The 100 Mile House Wranglers first season in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League was an “emotional roller-coaster ride,” and the club’s president didn’t want to get choked-up talking about it.
Tom Bachynski had the last words on an impressive inaugural season run by the local junior B hockey team at an awards banquet at the 100 Mile House Community Hall on March 14.
Standing at a podium near a row of new trophies that went out to the players, in front of the close to 150 people seated in attendance, Bachynski thanked the Wranglers players and their parents, “the army of volunteers,” billet families, coaches, trainers and fans.
He talked about “Wrangler Nation,” a moniker assumed by fans of the team which is popular on social media.
The team, which was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the Kamloops Storm earlier this month, averaged over 500 spectators per home game at the South Cariboo Rec. Centre.
Wrangler Nation “reaches far, wide and with great density,” Bachynski says.
“Without a doubt, we have been one of the most watched teams in the (KIJHL). In total, we saw over 17,000 people come and watch our Wranglers.”
Bachynski went on to call Doug Rogers “the architect of one of the best startup franchises the (KIJHL) as ever seen.”
Rogers, the coach and general manager, won the Doug Birks Division coach of the year award. He is giving up his coaching duties, but is staying on as general manager next season.
In his closing remarks, Bachynski addressed the players.
“You are what future teams will aspire to be. You have become legends in our community.
“What you have given this community can’t be put on a scoresheet and it can’t really be fairly explained. But, what you’ve left with us is cherished. I think, and hope, the community has equally reciprocated.”
He then spoke hopefully about next season, asking the players, “Could you imagine what the team would be like if you came back?”
2013-14 Wranglers season award-winners:
Builder’s award: Bill Forman
Legacy plaque: Nathan Warren
Sportsmanship award: Connor Sloan
Scoring leader: Luke Santerno
Outstanding forward: Donovan Law
Fan favourite: Connor Sloan
Outstanding defenceman: Tyson Levesque
Player’s choice award: Stephen Egan
Most valuable player: Lane van de Wetering
Cowboy hat: Kristian Stead
President’s award: Jaidan Ward