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Signs of winter in August

An opinion piece on the latest sports events in the Estevan area
Estevan Bears camp
Local kids had a few "winter" moments at the August camp.

There’s something that should be viewed as wrong when you’re inside a hockey arena (or any facility with a sheet of ice) in the middle of August, when it’s sunny and 25 C outside. 

And yet it feels so right. Especially this year.

The Estevan Bruins and the Estevan Eclipse Downhole Solutions U18 AAA Bears held their respective training camps on the same weekend in late August.

For the returning players and the rookies, they’re competing for roster spots. For the prospects, it’s a chance to leave that always valuable first impression. 

The opening day and the final day of camp weekend weren’t nice days outside; they felt more like late September or early October than late August. But on that second day (Aug. 21), it was pretty spectacular outside. 

On a day like that, the only ice I want to see is in my drink. And the only time I want to be indoors is when I’m sleeping.

I didn’t get to spend a lot of time at each camp. Just long enough to get some good photos.  

I would have really liked to spend more time at the Bruins camp. As you would expect for a team that is hosting the national championships next May, there was a lot of great talent on the ice, particularly among the forwards.

While they didn’t have a lot of quantity in terms of the number of players at camp, it might be the greatest collection of offensive talent that I’ve seen at a Bruin camp. 

There are going to be a lot of “80s nights” at Affinity Place this season with the talent the Bruins have, because they’ll likely score 10 goals in a night on multiple occasions. 

The City of Estevan might have to replace the red lights behind the Bruins goal at some point this season. If I was a defenceman forced to play against some of those players, I’d likely break out in hives.

As for the Bears, they’re in a tougher situation. They’re entering their first full season. Last year they were competitive in most of the six games they played, but they only had six games in their expansion year. But their coach Jeff Smith says the talent was a lot better at camp this time around.  

The lost hockey season was a source of frustration. It would have been tough to pull off a full junior hockey season, but you can’t help but wonder what would have been. 

While other areas had high COVID numbers, we did not. As far as COVID case counts during the hockey season, our Zone 4 peaked at 38 cases in late January. That was when the provincial government was having a hard time tracking recoveries, and most of the cases in Zone 4 were not in Estevan. 

We were being treated the same as elsewhere even though we weren’t the same as everywhere else.  

For the Bruins, it was particularly tough because they had a lot of talent, a team with a legitimate shot at winning a league title. 

Yes, the league tried to make it work with a seven-team mini-season in Weyburn in the spring, but the Saskatchewan Health Authority said no. And Sask. Health probably felt vindicated when case numbers spiked in Weyburn.

As for the Bears, it was discouraging to see the inaugural season come to an end so abruptly.

And it was discouraging to see league play halted in November, after just a few weeks. Yes, they did get to practise for a few more months, but they didn’t get to play games, and that’s ultimately what you’re looking forward to. 

They should have been allowed to play within cohorts when the case numbers were so low.

I felt bad to see the U18 players whose minor hockey days ended like that. Ditto the junior hockey players who graduated after a six-game season. 

Hopefully the kids get to play a full season, with good crowds in attendance, because there’s something inherently wrong about 150 fans for junior hockey in a venue the size of Affinity Place. 

And hopefully the kids realize just how special it is to be out on the ice and playing games with their pals, because they haven’t been able to do that very often the last 18 months. 

Finally, I hope I don’t have to be inside an arena when it’s a balmy 25 C day outside again.