Hockey players skate for family, friends

by Derek Cornet

For three hockey players currently playing in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League (SMAAAHL), a special game held at PineRidge Ford Place on Flying Dust First Nation Dec. 12 was anything but typical.

Beardy’s Blackhawks defenceman Adam Merasty of Flying Dust and right winger Colton Iron of Canoe Lake Cree Nation came face-to-face with the Battlefords Stars and Meadow Lake-born forward Bryce Neufeld at the Thursday night event. All three of the hockey players hadn’t played a home game for some time and expressed their appreciation for the hundreds of fans who attended.

It was the first time since last year’s face off against the Battlefords Stars where Iron had the opportunity to play hockey so close to home. In spite of this year’s loss, Iron said he hadn’t felt so thrilled to hit the ice in a long time.

“I could really feel the atmosphere in the arena tonight,” Iron said. “The crowd was charged and it’s different knowing some people came out specifically to see me. I really didn’t want to mess up.”

Iron, 16, who’s in his second season with the Beardy’s team, said this year the squad has been struggling to get the puck in the net. Beardy’s lost the evening’s contest 5-0 and were outshot by the Battlefords team 34-15. Beardy’s is currently in last place in the SMAAAHL while the Battlefords club is the second-best team in the league. With the season half over, Iron is confident his Beardy’s team has what it takes to make a comeback.

Merasty, 17, is also optimistic the team can be the underdogs of the season and rise from the bottom of the league’s rankings. Last year, he played for Meadow Lake in the Centre Four Hockey League’s midget division and said it was nice to play in familiar territory again.

“I know the ice here very well and to top it off, I’m from here and I could see family and my friends cheering me on,” Merasty said following the game.

Family and friends were also there to encourage 17-year-old Neufeld, a rookie with the Battleords team. While he said his parents attend most his home games in North Battleford, he added playing at home in front of all the local fans was uplifting.

“It’s been a good season for me so far,” Neufeld said. “The team is among the top in the league and we’ve been making smart plays and driving the puck deep.”

The event was organized by MLTC Sports and Youth Development and also served as a major fundraiser for the arena. Throughout the game, many prizes were awarded to lucky winners leading up to the major giveaway. For weeks, Flying Dust sold tickets for a raffle with a new truck at stake, as well as a $10,000 consolation prize.

During the second intermission, silence fell among the audience as ticket holders eagerly clutched their vouchers. All eyes fell on Meadow Lake area resident Jolene Senger who said she never wins anything shortly after being handed the keys to her new 2013 F-150 pickup truck valued at $45,000.

“I can’t believe it,” she said. “It’s an amazing Christmas bonus.”

The winner of the $10,000 was Bob and Diane Steeg of Meadow Lake.
Flying Dust director of finance Sheldon Gervais said the band sold out of tickets for this year’s raffle compared to 50 per cent last year. The success of the giveaway has prompted FDFN to also begin planning for another vehicle raffle next year.

“It helps out tremendously to keep the rink going because it’s expensive and we want to keep costs down for everyone,” Gervais added.

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