Hockey Legends

of Grande Prairie

February 2016


Sunday, February 28th

Fans who bet on the Fort St. John Flyers should go out and buy lottery tickets. Turns out betting on the Flyers, who at one point in the series were 0-3 game under dogs, was smart money. Odds makers will tell us the chances of such a comeback are probably only 9.5% but the Flyers did it in Grimshaw last night defeating the Huskies 5-3 to win the North Peace Hockey league best of seven semi-final championship four games to three. Ironically, like they did in the series, the Huskies took a 3-0 lead early in the second period last night but the Flyers came back with five unanswered goals to send Grimshaw their walking papers.

From an elimination point of view teams that lose the first three games are likely to lose game four resulting in a “sweep series.” Leading 3-0 in the series, Huskies had history and statistics on their side - but it was not to be. The writing might have been on the wall when Flyers came back to life with convincing wins of 5-0 and 11-2 against their rivals. Fort St. John certainly has the fire power outscoring Grimshaw 36-23 in the series.

Flyers now advance to the NPHL championship against the defending champion Spirit River Rangers.

If blogger Marty Tingstad, who predicted a Flyers’ win, bet on the game he’s got extra change in his pocket today. Look for Marty to provide a synopsis on the championship series.

Friday, February 26th

They say it’s hard to beat a good team four times in a row. It’s also hard to beat a bad team four games in a row. But Toronto Maple Leafs did it in 1942. Can Fort St. John Flyers do it in 2016? Even in the National Hockey league few teams ever come back from 3-0 deficits but the Leafs defied the odds by defeating the Detroit Red Wings to win the Stanley Cup back in 1942.

Pete Langelle, Conn Smythe and Dave 'Sweeney' Schriner and Lorne Carr from the 1942 Leafs team.

Although it’s not the NHL, history tells us Flyers have a one in 50 chance of coming back from a 3-0 deficit so only time will tell if the they can replicate this gargantuan task of winning one more game against the Grimshaw Huskies and advance to the North Peace Hockey League championships.

Last night the Flyers edged the Huskies 5-3 at home to even their best of seven-semi final NPHL series at three games each. Flyers, who have never played a Game 7 in their history, will have to do it on the road Saturday in the seventh and final game of the series. They certainly carry the momentum having outscored their opponents 31-20 so far in the series. Statistics look even worse for Grimshaw if we look at the last three games where Flyers outscored the Huskies 21-5 with wins of 5-0, 11-2 and 5-3. Flyers have one shutout win while the Huskies won a game in overtime. Winner advances to the NPHL championships against the defending champion champion Spirit River Rangers, who have had a chance to let their equipment get good and dry.

Marty Tingstad, our first blogger, predicted a Flyer’s victory in five games.

Tuesday, February 24th

Fort St. John Flyers are striking back with vengeance in their best of seven semi-final series against the Grimshaw Huskies. Flyers blanked the hometown Huskies 5-0 last night to win their second consecutive contest but still trail the series 3-2 in games. Troy Hunt, the West Division League all-star goaltender, certainly sent Huskies a strong message last night as he registered a first ever playoff shutout by the Flyers. Rick Cleaver proved his League MVP status and along with Ryan Carter, each scored two goals as Flyers outshot the Huskies 48-21.

Huskies could wrap up the series in Fort St. John on Thursday but the Flyers certainly have the momentum.

Sunday, February 21st

Falher Pirates certainly didn’t go down without a fight. Spirit River Rangers advanced to the North Peace Hockey League championships last night in Falher but it took an overtime goal by Trevor Mazurek at 17 seconds in overtime to dispose of the Pirates 4-3 and sweep the best of seven series four games straight. Rangers, winners of the West division, are the defending NPHL champions.

The plot thickens in the other series. In a do or die situation Fort St. John Flyers staved off elimination courtesy of an easy 11-2 win over the visiting East division champion Grimshaw Huskies who missed a chance to sweep their series. Huskies lead the series 3-1 in games and return home for game five on Tuesday night.

