Hockey Legends

of Grande Prairie

UPDATES: NPHL Semi Finals

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.

Leafs-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.


ICE CHIPS
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.

1954-Red-Devils

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.