Clark Gillies and Ryan Smyth never crossed paths on the ice, but they're both integral part of the rich hockey history in Moose Jaw.

Both NHL stars were on hand Thursday night as the Moose Jaw Warriors and Regina Pats kicked off the 50th season in the Western Hockey League.

“Playing in the Western Canada Hockey League was a great stepping stone in my career,” said Gillies, who starred for three seasons with the Regina Pats. “This has meant my whole life to me to play in the Western Hockey League, for sure.”

Gillies, a Moose Jaw native, went on to win four Stanley Cups with the New York Islanders and was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

He grew up cheering for the Moose Jaw Canucks in the Civic Centre and Gillies said it's amazing to see how far junior hockey in Moose Jaw has come.

“Mosaic Place is unbelievable and to think that this little town of Moose Jaw, which played for 100 years in Crushed Can, would get a facility like this, just shows you what hockey means to people out here,” said Gillies.

Ryan Smyth was presented with the Warriors' Alumni Achievement Award (Hockey) by the Western Hockey League before the game. The league will be honouring players from every franchise throughout the season.

“Being a part of (the WHL) was very special for me and my family,” said Smyth. “It means a tremendous amount for me, if it wasn't for the Warriors and the opportunity that I got to play in the WHL to succeed onto my dream, who knows what would have happened then.”

Players in the WHL leave home at 16 years old to chase the dream of playing in the National Hockey League. Only a small percentage of them accomplish that goal, but Smyth said it's about more than that.

“It's the transition from childhood to becoming a man,” he said. “The league has done an excellent job in helping that through not only education, but the competitiveness that's coming out of this league to carry forth into the NHL.”

The WHL has seen a lot of changes over the course of 50 years and even in the last 25 years since Smyth was in the league. The players are coming in more focused and trained to advance to the next level.

“We didn't have the facilities that are here now and they're pretty special with workout facilities, training and off-ice stuff with having access to the rink on a consistent basis,” said Smyth.

WHL co-founder Del Wilson was on hand for Thursday night's game and dropped the puck, along with Gillies and WHL board chairman Bruce Hamilton, on the 50th season.

WHL Canucks Banner Sep24The banner commemorating the Moose Jaw Canucks' 1967 WCHL championship heads to the rafters at Mosaic Place.

Canucks Celebrated Before Puck Drop

Moose Jaw was home to the first ever WHL champion.

The Canucks captured the league title in the inaugural season in 1996-67, beating the Regina Pats in five games. That team will now be remembered forever in the rafters of Mosaic Place with the raising of a banner during Thursday's opening ceremonies.

“It's a real honour,” said Jim Currie, a forward with the Canucks that season. “We did build something really special that season and I'm just glad that there's a team that ended up back in Moose Jaw to carry on that tradition.”

Currie was one of four members of the Canucks, joined by Garth Rizzuto, Reg Bechtold and Gerry Miller, that returned for the celebration. Assistant coach John Hunter, who still lives in Moose Jaw, was also a part of the night.

The Western Canada Hockey League was an “outlaw” league that included former members of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and two Alberta teams. The league wasn't eligible to play in the Memorial Cup.

The Canucks went 25-19-12 during the regular season, finishing fourth, and then got hot in the playoffs, beating Edmonton in nine games in the semifinal and then topping Regina in the final.

“It was a great group of guys and it was really well put together by Brian Shaw,” said Currie. “We had a strong defence, we had a great goaltender and our forwards really had a lot of intelligence, so it was really easy to work on some systems that were effective.

“Brian Shaw was ahead of himself in the tactician part of the game.”

Currie added that he hasn't seen many of the players from that year's team over the years as they've lost touch, so it was nice for a few of them to be able to get back together on Thursday.

“Lots of stories are going around and if we can't think of any, we're making some up,” he said.

More Local Sports

PODCAST: Riders' Loss, Lulay's Resurgence & Concussions

The Saskatchewan Roughriders' high hopes heading into Week 5 came crashing down pretty quickly in a 27-10 loss to the Calgary Stampeders. DiscoverMooseJaw's CFL Insider Matt Sheridan and host Marc…

Weninger Named Warriors’ Goalie Coach

The Moose Jaw Warriors will have a new starting goalie in 2017-18 and they will also have a new goalie coach. The local WHL team announced on Wednesday that they have hired Matt Weninger to join the…

Millers Roll Past Red Sox Wednesday

Heading into Wednesday’s game, the Moose Jaw Miller Express had lost their last four meetings with the Regina Red Sox. That changed in a big way in the final regular season meeting between the two…

Concussion Testing Available in MJ

Concussion prevention and treatment is becoming more and more at the forefront in professional sports, but they happen just as frequently in minor sports. The CBI Health Group here in Moose Jaw is…

MJ’s Boyle Moves into First at Provincials

Moose Jaw's Lorie Boyle moved into a tie for first place at the 2017 Golf Saskatchewan Senior Women's Championship in North Battleford on Wednesday. Boyle shot a second round 81 to climb into a tie…