Friday, February 19th

Grimshaw Huskies and Spirit River Rangers are on the verge of advancing to the North Peace Hockey League championships. Huskies defeated the Fort St. John Flyers 5-3 at home last night (February 19) while Rangers downed the visiting Pirates 5-2.

Both Huskies and Rangers are 3-0 heading into Saturday night games and could each sweep their best of seven series.

NOTE: by Chris Clegg, NPHL Statistician
Only twice in the 63-year history of the NPHL has a team come from 3-0 down to win a series:
1978-80 Grimshaw Huskies defeated the Falher Pirates in the NPHL Semi-Final.
2012-13 Lakeland Eagles defeated the Falher Pirates in the NPHL Semi-Final.

From Horse Drawn Sleds to Comfortable Motor Coaches and Airplanes
By Stan Neufeld and Ron Neufeld

Let’s compare local hockey travel over the years from 1915 to present day. From a horse drawn sled in 1915 to the comfort of a motor coach with onboard entertainment, rest rooms, folding tables, armrests and recliner seats. Have we got it easy or what?

The bus ride from Grimshaw to Fort St. John is about 230 kms, a comfortable two and a half hour bus ride, the longest road trip facing teams currently competing in the NPHL semi-finals this year. In a working man’s league in which hockey is purely a recreational pastime even this is a stretch taking a toll on work and other domestic activites.

Now - compare today’s circumstances to conditions in 1954 when the Grande Prairie Red Devils travelled by bus to Whitehorse to play the Whitehorse Merchants in Wheat Belt-Yukon Hockey League  game.


It was a nineteen hour bus ride covering 1,600 kilometres. The only entertainment  was a deck of cards and refreshments. The Red Devils travelled 3,300 kilometres in five days! The team and a few fans pulled into the Grande Prairie depot shortly after nine on a Tuesday morning. They had departed from the Yukon capital at midnight on Sunday, travelling nonstop on the return trip. To help finance the trip the team had organized a five-dollar per plate banquet.

There were furious debates in every town that participated in the Wheat-Belt Yukon Hockey League experiment about the worthwhile nature of the experiment. To make it feasible the Yukon Capital made certain concessions such as free accommodation and help with meals but even so the cost to each team making the trip was approximately $1000; a lot of money in the era.

Not surprisingly the Wheat Belt - Yukon Hockey League lasted only a year. With Whitehorse dropping out, the league became known as the “South Peace Hockey League”  with the addition of Spirit River Rangers. A year earlier the North Peace Hockey League emerged championed by the Fairview Monarchs.

In the end the Wheat belt - Yukon Hockey League was a bold experiment but not out of character for the reckless pioneers of the North. It was in the tradition of hockey players hungry for competition dating back to March of 1915, a month that often saw the mercury drop to -40 when nine players from Peace River Crossing piled into a horse drawn sled along with their hockey gear to test their skills against teams from Grande Prairie and Saskatoon Lake. It was an adventure of epic proportions covering 515 Kms. - in a horse drawn sled – to play a couple of games of hockey!! A horse drawn sled on a long trip covers ground at about 6.4 kms. per hour. A motor coach on today’s highways moves at 100kms. per hour. Are we spoiled or what?

(See Episode One of One Hundred Years of Hockey).

Wednesday, February 17th

Grimshaw Huskies and Spirit River Rangers have taken two game leads in their best of seven North Peace Hockey League semi-finals.

The Huskies defeated Flyers 3-1 in Fort. St. John last night (February 16) while the Rangers thumped the Pirates 7-2 in Falher.

Sunday, February 14th

Defending champion Spirit River Rangers and Grimshaw Huskies took one game leads in the North Peace Hockey League best of seven semi-final playoffs last night.

In Spirit River, the Rangers defeated Falher Pirates 6-3 while in Grimshaw the Huskies squeaked out a 7-6 overtime win over the Fort. St. John Flyers.

