Anyone who has had a hankering to learn about the history of all the teams past and present of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) can find out about it in Rod Pedersen’s new compilation, Heart & Soul of the SJHL.
Pedersen, host of CKRM’s Sports Cage and Saskatchewan Roughrider play-by-play voice, brought together the stories of the teams in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the junior A hockey league. A history this in-depth would have taken the busy Pedersen a lot of time so in order to give the stories’ justice, Pedersen reached out.
“I started asking people in each community who would be the best to write that for each club,” said Pedersen. “In Estevan, the Sereggelas said it’s already been written.”
The chapter on the Bruins was taken from the production of the 60th anniversary of the Bruins written by the Mercury last year.
“That was an easy one, but in most other communities, I knew someone who was working at the newspaper or had been a long time supporter at the club,” said Pedersen. “So I reached out and asked them for photos of the arenas and we compiled them all together. And of course with the Humboldt tragedy, I knew the voice of the Broncos, Clark Stork, and he put that together. He’s intimately aware of that situation and he was the only man who could do it.”
The fun stuff, Pedersen said, was piecing together the history of the league’s teams in the markets where either Western Hockey League teams took root or places like Lebret and Minot, N.D., which experimented with teams but it didn’t quite work out.
“When people open the book right now, they immediately go to the photo of the Lebret Eagledome and smile,” Pedersen said, referring to the section of photos of the arenas these teams played in.
“Something jogs in their minds about Lebret. And Minot! Why are these teams so revered? They’re defunct.”
The old Minot Top Guns team was named after the Top Gun movie and also in honour of the nearby U.S. Air Force base, one of many interesting facts about the league’s southernmost old team. Also, Moose Jaw, Swift Current and Lloydminster were a huge part of the league but aren’t around anymore.
People will be able to learn a lot about the league, Pedersen said. Fifty years is a reason to celebrate, but there are some dark moments in the league’s history – likely none darker than April’s bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos.
“When you’re reading the Humboldt chapter, you’re not going to be feeling real good,” Pedersen said. “But the history of the league is to be celebrated, there is no doubt. So the Gerry James’, Terry Simpsons, the Bill Shinskes, all their stories are in there. They talk about Chris Chelios daily in Moose Jaw. He’s a huge part of it.”
A lot of people know the history of their own franchises but might now know others’. That history is in this book.
“I think everybody’s going to get something a little different out of it,” he said. “Some of the TV reporters that aren’t from Saskatchewan have got it on their desks and are using it as a reference tool, so that’s great. Other people have told me they enjoy the fact they can read a chapter before they go to sleep and they’re reading it one bite at a time.
“It’s a substantial book… There’s a lot of stories that stand out.”
One story was that he didn’t realize the Swift Current Broncos loaned Humboldt $3,000 when Humboldt was awarded an SJHL franchise in 1969.
“They were an affiliate team, and I didn’t know that,” Pedersen said. “So in 2018 when they had this tragic link, it’s eerie but it’s part of the league’s history and something that people I think will want to know.”