Matthew Savoie was the first overall selection at the 2019 Western Hockey League U-15 Draft. As he waits for training camp with the Winnipeg ICE, Savoie has joined the Sherwood Park Crusaders of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

The Crusaders is the same team where his brother, Carter played with for the past two seasons. Carter scored 53 times last season — he had 99 points — and now he has moved up to play with the University of Denver Pioneers Division I team.

The Winnipeg ICE followed that selection up by taking Conor Geekie of Strathclair, Manitoba. The Prince George Cougars followed Winnipeg as they drafted Keaton Dowhaniuk and Koehn Ziemmer.

Wheat Kings on the clock:

Brandon had the fifth and sixth overall selections. With the fifth pick, they went to Red Deer as they drafted young superstar, Nate Danielson. Leading up to the draft, Danielson scored 26 times and had 59 points in 29 games with the Red Deer U-15 Rebels.

He then went on to torch opponents in the playoffs.  He had another 22 points — nine of which were goals — in just 12 games. Danielson also had four goals in two games with the Red Deer Northstar U-16 AAA Chiefs.

“It was really exciting for my family and me when Brandon drafted me,” said Danielson. “I’ve heard so many great things about the Wheat Kings franchise. It was an honour to see my name on the board.”

The Wheat Kings remained on the clock as they went just down the road to Russell, Manitoba, where they selected Tyson Zimmer.

Zimmer is playing with the Waywayseecappo Wolverines of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League right now and he has eight points in 10 games. He was also recently named the Northwest Division Star of the Week.

Big year:

Nate had 60 points in just 27 games with the Northern Alberta X-Treme Prep team last season as they play in the Canadian School Sport Hockey League. 27 of the points were goals as he continued his offensive domination. The 60 points were the 11th most in the league.

The fifth overall selection added five more points in two playoff games.

“I thought I had a solid year and we had a really strong team,” offered Danielson. “It was a great year that was full of development and great coaching.”

On top of his great play with Northern Alberta, Nate was provided with an opportunity to represent the country. He played on the U-16 Team Canada, a team that competed at the Youth Olympic Games.

It was Danielson’s first appearance on the international stage and he certainly made the most of it. In four games, he found the back of the net twice and he also chipped in with one assist. The team, well they won a bronze medal.

“That was an experience that I will never forget,” said Danielson. “It was such an incredible honour to be able to represent this great country. I loved every minute of it and we had a great group of guys. It was awesome that we were able to win a bronze medal.”

New year, same domination:

There’s no doubt that the 2019-2020 season was one that Nate will never forget. Between playing on Team Canada and tearing it up with Northern Alberta, it was a tremendous year for the young man.

This year, as he waits for Wheat Kings training camp, he’s playing with the Red Deer U-18 AAA Chiefs. In just five games to start the season, he’s already scored six goals. His 10 points are tied for the eighth-most in the Alberta Elite Hockey League.

“I’m off to a solid start in a weird year with everything that is going on,” said Danielson. “I’m just trying to make the most of any chances I get. It’s important that I continue to improve every time I hit the ice.”

What’s next?

If you were to ask Nate, the simple answer would be a regular season with the Brandon Wheat Kings as a 16-year-old.

After taking part in his first training camp with the organization last year, Danielson’s goal is to make the team this season. It won’t be an easy feat as the Wheat Kings will be an experienced top-end team but it’s a goal that Nate does believe he can achieve.

“My goal is to have a good year in Brandon,” ended Danielson. “I’m just preparing now so I give myself the best chance possible. I’m really looking forward to another main camp with them and we’ll see how it goes.”

Training camps across the WHL are expected to open after the Christmas break ahead of the season beginning on January 8.

The two easiest ways to buy your tickets for the Dauphin Kings Tractor Lotto is by phone or online. Not only is it the safest, but it means you don't even have to leave the house. 

You can visit Tractor Lotto or call 1-877-585-4647. The draw for all of the prizes up for grabs will be on December 13 and Christian Laughland says things are off to a great start.

"Ashley Shaw has been answering 15 calls a day lately, which is great," said Laughland. "People are really excited about this draw and it's moving along really well. Chad Facey and Doug Hedley are writing out tickets, so everyone is buying in."

When it comes to the 50/50, it's well over $13,000.

On top of the $100,000 prize up for grabs, there is also the following up for the grabs.

