Thursday, February 5, 2009

A fun night in the WHL!

There just aren’t fun nights like this in the WHL anymore.
The date was Nov. 18, 1994. It was a Friday night. The Moose Jaw Warriors were visiting the Regina Pats in what was then known as the Agridome. It was a time before corporations purchased naming rights to whatever was for sale. It was a time when hockey games frequently – well, certainly more often than now – included some kind of action that would leave the fans buzzing when they left the arena.
The Pats would win this game, 5-2, but as the fans headed for home the talk centred on two things: 1. Wasn’t that something?, and, 2. How do we get tickets for tomorrow night in Moose Jaw?
This was the night that Al Tuer, the head coach of the Warriors, and Norm Johnston, the Pats’ head coach, scaled the glass behind their teams’ benches and made like they were trying to get at each other. Vince McMahon would have loved it.
Roy Antal, a photographer with the Regina Leader-Post, was in the box between the team’s benches when all heck broke out.
Tuer laughs about it these days. He now scouts for the NHL’s Calgary Flames out of Vernon, B.C.
“There was a line brawl,” Tuer said the other night, “and we ended up with one more guy on the ice than they did. Go figure.”
Tuer laughed.
“Norm called me the next morning,” Tuer added. “He said we should go for a beer.”
Both head coaches drew one-game – yes, one-game! – suspensions.
The next night, the teams met in Moose Jaw and the Warriors won, 5-2. Former NHLer Bill Hicke, then one of the Pats’ owners, coached the Pats; Warriors assistant coach Len Nielsen ran the Moose Jaw bench.
Attendance in Moose Jaw was 3,317. The fire marshal may have been on vacation. The WHL’s 1994-95 Guide lists capacity of the Crushed Can at 3,269 – 2,969 seats and 310 standing.
“Yeah, the rink in Moose Jaw was kind of full that night,” Tuer said.
Of course, he and Johnston weren’t able to attend.
And, no, they never did get together for that beer.
While Tuer scouts for the Flames, Johnston, a school teacher, is head coach of the midget AAA Regina Pats Canadians. He also is involved in mentoring coaches with Hockey Regina. And one of Johnston’s best friends is Graham Tuer, Al’s father.
Yes, the hockey world is a small one. It’s just not as much fun for some of us as it used to be.
(The above photo was taken by Roy Antal of the Regina Leader-Post. I have had it autographed and tried to copy it for use here. I'm not a photographer and that is my flash bouncing back that you see in the middle of it. Hey, I'm a writer . . .)

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