NPHL Semi Finals

By Marty Tingstad

The fans will get there a little earlier, the grill and coffee pot will be turned on a little sooner, and the tape will be wound a little tighter. The NPHL semi-finals are set to begin.

The marquee matchup should be the Spirit River Rangers playing the Falher Pirates. Perhaps their Jan 21st game provides us with a preview of what is to be expected when there were 172 minutes in penalties, including several fighting majors. The physical play can be expected to continue when the puck is dropped Saturday night in Spirit River. Both teams have better than average goaltending and are well coached. While the Pirates might have the edge in overall team speed, look for the Ranger’s combination of team toughness and a slightly better defense core (Spirit River allowed the fewest goals against this season but Falher allowed the second fewest) to take this series. The Rangers also have Alex Curran, the player voted in as the league’s best defenseman manning their blue line. Look for a Sprit River victory, likely in 6 games.

Also on Saturday night, the Grimshaw Huskies will be hosting the Ft St John Flyers. Perhaps the most remarkable fact from this series is that Grimshaw went from going winless all of last season to finishing first in the East Division this season. As a result of this, Huskies Coach Sheldon Szamata is this season’s Coach of the Year. Of course it does not hurt when you have the league’s leading scorer and unanimous choice for Rookie of the Year, Tyrin Wiebe (24 goals and 33 assists), on your team. The Huskies are young and they are quick. They led the league in goals scored and have decent goaltending. However, there is plenty of hardware in the other dressing room as well. The Flyers have league MVP Rick Cleaver who scored 19 goals with 20 assists in 20 games played. They also have West Division All Star Goaltender Troy Hunt between the pipes. The Flyers are big and they are physical. Look for the “a good defense usually outlasts a good offence” adage to hold true in this series as well. I would predict a Flyer’s series victory in 5 games.

Chris Clegg is the NPHL Statistician and does an amazing job keeping track of every kind of record in this league.

NPHL Semi-Final Schedule
Chris Clegg, NPHL Statistician

Falher Pirates vs Spirit River Rangers (Best-of-Seven)

Sat. Feb. 13     Falher            at Spirit River
Tue. Feb. 16     Spirit River      at Falher
Thu. Feb. 18     Falher            at Spirit River
Sat. Feb. 20     Spirit River      at Falher
*Tue. Feb. 23    Falher            at Spirit River
*Thu. Feb. 25    Spirit River      at Falher
*Sat. Feb. 27    Falher            at Spirit River
(*) if necessary
Fort St. John Flyers vs Grimshaw Huskies (Best-of-Seven)

Sat. Feb. 13     Fort St. John     at Grimshaw
Tue. Feb. 16     Grimshaw          at Fort St. John
Thu. Feb. 18     Fort St. John     at Grimshaw
Sat. Feb. 20     Grimshaw          at Fort St. John
*Tue. Feb. 23    Fort St. John     at Grimshaw
*Thu. Feb. 25    Grimshaw          at Fort St. John
*Sat. Feb. 27    Fort St. John     at Grimshaw
(*) if necessary


Note by Stan Neufeld

This GP Hockey Legends Blog is a further extension of the GP Hockey Legends Web site. In terms of subject matter the blog is intended to deal with a wide variety of hockey related events – social, political, economic etc. Our first “blogger” is Marty Tingstad: a member of the GP Legends of Hockey Committee. He has an extensive and distinguished record as a referee. In 2014 he was selected “Official of the Year” at the Northwest Alberta Sport Excellence Awards. In 2010 he was awarded the “Ernie Boruk Award” by Hockey Alberta. He is past Zone Chairman of the Peace Zone Referees and Past President of Grande Prairie Referee Association. He is in his 33rd year as an active referee. Imagine the stories he could tell.

UPDATES: North Peace Hockey League Playoffs 

Friday, February 12th

Fort St. John - The Flyers defeated Dawson Creek Canucks 7-2 here last night (February 11) to wrap up their North Peace Hockey League quarter final series 3-2 in games. Flyers now advance to the semi-finals against the Grimshaw Huskies who won the division title and a first round bye. Falher Pirates and defending NHPL champion Spirit River Rangers tangle in other semi-final action.

