Triple A midget level hockey has been part of the Yorkton Minor Hockey landscape since 1983, and although the organization boasts a national championship captured in 1993, there has been only one team which won the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League championship -- the 2002-2003 Yorkton Harvest squad. This team finished the regular season in fourth place, but went on a run in the playoffs knocking off the Saskatoon Blazers, the reigning league champion Tisdale Trojans and the Saskatoon Contacts in the league championship final. The team advanced to the Western Regional Championship in Thunder Bay ON where it went undefeated, beating Kenora, Brandon, and the host Thunder Bay 5-1 in the final. For only the second time in franchise history, the team was off to the national championship, then known as the Air Canada Cup.
The Harvest had a strong showing at the ACC, going 3-2 in the round robin and advancing to the playoff round, where they were defeated by the eventual champion, Calgary Northstars 2-1. In the bronze medal game, the Harvest came up short, losing a 5-4 overtime game to St. John's, on a team that featured future NHLer Teddy Purcell. Several team members went on to significant achievements in their hockey careers. Head coach Ryan Hoffman went on to coach in the SJHL. Justin received an NCAA Division 1 scholarship and was drafted by the NHL's Washington Capitals. Brady Heintz and Colin Wilson won an SJHL championship with the 2007 Humboldt Broncos, while Dustin Nehring, Sheldon Dubnyk, Scott Woytas, Chris Korchinski, Todd Rusnak, and Craig Straightnose would lead the Yorkton Terriers to an SJHL championship in 2005 and would follow that up with another title one year later, having been joined by teammate, Michael Holmes.
Team members were, front row, Justin Mrazek, Braden Reiger, Chris Korchinski, Clayton Geiger, Todd Rusnak, Michael Holmes, Nick Olynyk; second row, Fritz Sauter, Brady Heintz, Craig Straightnose, Sheldon Dubnyk, Neil Kodman, Colin Wilson, Scott Woytas; back row, assistant coach Lee Rusnak, Dillan Hubick, Dustin Nehring, Dallas Thomson, Bradyn Melrose, Robin Bolding, Jesse Youzwa, Bret Haacke, coach Ryan Hoffman.
Don's hockey career started in Yorkton in the minor hockey program. When he was 12 years old he would sometimes hitchhike on Highway 9 in order to get to the rink. In 1968 he was sent on a train to St. Andrew's NB to attend a summer hockey school. If he wasn't on an indoor rink, he would be skating and shooting the puck on the ice on the creek near the farm house, only quitting because it was too dark to see anymore. Don was an all-star SJHL player with the Melville Millionaires in the 1970s and played in the first all-star game. He moved on to play semi-professional hockey with the Kimberly Dynamiters and the Port Alberni Blues. Upon returning to Saskatchewan he was hired as player-coach of the Saltcoats Laketowners, leading them to a Yellowhead Hockey League title.
In 1990 he joined the SJHL's Melville Millionaires as an assistant coach, moving up to head coach from 1993 to 1996. He was Coach of the Year with the South Saskatchewan Junior B League's Canora Cobras, following that with another Coach of the Year award with the St. Phillips Rangers in 1999-2000. He was an assistant coach with the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League and then as a head coach with the Lebret Eagles was named Coach of the Year. From 2002 to 2004 he was head coach of the Yorkton Terriers, earning the Sherwood Coach of the Year in 2002-03. During the 2006-07 season, he led the Junior B Fort Qu'Appelle Fort Knox to a silver medal at the Western Canadian Championship Keystone Cup. Over the next two seasons, he scouted for the Waywayseecappo Wolverines of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.
In 2010 he became the general manager and marketing director of the Yorkton Terriers, winning the Canalta Cup SJHL Championship in 2013 and advancing to the Western Canada Cup in Nanaimo BC only to lose in the finals. The next year the Terriers not only repeated as Canalta Cup SJHL champions, but won the Western Canada Cup in Dauphin MB and then capped off a remarkable season with an overtime victory in the Royal Bank Cup in Vernon BC, winning Yorkton's first national junior hockey championship.
Bryce Jacobs had a long and productive career building a strong baseball program in Yorkton. He was a baseball director for Yorkton Minor Sports beginning in 1995 and then became the first president of Yorkton Minor Baseball upon its inception and he served in this role from 1998 to 2006. Bryce has also been an umpire and an umpire mentor. He was one of the driving forces behind all of Yorkton Minor Baseball's fundraising activities, tournaments, championship bids, ball diamond improvements, and special projects. Realizing that Jubilee Park required significant improvements to suit the growth of baseball, Bryce was an integral part of the movement to build the new clubhouse at Jubilee Park in 2007, building batting cages and obtaining lights.
At the provincial level, Bryce was the baseball director for the 2000 Saskatchewan Summer Games held in Yorkton and was the coach of the Zone 4 Bantam team that participated in the Saskatchewan Summer Games in Weyburn. He was coach of the Yorkton Midget and Junior teams that went to provincials in 2006, 2008, 2009, and 2010. The 2008 and 2010 teams went on to play in the Junior AAA National Championships in Charlottetown PE and Trois-Rivieres QC. In 2010, Bryce was named Builder of the Year by the Saskatchewan Baseball Association and was named the Baseball Canada/Major League Baseball Volunteer of the Year for Saskatchewan. He was involved in baseball in Yorkton for more than 25 years, from Mosquito house league to Junior AAA and Senior, always willing to take a lead role or simply to lend a hand.