  • 10 prizes of $1,000;
  • Two prizes up for grabs of $2,500;
  • Two draws for $5,000;
  • One draw for $10,000;
  • Three additional draws for a 2021 John Deere E110 Lawn Tractor.
  • 50/50 draw which is capped this year at $87,000,00. 

Tickets are 1 for $100 or you can get a three-pack for $250. There are also supplementary tickets available. 

"It's pretty rare where you get an opportunity like this to win $100,000 with these types of odds," said Laughland. 

Known as one of the Kings' biggest fundraisers, this year is a great one to jump on the Tractor Lotto bandwagon.

"This organization is a significant hockey program for this community, and it's having a tough time right now with the season being on pause," ended Laughland. "This has been around for 22 years and it's always wonderful to be a part of on draw day."

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will play the Saskatchewan Roughriders twice in the preseason ahead of the 2021 regular season.

The Canadian Football League announced the upcoming season's schedule on Friday and two highlights will be the "Banjo Bowl" and the "Labour Day Classic".

Here is the complete schedule:

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The Parkland Vipers would begin their season in January in a normal year. While the hope is that the season can proceed as normal, there is lots of uncertainty at this point because of the novel coronavirus.

With a chance of there being no season because of restrictions, Ted Rea is still hoping to provide young players with an opportunity to play the game.

He has set up a net at Parkland Crossing and his goal is to be able to run a few sessions on Sundays if the club season is either delayed or isn't played. Ted will run sessions for the 15U team but he's looking for coaches to step up for other age groups. 

"It would be nice to be able to have at least one coach at the 12U, 13U, and 14U level age groups," said Rea. 

You can call Ted at 648-4433 to get more information.

If you look up dedication to the crest in the hockey dictionary, there is a good chance you will find Luke Nkwama's name. The Outlook, Saskatchewan forward is now in his third season with the Melville Millionaires, and the first two weren't exactly friendly.

In the 2018-2019 season, Luke's first with Melville -- the team won just 16 games -- and they finished in a tie for third place in the Viterra Division with the Weyburn Red Wings. That was followed by nine losses in their final ten games the following season as they won just 16 games again and finished at the bottom of the Viterra Division.

Although Luke had 55 points combined in those first two years with the Mills', it was never about points. He's been about the team winning games from day one.

"I still gained a ton of experience in those first two years, even though we weren't winning a ton," said Nkwama. "It was all about sticking to the process and learning every day and I believe I did that."

Nkwama is back in Melville for his third season and it is off to a much better start than any season in the past. After blowing a two-goal lead in their first game against Estevan earlier this month, the Millionaires are on a roll.

The team has won three straight games -- they have 12 scored goals in the process -- and they lead the Viterra Division by one point over Estevan and Yorkton. The current three-game win streak that the Mills' are enjoying is also the first that Nkwama has been a part of. In his first two years, the team never won three games in a row.

"It's been an awesome start to the year. We really should be 4-0, but it is what it is," said Nkwama. "Everyone has come together really well, and it's a ton of fun winning games."

Nkwama's 38 points last year were the second-most on the team. His 22 goals were also the most on last year's team and he's picked up where he left off. In just four games this season, Luke has already scored two goals while he's also added two assists.

His four points are only behind Reece Newkirk, Jaydon Dureau, and Landon Kosior, all of which are on loan from Western Hockey League teams right now.

"I'm playing a big role here this year so I expect to be a point-per-game kind of guy," offered Nkwama. "With that said, I just want to win. Points are nice but winning is even nicer, and I think that's what everyone wants, to win for this great organization."

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Melville continues its preparation ahead of another two-game weekend set against a rival. They welcome Yorkton to town on Friday before they head to Yorkton on Saturday. Yorkton is one point behind Melville entering the weekend so the Millionaires have a great opportunity to jump a few points ahead of their biggest rival.

And even though there are only 150 fans allowed in the stands, Nkwama can still tell when the team is playing Yorkton compared to any other team.

"They have a great team and we know they're going to be a very tough challenge for us," said 'It's always enjoyable playing against your rivals and we'll see what we can get done."

Luke joined Melville after a 29 point season with the Prince Albert U-18 AAA Mintos. Before playing with Prince Albert, Nkwama played in Melville. He played 140 games combined with the U-15 and U-18 AA Millionaires. In 2016-2017 season, he had 46 regular-season points and another four goals and nine points in nine playoff games with the U-18 Millionaires.  

The Horizon Credit Union Centre is an arena that he has played in a lot and as Nkwama says, he wouldn't have it any other way.