Wednesday, February10th

Dawson Creek - Dawson Creek Canucks have forced a fifth and deciding game in their best of five North Peace Hockey League quarter finals with Ft. St. John Flyers. Canucks defeated the Flyers 4-3 here last night (February 9) to knot the series at two games each heading into the final and deciding game tomorrow night (February 11). Winner of this series will go on to play Grimshaw Huskies who won the division title and a first round bye. The other semi-final series has been decided and the matchup will include Falher Pirates and defending champion Spirit River Rangers.

Saturday, February 6th

Falher - The Pirates gained a thrilling 4-3 double overtime victory over the Manning Comets here last night to win their series three games straight. Pirates now advance to the semi-finals against the defending NPHL champion Spirit River Rangers.

Friday, February 5th

Fort St. John - The Flyers dominated Dawson Creek Canucks 9-1 here Friday taking a 2-1 lead in their series.

Thu, February 4th

Dawson Creek Canucks defeated Ft. St. John Flyers 5-4 in overtime at home on Thursday evening to knot their North Peace Hockey League at one game apiece in the second game of their best of final quarter final.

In the other series Falher Pirates defeated the Comets in Manning 4-1 taking a 2-0 series lead.

Stan Neufeld


Wed, February 3rd

Fort St John Flyers defeated the Dawson Creek Canucks 4-1 at home while the Pirates defeated the Manning Comets 7-4 in Falher during opening games of the North Peace Hockey League playoffs last night (Tuesday, February 2). Both series are a best of five quarter final. The dates for the remaining Flyer’s/Canuck’s series are Feb 4th, 5th, 9th, and 11th (if necessary) while the Pirates/Comets play the remaining games of their series on Feb 4th, 6th, 9th, and 11th (if necessary). All games in this league start at 8:30 pm.

By virtue of the Spirit River Rangers and Grimshaw Huskies winning their respective Divisions, they receive a first round bye. As winners of the East and West Division, Grimshaw and Spirit River are automatically given the higher seeds.  Therefore, Grimshaw and Spirit River have home ice advantage in the NPHL Semi-Finals.  Grimshaw will host the winner of the Dawson Creek vs Fort St. John series while Spirit River will host the winner of the Manning vs Falher series.

The NPHL is one of the best Senior AA Leagues in the Province with intense rivalries that have been built upon years of tradition.  Come playoff time, the action is ratcheted up a few notches and fans rarely leave disappointed. The hockey is both fast and hard hitting, and if your 50-50 ticket is drawn, you’re likely to receive quite a wad of cash!  For hard core hockey fans, it is truly one of the best entertainment values around.

Red-Devils Jersey
As for Grande Prairie – they have a colourful senior hockey history dating back to the early part of the century when they were the only game in town and featured teams like the Red Devils who competed against Saskatoon Lake, Hythe, Clairmont Sexsmith and other small communities. (see 100 Years! Episode One. More of that history will come in later episodes of 100 Years of Grande Prairie Hockey). Unfortunately Grande Prairie was unable to enter a team this year but entering a team in the NPHL next year is under discussion.

Marty Tingstad

Have we had enough  Phaneuf Yet?

Yesterday a flood of texts and emails filled cyberspace destined for my Inbox. I figured they might be invitations to lunch. Not so. Most were sarcastic comments about the Dion Phaneuf trade. You can only imagine.

This made me think back to the game my son, Chuck and I attended at the old Maple Leaf Gardens. I’m reminded that Leafs won the Stanley Cup 11 times  from 1932 to 1967 in that legendary building. I even had dinner with my son in the famous hot stove lounge. I’ve been to Rexall Place twice in the last few years to watch the Leafs and Phaneuf perform in front of a sea of blue and white with mostly Toronto fans chanting “Go Leafs go.”