Blaine grew up on farm northwest of Yorkton and in his youth excelled at baseball, hockey and football. He attended Yorkton Collegiate Institute and under the coaching of Ed Magis was a powerhouse in the Gridders backfield. Blaine captured the CJGX League MVP award in 1960 and led the Gridders to a provincial title in 1961. While in university, he was an outstanding running back for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team for four years, including 1965 when he led the Western Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union in rushing, finishing second in scoring, and was named to the conference all-star team. Once football season ended, he became one of a very few athletes who then transitioned into hockey, playing two seasons with Huskies hockey team.
Following his playing days, he began a coaching career in the fall of 1966 at Evan Hardy Collegiate in Saskatoon. Blaine went on to coach football and wrestling, leading the Souls to provincial football championships in 1967, 1968, 1977, 1978, and 1979. In 17 years as head football coach, the Souls played in 15 city championships, winning 11 times. Blaine was also instrumental in building Evan Hardy into a powerful wrestling school, winning many city championships, along the way establishing the Evan Hardy Tournament which became one of the largest wrestling events in the province. He also coached hockey for three years with the Evan Hardy Midgets, followed by the Hardy Juveniles, capturing a city and provincial championship.
Blaine was the head coach of the Saskatoon Hilltops from 1981 to 1984, coming within one late play of winning a conference championship. Blaine's final chapter in coaching came in 1992 when he joined the Evan Hardy coaching staff where his son Mark played quarterback. This team proceeded to the provincial final, only to lose to Regina's Thom Collegiate. Blaine was on the Saskatchewan High School Athletic Association executive for four years, then its president for four more. One of his many initiatives was the introduction of the medal awards program for young athletes. After 17 years at Evan Hardy, he became the Athletic Coordinator and Physical Education Consultant for the Saskatoon Public Board of Education for four years.
At the age of 25 and after almost two years of grueling challenges, Mike Matich arrived in Zurich, Switzerland a free man, having escaped communist Hungary. In Switzerland he obtained political asylum but to pursue his education he decided to immigrate to Canada. After working in Winnipeg and Saskatoon and taking some university classes in Saskatoon, he started his teaching career in Yorkton in 1967 at the age of 43, leading to accomplishments as an athlete in gymnastics, dancing, kayaking and marathon running, and as a coach, instructor, author and community organizer.
In 1948 he was selected to the Hungarian Olympic gymnastics team scheduled to participate in the London Olympics, but Mike chose to escape the communist country prior to the games. Using gymnastics as a building block, Mike influenced the lives of hundreds of students in Yorkton. He changed the way gymnastics and elementary physical education were perceived and taught in Yorkton. As the supervisor of physical education programming for the Catholic and public elementary schools he organized and co-ordinated Saskatchewan's first elementary physical education and recreational gymnastics and fitness display, fashioned after the European system of mass participation. He was the first to initiate the star system of gymnastic awards in Saskatchewan. It was not uncommon to witness the involvement of 1000 to 1500 students in both indoor and outdoor displays in front of spectators at the Yorkton Regional High School or Century Field.
Mike started the St. Mary's Gymnastics club in Saskatoon, later known as the Marion Graham Gymnastics Club, developing athletes who won medals at local, provincial, national, and Olympic levels. He also coached the Saskatchewan gymnastics team selected to perform at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto in 1962. From 1962 to 1974, he conducted dozens of clinics in cities and towns throughout Saskatchewan. In 1973, he was the head coach of the University of Regina summer coaching clinics. In 1981 he ran in the Molson Canadian North American Marathon Championships in Regina and was recognized as the oldest runner to finish at the age of 57. Asked what motivated him, he said, "I strongly believe that culture is a very important aspect of community; without culture there cannot be a nation."
Going through the Yorkton Minor Hockey system propelled Larry Popein to an illustrious hockey career. He played three seasons of junior hockey with the Moose Jaw Canucks, winning the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League championship in both 1947-1948 and again in 1948-1949. In 1950-1951 Larry moved on to the Western Hockey League Senior Regina Caps, playing for coaching legend Al Ritchie. When the 1951-1952 season rolled around, Larry was signed by the Vancouver Canucks of the Pacific Coast Hockey League, which later became the Western Hockey League. Larry spent two seasons in Vancouver, catching the eyes of many scouts.
In 1954, the New York Rangers of the NHL liked what they saw and brought Larry to the team along with the likes of Gump Worsley, Lou Fontinato and Andy Bathgate. Larry quickly established himself as a hustling two-way centreman flanked by Bathgate and Dean Prentice. He stayed a Ranger until 1961, at which time he was sent back to the Vancouver Canucks where he played another seven years. In 1967 the NHL expansion opened up opportunities for experienced veterans and he played in the NHL for one more year with the Oakland Seals. He rounded out his career with Vancouver and the Omaha Knights. He compiled 221 points, including 80 goals, in 449 NHL games. He coached in Omaha, Seattle, Providence and the Rangers in 1973-1974, as well as serving as Director of Player Personnel of the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL. He was a scout for the Calgary Flames from 1986 until his retirement in 1992, winning a Stanley Cup ring in 1989.