"It's an honour to be playing for the Millionaires especially after playing minor hockey here," ended Nkwama. "I will cherish the friendships I have made for the rest of my life, it's been a great time playing here."

Ryan Straschnitzki's road to recovery has been long and it has provided many twists and turns along the way.

The now 21-year-old was paralyzed from the chest down two years ago when he was a member of the Humboldt Broncos Junior A hockey team. They were struck by a semi-trailer as they were on their way to Nipawin for a playoff game. The crash claimed the lives of 16 people while 13 were injured -- many severely -- including Straschnitzki. 

Ryan shattered his T2 and T3 vertebrae, he suffered internal bleeding in his lungs, pelvis area, and his skull. He also broke his clavicle on the left side and had other bruising and scars. Before the accident, Ryan had 14 points during the regular season and playoffs.

About a year and a half after the accident, Ryan travelled to Thailand to undergo surgery. The surgery was about four hours and doctors put an epidural stimulator on Ryan's T10 vertebrae which send electrical currents from the brain to muscles. 

"A doctor that goes to my physio clinic underwent the surgery and he was able to move his muscles again," said Straschnitzki. "I figured it was the best thing for me so I went forward with it and got it done."

After a successful surgery, Ryan spent about 45 days in Thailand doing programming and working on moving his muscles again. When he flew home, the extensive physio continued about three to four times per week and he's able to walk now with assistance.

 

"It's honestly been a whirlwind, it blew up right away when the crash happened and the whole world had their eyes on us," offered Straschnitzki. "We appreciated all of the support that poured in."

Ryan and his family had to live in a hotel for about nine months as renovations had to be completed at the family home to make it liveable for Ryan whose life was changed after the April crash in 2018. 

The 21-year-old is now back on the ice, however, not playing hockey. Although his goal is to walk without assistance moving forward, Ryan says it's all about being patient as this is a very long process. That's where sledge hockey comes in. 

His goal is to ultimately make the Canadian men's sledge hockey team and it would appear that he could very well be on his way to achieving that goal as he has already cracked the Alberta provincial team. He's been playing the game for about a year and a half now and he's on the ice three to four times per week on top of the time he spends in the gym working on the muscles needed to be an elite player. 

"I just sort of started playing the game for fun, it was just something to do," said Straschnitzki. "It was a pretty big accomplishment for me making Team Alberta and I know I have a long way to go, but I'm ready for the challenge ahead."

In another great story, Ryan's teammate, Layne Matechuk has recently been skating on the ice and even shooting pucks. Layne spent about a month in a coma after the accident. Since, he has had to learn to talk and walk again and now, he's back on the ice skating and shooting.

"That's absolutely incredible. We all have our own story and own path to recovering," ended Straschnitzki. "He is a great friend of mine and he's such a great guy. It was amazing to see how hard he has worked to get back on the ice and I'm really happy for him. I hope one day we can get back on the ice together."

Two Manitoba Junior Hockey League teams face fines for travelling outside of Winnipeg to play during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Winnipeg Blues and Winnipeg Freeze both had players participate in private training sessions outside of the region on November 9th.

Hockey Manitoba says the teams did this despite a safety order against travelling outside the Winnipeg area, which is under a provincial critical red designation.

The league and Hockey Manitoba say they have fined the group that owns the team's five-thousand dollars for "poor judgment" and the teams will also have to surrender their first-round draft picks in 2021.

The money will go toward personal protection equipment for front line COVID-19 workers.

The Keystone Junior Hockey League has decided to postpone the start of the season.

With the announcement, play is now expected to begin in January. The league features five teams, the Peguis Juniors, Cross Lake Islanders, NCN Flames, OCN Storm, and the Norway House Northstars.

Only the Survivor Series was played last year when the league shut down because of the novel coronavirus. Peguis was set to be the three-seed in a best-of-seven semi-final against the second-seed, OCN Storm.

Although the Winnipeg Blue Bombers didn't get the opportunity to defend their title they won last year, Blue Bombers fans will get the chance to watch their team raise CFL's biggest prize once again.

The Bombers have joined the Canadian Football League in a virtual celebration of Grey Cup Unite. This event gives Bombers fans an opportunity to get their CFL fix in with a number of different events taking place throughout the weekend -- leading up to the 2019 Grey Cup game -- in which Winnipeg won.

