March 23, 2024

Robservations: Here’s to a win for Wolseley … former Riders cheerleader supports Hockeyville bid … Lancaster on legibility

The town of Wolseley, like the Saskatchewan Roughriders once upon a time, is looking for an ice-breaker of a victory.

For the Roughriders, the long-awaited breakthrough occurred in 1966, when the CFL team won its first Grey Cup championship. The previous eight attempts had been unsuccessful.

Now, consider the fortunes of our fine province in the Kraft Hockeyville contest. The first seven finalists from Saskatchewan — Wilcox (2008), Humboldt (2009), Ituna (2017), Lafleche (2018), Wilkie (2019), Pense (2020) and Lumsden (2021) — were runners-up despite the high calibre of their spirited bids.

The people of Wolseley hope to end the drought.

Wolseley is among this year’s four finalists, along with Elliot Lake, Ont., Cochrane, Alta., and Enderby, B.C.

The winner will receive $250,000, which is to go toward rink upgrades, and the opportunity to bring an NHL pre-season game to southern Saskatchewan.

If Wolseley is declared the winner on March 30, the Brandt Centre will be the host facility for the exhibition contest. The Wolseley Sportsplex is long overdue for the installation of a new artificial ice plant.

“Hockey in Wolseley is a really important outlet for the community and for the kids during the winter,” says Vance Weber, the media representative for Wolseley’s Kraft Hockeyville campaign. “Unless we win Kraft Hockeyville, the future of having that here is in jeopardy.

“Our ice plant is on Year 44 of a 25-year design.”

A replacement would cost anywhere between $600,000 and $800,000.

“Our fundraising committee has already raised just north of $100,000 in a year, which is pretty amazing for a town of 850 people,” Weber marvels. “They should be proud of that accomplishment.

“This $250,000 from Kraft Hockeyville is going to get us a heck of a lot closer to getting that new ice plant that we desperately need.

“It’s not just the community of Wolseley. There are eight other towns and cities that have skated here this season and three different reserves. It’s not just Wolseley being helped. It’s a big chunk of this corner of Saskatchewan.”

Weber’s confidence in the success of this year’s initiative is unwavering, despite the fact that Saskatchewan is 0-for-6 in Kraft Hockeyville.

“We’ll get there,” he says. “We’re in it to win it for Saskatchewan this year. It’s not just about Wolseley. It’s about bringing an NHL game to the Brandt Centre and all of Saskatchewan being able to celebrate as a group.

“It’s amazing. We feel like we’ve been adopted by the rest of Saskatchewan as a community. It’s not just the community of Wolseley anymore.

“I feel like Saskatchewan is lifting us up and I know they’re going to vote for us when the time comes on the 29th.”

The 32-hour voting period opens March 29 on Prospective voters must register on the website before selecting their community of choice during the designated window of time.

The winner will be announced during Hockey Night in Canada on March 30.

“It has been impressive with how many people across the province say it’s about time that Saskatchewan won,” Wolseley-area farmer Mark Beliveau says.

“After Vance was on the Evan Bray Show, a caller phoned in and said, ‘This is the home of Mr. Hockey himself and we’ve never won. It’s Gordie Howe’s home and we’ve never won.’ ”

Howe’s legendary status is comparable to that of Montreal Canadiens icon Jean Beliveau, to whom Mark is related.

Mark’s grandfather (Antonio) and Beliveau’s dad (Arthur) were brothers.

“There were nine boys and two girls (in Antonio’s family,” Mark says. “Back in 1918, four boys decided to come out west (from Quebec). I had a great great uncle who had a big farm out here in Wolseley, so a couple of the brothers — including my grandpa — got off the train and they started working for my great great uncle.

“My grandpa fell in love with the land, he fell in love with the farming, and he fell in love with a girl. He decided to homestead. He was able to get a quarter-section, which I still farm today. My son farms now, too, so we’re actually fourth-generation farmers now.”

For the Beliveaus of Wolseley, a love of the Roughriders also stretches back several generations.

“I love the rink and I love the Riders, too,” says Diane Beliveau, Mark’s wife. “We saw the Riders win the Grey Cup in Regina in 2013 and it was awesome.

“Walking down that Green Mile, I’ll never forget it.”

In the event of a Wolseley win, could there be a comparably celebratory procession in the southeastern Saskatchewan community?

“We could have a Teddy Bear Road,” Diane Beliveau says, referencing a likeness of the Kraft Bear that has been made of out of hay bales and prominently displayed near a Welcome to Wolseley sign.

“From the rink to the teddy bear,” Mark adds. “Perfect!”




Wolseley High School’s Principal has a Roughriders connection, not to mention a remarkable sense of timing.

Christine Schoenroth was a member of the 620 CKRM Rider Cheer Team during the championship season of 2007.

“Even though I only spent one year with the team, it was exhilarating to lead Saskatchewan fans and witness their support of Canada’s Team,” Schoenroth says.

“As a cheerleader attending the 2007 Grey Cup, I got the chance to see first-hand the spirit of Saskatchewan fans across the country.

“It was truly amazing meeting and visiting with people who had grown up on the prairies feeling Rider Nation pride and carrying it with them throughout their lives as they spread out across Canada.

“No matter where in Canada they had landed, their love for Saskatchewan sports stayed with them and spread to those around them.

“Now it’s time for Saskatchewan sports fans to rally together once again and support Wolseley to become the first Kraft Hockeyville town in Saskatchewan.”


Every athlete/celebrity who signs an autograph should take a close look at Jean Beliveau’s signature. It is a thing of beauty.

Ron Lancaster, whose signature was also wonderfully legible, discussed his philosophy on autographs with this scribbler on May 1, 2008.

“I always felt that if somebody’s going to come and ask you, sign it,” he said. “It won’t hurt you.

“Most times, people are really nice about it. They don’t come and say, ‘Here, sign this!’ What does it take? Thirty seconds?

“The other thing I used to tell players — and I never did get this across to many of them when I was coaching — was ‘try to sign your name so people can read it,’ because there’s going to come a day when they’re not going to be able to read it.’

“Some guys are only there for a year and some are there forever, but you have no idea who that person is because you can’t read the name.

“I said, ‘Why don’t you write it so people can read it?’ It might take a couple of seconds longer. They’re asking for your autograph for a reason. At least make it legible for them.

“You know what? It doesn’t happen.”

And it still doesn’t.


  • Nice people who deserve a plug: Dr. Aadish Balouria, Anthony Partipilo, Emma Brezinski, Jeff Fairholm, Darlene Freitag, Kim Gallagher, Josh MacNeil, Jenn Senger, Jim Hopson, Jacob Carr, Mychaela Giesbrecht, Gord Getz, Rick Van Beselaere, Dante De Caria, Mary De Caria, Kevin Shaw, John Paddock, Mark Beliveau, Diane Beliveau, Vance Weber, Reg Howard, Braden Konschuh, D’Sean Mimbs, Jaxon Ford, Jose Ferraz, Kim MacDougall, Dennis Sobchuk, Ed Staniowski, Mike Harazny, Sandy Harazny, Dr. Mark Anderson, Dr. Tom Robinson, Pete Paczko, Joe Paopao, Bob Irving, Ryan Pollock, Christine Schoenroth, Jacqueline Hurlbert, Evan McFeeters and Josh Shaw.