This coming Saturday night at the Jim Kook Rec Plex in Outlook, the hometown Ice Hawks take to the ice in their first home game of the new season.
But that's not the only thing slated to take place that night.
Just before the game, there will be a special ceremony that recognizes what the Ice Hawks did earlier this year when they won the Provincial Senior 'B' Championship, with the banner set to be raised above the crowd in the rink, taking its rightful place in the home arena.
I'm sure there will be plenty of smiles, maybe some tears, and a whole lotta cheering when that banner goes up, up and up before the game. It might conjure up some memories for some, and I've got to say, it definitely does for me.
You see, Outlook isn't the only local community that won big this year. In a series of events that I don't believe has ever happened before, (but hey, I'm certainly no expert), three local teams who aren't that far apart from each other won provincial gold this year. On top of the Ice Hawks taking the 'B' title, the Dinsmore Dynamos wound up defeating the Davidson Cyclones for the Provincial 'C' Championship, while the Kenaston Blizzards defeated the Kyle Elks for the Provincial 'D' Championship.
One local team wins big, and then BOOM, another local team wins big, and then finally WHAM, a third local team wins big? Seriously, how does that happen without some form of cosmic axis helping to form this reality, with the stars being aligned just right?
Whatever the case, yes indeed, the time period of the month of March in 2022 was a historic time for local hockey fans.
It'll be one of those time periods that people will look back on with vivid memories.
I know that I certainly remember it.
Outlook found itself squared up against the Kindersley Klippers back in March, set to play their three-game series. We watched as Game One took place, where Outlook took the victory. With that in mind, and knowing that Game Two was on the road in the Klippers' home rink, I too found myself on Highway 7 headed west on that Saturday afternoon. If Outlook won the second game, taking the series and the provincial title, then awesome, I'm there too and I'm able to capture it as it happens. If they didn't win and this series went to the third and final showdown, then hey, at least I was prepared for the possible - and desired - outcome.
Alas, the Ice Hawks didn't win in Kindersley. The Klippers came out on top, and I left the rink and headed to McDonald's to grab a very late supper before hitting the road for home. But that's appropriate, don't you think? Sure, everyone in Outlook and area would've loved to see the Hawks take the series quickly so the celebrating could begin, but the way it eventually played out in the end was the best possible outcome, in my view. This particular series wound up looking like something you'd see in an early-90's feel-good sports movie, where each team gets their own chance to shine in front of their respective hometown crowds before it ultimately comes down to the final dance.
And out on the ice in the Jim Kook Rec Plex on Monday night, March 28 in front of a jam-packed colossal crowd, oh boy, did it ever play out like a 90's Disney flick!
The people in the stands oohhed and aahhed with every big move the players made, the pins and needles in their hands and extremities undoubtedly feeling like knives and swords as the game played out. The buzzer sounded after the first period, and no one was on the scoreboard yet. The rosters came back out to play the second, and it was the Klippers who got on the board first, resulting in some of the air being sucked out of the lungs of Outlook supporters.
Minutes ticked away at the clock, and an eruption of cheers exploded across the rink when #5 Logan Pyett sunk one in for the Hawks, tying things up. We got a chance at this....? WE GOT A CHANCE AT THIS!!! Things stayed at a 1-1 standstill as time ran out on the second period.
When things came back in the third, with just 31 seconds into the chunk of time, Outlook's chances for a provincial championship were heightened when #25 Shay Stephenson slapped one in. Midway through the time, #2 Jordan Johnston also nabbed one, making the dream appear much, much more like a reality that was about to happen.
When that scoreclock ran down to 5.....4....3...2.. the noise in the rink was so loud that you almost couldn't hear yourself think. The cheers were deafening, the pride was immense, and the celebration was only beginning. The doors were flung open and people flooded the ice surface to ring in the moment with the team and staff. Coach Bob Stephenson held the trophy above his head as fans cheered, and the former NHL'er and longtime mayor of this community was visibly moved by the moment. Team photos were snapped, along with probably a thousand others, and people just drank in the incredible feeling that came with the monumental victory.
What a feeling, and what a night to look back on. It was truly one of those "You just had to be there!" moments that a community bears witness to before it takes its place in the proverbial - and sometimes literal - history books.
I can also remember celebrating the big win down in Dinsmore with the Dynamos team when they hosted a special evening at their hometown AGT Memorial Arena for a windup event in April. There were player awards handed out, videos of the team's season and eventual championship celebration watched, and there was even a comedian who performed and provided some laughs. It was a great night that shed light on what Dinsmore had done, and that was something truly special for the small community.
Hockey lives the strongest in our nation's small towns, whether they be Outlook, Dinsmore, Kenaston, or the thousands of communities across Canada. It's where people come together, grab a coffee, and get in the spirit of the game.
This Saturday night, it'll be where we go to remember one of the greatest nights in community history.
For this week, that's been the Ruttle Report.