The CanElson Drilling Estevan Bruins annual sportsman dinner at the Wylie-Mitchell Hall on Thursday was a toned down affair compared to previous years, but thanks to a dedicated group of supporters the team came out un-bruised.
About 260 people packed Wylie-Mitchell Hall to enjoy a wonderful roast beef supper, bid on various auction items donated by community members and listen to the funny and enlightening comments of emcee Michael “Ballsy” Ball and speakers Alan May and Chris Jones.
“It’s a different event this year, a different economy, a different feel around the community, but the people who are here are great supporters of the team,” said Bruins director of operations and marketing Clark Munroe shortly before the supper, noting the team hoped to raise $70,000 before the season started but that goal is a bit more conservative now. “I just want to thank everybody who came out.”
After a healthy cocktail hour followed by the supper, former Estevan Bruins play-by-play voice and current 104.9 The Wolf and Saskatchewan Roughriders post-game show host Ball took the stage to auction off current Bruins players Josh Rieger, Jason Duret, Daniel Wapple, Zach Douglas and Keegan Allison as beverage servers for the night. Douglas went highest at $500 to Ray Frehlick’s table.
“I try to bring my radio show to the stage,” said Ball. “I know a lot about sports, it’s kind of my first love. I like to tell jokes. I do that every morning. So, yeah, just try to blend the two.”
Alan May, who suited up for the Bruins from 1981-82 to the team’s Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League championship winning 1984-85 season, next grasped the mike to tell the tale of how he grew from his humble beginnings to amassing a 393-game NHL career before turning into a NBC Comcast Sportsnet analyst of the Washington Capitals.
“I’ve played here in my journey to be an NHL player and I just thought I’d share a few funny stories along the way and some of the awesome things that have happened over time,” said May. “I always believed I could play, but every game I played I kind of pinched myself. I just thought I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”
Chris Jones, new Roughrider head coach, general manager and vice-president of football operations as well as the 2015 CFL Grey Cup winner as head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos, ascended to the stage next to embark on a question and answer session with Ball.
Among the many topics covered were the decision to leave a coaching job at the University of Tennessee Tech to join the Montreal Alouettes as a defensive line coach in 2002, the importance of Canadian football players on the roster and the immediate goal for the team.
“I like going places where they love football,” said Jones. “I’m from South Pittsburg, Tennessee, and I grew up in Alabama and people love football down there. People here it’s the same way. They love the game. They’re passionate about the game. They care about the players. They care about the team. That’s a good thing.”
Munroe said since the sportsman dinner was held in the middle of the season instead of the end to accommodate the Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup, they had to forgo the usual ceremony of male and female athletes and young officials of the year awards, but otherwise everything is the same.
“We have our auction items,” he said. “We have our speakers. Everyone is here having a good time.”