Ok - I'm a  loyal Leafs fan. I had the Leafs logo on my diapers growing up. Growing up it was  either the Leafs or Habs. For road hockey you had to choose one team name or the other. For me it was a no brainer. Think about it.  NHL stars like Bobby Baun, Tim Horton, Johnny Bower…ice heros all! 

Not everything went smoothly growing up as a Leafs fan. When I registered for the first ever organized minor hockey at the Flats in 1960, almost half a century ago I thought I had an “in” with GPHM commissioner Roy Peterson. We were neighbours so made it known that I wanted to be signed up with the Leafs. Roy remained unmoved and for that entire season I had to wear a Habs uniform and played against my favourite team. To add insult to injury, I even had to pay 50 cents that first season - to wear a Habs jersey. 

There are certainly ups and downs being a loyal Leafs fan.  I admit it - this  year has been a tough season. I’ve had to buy my two Hab fan friends Marty Tingstad and John Lehners numerous lost-bet lunches. The Food was good but the company and conversation was painful. I have a Leafs Zamboni piggy bank-saving up for the Leafs run to the Stanley cup. One problem is company like Marty and John refuse to contribute to my fund raising campaign. In fairness they did give me a Leafs mug and picnic Leafs  lawn chair for Christmas. This chair will go very well with my Leafs fire pit that sits in my back yard thanks to Darren Cruse who even welded on names of a few of my old time favourites like Bower, Dave Keon and Darryl Sittler.

Dion Phaneuf
Now back to Dion Phaneuf. I've got his stick and sweater, both signed. On the guest list to visit the NHL stars behind closed doors. I’ve met Dion at Rexall Place twice after games. My last visit was thanks to my two lifelong pals Dave and Danny Johnson. Now that Dion has been traded to the conference rival Ottawa Senators does this increase or decrease the value of these items signed by Dion himself? According to one of my other friends Jay Smith, former mayor Rob Ford's tie has more sweat on it and worth more than anything  Phaneuf has signed.

What happens to my Leafs heading forward?  Well-my team is rebuilding. Now that we have another draft pick in 2017 and a bulging bank account things are looking up. We don’t have to retain Dion’s salary like we do for Phil Kessel which  certainly improves our cap position. Along with the draft pick in 2017 let’s not forget the five Leafs prospects who represented their respective countries at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championships - the likes of Mitch Marner, Travis Dermott, William Nylander, Dmytro Timashov and Kasperi Kapanen. The trade wasn’t meant to better the Leafs for today but when boss Lou Lamoriello and coach Mike Babcock complete their long term plan for a run at the cup in a few years Marty and John will be buying me a lot of lunches. 

Bring it on - maybe even see hometown boy Steven Stamkos in blue and white. But Leafs could be blowing in the wind with more changes every day as management rebuilds this legendary team.

And by the way - I watched #2 in his debut with the Senators tonight.

Stan Neufeld

Episode Two - 1918-1945


One Hundred Years of Grande Prairie Hockey
A Puck Drops – The War Stops
Hockey Survives Two Wars and a World Wide Depression

Episode Two of One Hundred Years of Grande Prairie Hockey covers twenty-seven years from 1918-1945. Two World Wars are book-ends for a recession, the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression that ended with the beginning of WW11. This period coincides almost exactly with the life span of the Wapiti Arena: the only covered ice surface in the Peace Country at this time. This era gave birth to the Wheat Belt Hockey League (WBHL) the first successful league in the Peace Country and the colourful National Defense League (NDL) that took over from the WBHL during WW11. Grande Prairie’s first Hockey Legends were born and nurtured by a number of fabled hockey parents and volunteers whose stories are told. Tales from the period end with hockey overseas and at home during WW11. Young men returning from the war in Europe took up the game where they had left it upon joining the war effort and came home to set foundations for the Golden Years of Hockey in Grande Prairie which will be covered in a future Episode Three.

Read "A Puck Drops"