey. They were quick to pull the trigger following the 2011-12 season and in my opinion, brought the right person on board. As for wether or not Dale Vossen returns next year, I don't know what his feelings or the board's feelings are on that. I do think that it should be up to him.

Now for the players. They were a great bunch of kids, most of them strangers at first but pretty close friends as the year wore on. They worked hard and the vibe on the bus was good. I don't think anyone was willing to accept the fact that the team was challenged offensively or in any other areas, and excuses were not often a part of the equation. Three guys who were here last year come to mind, and I'll always have a special place for them. Luke Grassl, Edwin Hookenson and Blake Fournier. Those kids know what it feels like to be let down ferociously and then be tough enough to come charging back. They know what it's like to face 50 shots a game, to be in the middle of five 2-on-1's in a period, and to block a slap shot in the groin with the game out of reach. Looking back at the experience in the coming years, they'll have fond memories.

Last but not least, thank you to a whole bunch of people.

The Legionnaires organization, coaches and Kim Bachek: Thanks for the repeated opportunity to cover the team and do something I love. I truly savour every moment of it.

The players: You guys are great kids - proud of you and wish you all the best.

The parents: Thanks for all the comments, gifts, encouragement and for listening in and watching game after game. I hope by doing what we do, we've brought you much more than a refresh button and an online scoresheet. Thanks also for the lasting friendships.

The volunteers: The team obviously could not run without you. Especially Evan Powell and family, Steve the admission guy, my colour man for the year Perry Andrusiak, Pastor Rob Winslow, our video volunteer Keith Waker and PR guy Brad Woods. Everything is much appreciated.

The sponsors: Especially Perry and the Evans family at Home Hardware. Thanks so much for your continued support.

And finally, clarification on my future with the team, but here's a little tidbit of info first regarding webcasting. When I started broadcasting the road games five years ago, the hope was that eventually, every team would stream online video of its home games, thereby creating a situation where no announcer or video person would have to go on the road and every SMAAAHL game could be viewed online. Today, that has not happened. Only the Legionnaires stream home games and broadcast road games. It's not hard to do, either. Almost all teams now have a camera and computer, are recording the game for review purposes and would only need to open a browser on their computers to make this happen. It's easier now than ever and it's completely free with USTREAM. But alas, no other team has done it. So it's a little disheartening at this point. Ultimately, my future with the organization is not up to me, but I'll ask to remain as PA announcer and music host for next year barring any unforeseen circumstances. We'll also continue webcasting home games through this website and sclegionnaires.com. As for the road broadcasts, I will not be able to dedicate the time and commitment any longer due to recent career developments and the actual time required to get my work done. Perhaps I'll make the trip for a big game here and there. Again, thanks to the team for this opportunity. It has been one of the most fun things I've ever had the chance to do.

Have a great summer everyone!


Anonymous said...

Ern you are a class act!

The Wittmans said...

This years parent group was an incredible group of people. We had a lot of fun visiting with everyone at the rink!! What an incredible group of boys as well. Jordan has made many lasting friendships from this group. As well, THANK YOU Ern for the part you and Perry played. Very enjoyable to listen to!