MJ’s Ross & Sask Finish Round Robin with Loss

Moose Jaw's Quinton Ross and Team Saskatchewan dropped to 0-3 in the round robin at the 2017 Basketball Canada 15U National Championship in Regina. The Sask lost 69-55 to Team Quebec on Wednesday in…

Local Swimmers Head to National Events

There’s a couple of big weeks ahead for a pair of local swimmers. Cadence Johns and Elyssa Tacchi with the Moose Jaw Kinsmen Flying Fins are in Toronto this week for the 2017 Canadian Junior…

Epoch & Canada into World Cup Quarters

Moose Jaw’s Libby Epoch and Team Canada moved one step closer to a medal at the 2017 FIBA Under-19 Women’s World Cup on Wednesday. After finishing the round robin with a perfect 3-0 record thanks to…

Rush Trade Jones for Two Picks

After one season with the Saskatchewan Rush, Adam Jones is on the move again. The Rush dealt the forward to the Toronto Rock on Tuesday in exchange for first round picks in both the 2018 and 2019 NLL…

MJ’s Ross & Sask Drop to 0-2 at Nationals

Moose Jaw's Quinton Ross and Team Saskatchewan lost their second straight game at the 2017 Basketball Canada 15U National Championship in Regina. Saskatchewan lost 108-64 to Ontario on Tuesday to…

Millers’ Win Streak Snapped in Weyburn

An up-and-down seventh inning saw the Moose Jaw Miller Express go from three up to four down and an eventual 10-6 loss to the Weyburn Beavers on Tuesday night. Moose Jaw scored four in the top of the…

MJ’s Boyle Sits T2 at Senior Provincials

Moose Jaw's Lorie Boyle is tied for second place, one shot off the lead, after the opening round at the 2017 Golf Saskatchewan Senior Women's Championship in North Battleford. Boyle shot an 11-over…

Moose Jaw Wins Med Hat Tournament

With a couple of weeks to go before the Minor Prairie Championship in Lethbridge, the Moose Jaw Minor AAA All-Stars made their way to Medicine Hat this past weekend for a tune-up tournament. If their…

Great Experience for Locals at USA Cup

Over 1,100 teams hit the field in Blaine, Minnesota last week for the 2017 USA Cup Youth Soccer Tournament and the Moose Jaw Excelsior F.C. was one of them. The local soccer team came away with a 2-2…

Canucks Fall in Semis at Provincials

The Moose Jaw Canucks came up short of their ultimate goal, but completed a stellar season over the weekend. Moose Jaw finished in the top-four at the 2017 Baseball Saskatchewan Midget AA Tier 1…

MJ’s Ross & Sask Drop Opener at Nationals

The 2017 Basketball Canada 15-and-under National Championships opened up in Regina on Monday. Moose Jaw’s Quinton Ross and Team Saskatchewan hit the court against Nova Scotia in their opening game,…

Warriors’ Goalie Prospect Added to U17 Camp

Hockey Canada opened up its annual Summer Showcase in Calgary on Sunday with 111 players hitting the ice for the Under-17 Summer Development Camp. Moose Jaw Warriors’ 2016 first round pick Brayden…

MJ’s Helland Makes WMBL Debut Sunday

Coming off a busy weekend at the Baseball Saskatchewan Midget AAA Championship in Estevan, Reece Helland’s time on the field wasn’t over just yet. The 17-year-old Moose Jaw product received his first…

Millers Clinch Playoff Spot; Trounce Cards

After two seasons of sitting on the outside and watching, the Moose Jaw Miller Express are returning to the Western Major Baseball League playoffs. The Millers secured a playoff spot with a 15-6 win…

Riders Falter in Calgary; Lose 27-10

The Saskatchewan Roughriders headed into McMahon Stadium on Saturday looking to make a statement, but a slow start put an end to that before it could even get started. The Riders lost 27-10 to the…

DiscoverMooseJaw.com is Moose Jaw's only source for community news and information such as weather and classifieds.

Search the Biz Guide

Needs Assessment Survey for Moose Jaw Metis

15 June 2017 12:00 am - 15 August 2017 11:00 pm

TBA





Girls Exploring Trades and Technology (GETT) Camp

24 July 2017 9:00 am - 28 July 2017 4:00 pm

Saskatchewan Polytechnic Moose Jaw Campus, in the , Moose Jaw





Grasslander Classic!

28 July 2017 2:00 pm

Val Marie & Grasslands National Park, Val Marie





Elks Meat Draw

28 July 2017 5:30 pm - 29 July 2017 7:00 pm

Legion lounge





RuBarb Productions presents... MY FAIR LADY

28 July 2017 7:30 pm

Moose Jaw Cultural Centre, Moose Jaw





Brickspo

29 July 2017 9:00 am - 30 July 2017 5:00 pm

Western Development Museum - Moose Jaw, Moose Jaw





RuBarb Productions presents... THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST

29 July 2017 2:00 pm

Moose Jaw Cultural Centre, Moose Jaw





Login