"We know it has been a challenging time for everyone including here in Manitoba," said Darren Cameron, Senior Director of Public and Player Relations. "We have such great fans across the province and we want to remind those fans that the CFL is still here and how much it means to so many people."

Here is a list of what is happening this weekend. 

Friday:

Virtual Huddle: 12:00 p.m.

The fan-favourite Virtual Huddle is back! Join the team for a virtual round-table chat with Andrew Harris, Pat Neufeld, Jermarcus Hardrick, Stanley Bryant and Zach Collaros as they reconnect and reminisce about the 2019 season.

"This group will come together and they will just start talking, there is no script," said Cameron. "It's a pretty unique experience for fans to be able to watch this."

Touchdown Manitoba Concert – 12:30 p.m.

One of the most popular performers of the year is back – receiver Drew Wolitarsky performs an intimate virtual concert featuring a mix of original songs and covers. 

"I've seen him play many times, he has done a variety of concerts over these past few months," said Cameron. "He's extremely talented and I encourage everyone to tune in."

The festivities continue on Saturday afternoon.

Live Recording of Handled Internally Podcast – 12:00 p.m.

Join Senior Director of Player and Public Relations, Darren Cameron, along with co-host and Senior Writer/Reporter Ed Tait for a live recording of the Handled Internally Podcast – featuring a special guest.

Sunday:

Re-broadcast of the 2019 Grey Cup game with live commentary – 5:30 p.m.

Join members of the 2019 championship team as they re-watch the 2019 Grey Cup game and provide live commentary.

"To be able to hear their thoughts and takes as the game goes on, that's pretty cool," ended Cameron. "Guys have enjoyed talking about it. I think it has made not only the members of our team happy, but everyone across the province. I believe the fans are really going to enjoy this."

You can catch all of the festivities by signing up at Bombers fans Unite.

In a normal year, fans would get the chance to watch their favourite Western Hockey League teams in action as the regular-season would be well underway.

However, as we know it, 2020 has been unlike any other year in the past due to the novel coronavirus. It shut down last year's season before the playoffs and it has significantly delayed the start of this season. The league has said January 8 is when the new season will begin, a delay of more than three months.

With that said, WHL fans have still had the opportunity in some cases to watch their favourite players play across the country. The WHL granted roster players a temporary transfer and many players took advantage of that by joining Junior A teams. For Daemon Hunt, he grew up in Brandon and spent many weekend nights at Tundra Oil & Gas Place watching the Virden Oil Capitals of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

Wanting to get into some game action, Hunt took full advantage of the situation as he joined the Oil Capitals. He only played three games, but he was a spark plug in the team's offence, as was expected. He scored three goals in the two games and added up two assists. After the three games, he was in a tie for seventh in team scoring.

Daemon's biggest goal as an Oil Capital came back on October 31 when he scored the game-winner against the Winkler Flyers.

"It was good for me to get back into the swing of things. I hadn't played a game for a long time, so it was great to get back at it," said Hunt. "Virden is a great hockey community so it was great joining them. They welcomed me in with open arms.  I was happy to be a part of the organization for the short time I was with them."

With his time as an Oil Capital now in the past, Hunt, a Moose Jaw Warrior product has entered a bubble:

Bubble life:

With less than two months until the puck drops on the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton, Hockey Canada previously announced its roster for its selection camp which is now underway in Red Deer.

The camp which runs until December 13 features five goaltenders, 15 defencemen, and 26 forwards. The list includes Quinton Byfield, Bowen Byram, Dylan Cozens, and Jamie Drysdale, just to name a few. Also part of the group invited is Hunt, as the 18-year-old from Brandon has entered the Team Canada selection camp bubble.

"It's always a great feeling when you're recognized by Hockey Canada," said Hunt. "For them to reach out to me, it means a ton. I always grew up watching this tournament and I always wanted to play in it. It's a really exciting time."

The selection camp which is held at the Westerner Park Centrium -- which as many of you know -- is home to the Red Deer Rebels will include practices and three intrasquad games. On top of that, there will be six games against a team of U-Sports all-stars from November 28 to December 13.

This year's camp truly is like no other. Many didn't know what to expect going in, but that's okay for Hunt who is very confident going in.

"It's going to be different and I think that's okay. I'm just excited to get back into it with Hockey Canada and get into a different routine," offered Hunt. "Camp is going to be extremely fast and skilled. I just have to worry about myself and play every shift like it's my last. I'm going in with the mentality that I can only control what I can control."

