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Time to get excited...


There’s been a lot of chatter lately regarding the attendance, or lack-there-of, at our local junior hockey teams’ games.
For those that know me, and there a few of you out there, you’ll know that I have been a passionate fan of junior hockey in the Valley since being a part of the original board of directors that brought the team to fruition.
Having grown up in Dauphin, and around junior hockey from a young age, I couldn’t have been happier when a group of us were able to announce that the Swan Valley Stampeders would debut in the fall of 1999.
Attendance was never an issue early on, often drawing crowds of close to 1,000 people back in those early years. I remember those days well.
While I realize that times have changed in not just the game of hockey but people’s lives in the past 20 years, there’s one thing that hasn’t.
The Stampeders still provide quality entertainment for any hockey fan.
I get that many people, myself included, may long for the days where fighting was a big part of the game. But, I also can’t deny the fact that the players seem to be more and more skilled every year.
Of course, when teams struggle to find the win column, that is always the easiest excuse to use as to why one might not attend.
Then there’s the excuse there’s not enough ‘local’ players on the team. The Stampeders have had as many as six local players on a couple season’s teams but that didn’t exactly translate into a spike in attendance either. While opinions often vary on this subject, that’s a discussion for another day.
If there’s one box this year’s edition clearly checks off, it would be the competitiveness amongst the MJHL teams.
It’s worth noting that this year’s team currently has three Swan Valley natives - Josh Tripp, Carter Cockburn and Jackson Betcher - and another from just down the road in Roblin (Jaden Townsend) who has plenty of ties to the Valley.
And one of those locals (Tripp) is the MJHL’s scoring leader as I type this column.
Oh, I guess now would also be a good time to mention that at the time I write this, the Stampeders sit alone in first place in the league.
That certainly begs the question as to where are our hockey fans hiding? I know there are countless hockey fans here. That was never more evident than during last spring’s incredible run the Winnipeg Jets took us all on.
I get that the Jets play in the best hockey league in the world. But only being a fan of the NHL – and not those who are playing their hearts out, while dreaming of one day playing on hockey’s grandest stage – is a poor excuse for not catching some very exciting hockey being played at the Centennial Arena.
The Stamps shouldn’t need to beg people to attend their games. You should ‘want’ to attend because having them here makes the Valley a much better place to live.
The entertainment value has never been higher so I challenge you to get off your butt and show your support at one or both games this week.
I’m so confident you’ll be glad you attended a game that I will personally give 10 people - who I don’t recognize as regular attendees - a free ticket to a future game.
All you have to do is come to tomorrow night’s game against Dauphin, introduce yourself (if I don’t know you) and I’ll hand you a ticket to use at a future game.
I’ll have ten tickets to hand out to casual fans and I’ll be highly disappointed if I don’t get rid of all 10 tickets.
I sincerely hope to see our crowds grow a bit more every game going forward. The future of junior hockey depends on it.
There, I said it.

UPDATE: I Want to give a big shout out to Sheri Hirst (yes, Dane’s mom) who has bumped the challenge to 15 tickets to give away at tomorrow nights game versus the Dauphin Kings. If this is what it takes, so be it.  See you all at tomorrow nights game. 

And now, with a big thank you to Mike Anderson & his wife Courtney, I’ll be giving away 25 tickets at tomorrow nights Stampeders  game. Thanks for the donation of 10 tickets you two.

Brian Gilroy