Daemon says he will do anything he can to show the coaching staff that he deserves to be on the roster when the tournament opens on Christmas Day. Canada plays its first game on Boxing Day.

Warrior living:

The Moose Jaw Warriors are the only team that Daemon truly knows in the WHL. A 15th overall pick in the 2017 WHL U-15 Draft, Daemon played his first nine regular-season games with Moose Jaw in the 2017-2018 season.

As we continue to wait for the new season to begin, Hunt will hit the century mark early on in the season when it starts. He's six games away from the 100 mark when it comes to regular-season games with Moose Jaw. If you add his six playoff games to his total, Daemon has already played 100 games with Moose Jaw.

Hunt -- who was drafted 65th overall by the Minnesota Wild earlier this year -- has eight goals and 29 assists with Moose Jaw. In just 28 games last year, he had 15 assists.

There's no doubt that Daemon is excited to return back to Moose Jaw for the new season. For now, however, the only goal he's thinking about is making Team Canada ahead of the event that Daemon calls "the best in the world".

"It would mean the world to me if I made this team. I honestly think it's right within my reach, I just have to grab it," ended Hunt.

Although there is no hockey being played in Dauphin or around Manitoba for now, the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League's regular season is underway and two teams aren't a far drive from Dauphin.

In fact, if you drive just more than two hours you will find the Horizon Credit Union Centre, which is the home of the Melville Millionaires. In existence since 1908, Melville is one of the most storied franchises in the SJHL and they are making some noise early in the SJHL season.

After winning their second and third games of the season last year, the team lost five games in a row and they finished at the bottom of the Viterra Division with just 16 wins. This year, Melville is off to a fine start to their season. They gave up the game-winning goal against Estevan with just 37 seconds left on opening night, but since that, the Millionaires haven't lost.

The team has scored 12 goals in their three-game winning streak as they sit on top of the Viterra Division. Mike Rooney is in his first year as head coach and general manager of Melville and he says the team is buying into the process and that has resulted in success.

"We've been able to establish an identity and a whole new culture," said Rooney. "Our players believe in themselves. We're playing with pace, tenacity, and that's really helping us right now."

One of Melville's top returning players is Luke Nkwama. The 20-year-old from Outlook, Saskatchewan, is in his third season with Melville. He scored 22 goals last season and he's off to a strong start to this season with two goals and two assists in the first four games of the season.

Nkwama will join Darnell Duff later this week. Luke is in a tie for fourth in team scoring. Up until this year, he has never experienced what a three-game winning streak feels like.

"Luke is a great individual. He's quiet by nature but when something needs to be said, he will say it," said Rooney. "He's a great guy to coach and he's off to a solid start."

WHL presence:

The WHL announced prior to the start of the Junior A season that roster players could continue their development with Junior A teams and since that news, top-end WHL talent has joined numerous teams from across the country and that is the case in Melville.

The team has opened its doors to five WHL players including Reece Newkirk who is leading the team with nine points. Newkirk is a member of the Portland Winterhawks while Jaydon Dureau -- also a member of the Winterhawks -- has seven points in the first four games.

Landon Kosior had 23 points with the Prince Albert Raiders last season from the back end and he's chipped in with five assists so far this season while 17-year-old, Joe Arntsen has joined the team on loan from the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

In net, Bryan Thomson won 16 games with the Lethbridge Hurricanes last season and he has joined the Millionaires on loan. In his first two games with the SJHL club, Thomson has sparking numbers as he went 2-0; he had a 1.99 goals-against average to go along with a .929 save percentage. 

"They all have ties to the community and into our group, so it was an effortless integration into our group," continued Rooney. "They're going to leave a six-to-eight week impact on our group; it has been a great positive for us."

The WHL has said it plans to begin the new season on January 8.

Tough stretch:

Melville plays four more games this month -- all against teams with championship aspirations -- as they will play their rival, Yorkton Terriers twice and the Humboldt Broncos twice. Humboldt is 3-1 to start the season while Yorkton is off to a 2-1-1 start. 

The tough four-game stretch begins this weekend with a home-and-home against Yorkton. Moving forward to next month, Melville begins December with one more game against Humboldt and two against Yorkton. 

"We're going to have to bring our best game, there is no doubt about that," ended Rooney. "This tough stretch will give us the opportunity to really see where we are. I don't think it's about wins or losses right now; it's about how we play. We're playing well but with that said, there are some parts within our game that we need to do much better on and that's what we're working on."