This will be our final week for “Notes from the Blueline” and Skyler has been kind enough to allow me to take this one myself and address the great Millionaires fans one last time.
I want to start by saying, “thank you”.
In August of 2009, I was a 20-year-old defenceman entering his final season of junior hockey with no secured plans for the following fall, and nothing but a strong will and desire to play the game.
I was headed to a team that had not made a playoff appearance in eight years and who had just let go of their head coach with 10 games left in their 2009 campaign. Let’s just say there was work to be done.
The year started off fairly well, all things considered.
Over the summer, the Mills organization made several changes with hopes of propelling their franchise in a new direction and let me tell you, they did just that.
The new ownership group of the Mills has been nothing short of fantastic. From a players point of view, they provided us with everything necessary to be successful, regardless of our situation as a small market franchise.
One of their biggest tasks, was to appoint a new head coach to team up with Brian Kozak and they made no mistake with this decision.
Glen Watson has been an amazing coach, mentor and ambassador for the city of Quesnel. He, along with Kozzie (Kozak), reworked the team into something I believe was very special and I was extremely proud to be a part of in my final year.
The volunteers of the Millionaires organization deserve a special “thank You” from all the players, as they were there at 6 p.m. every game to set up for the evenings’ game.
They make it look easy. Everything is done with a smile. Every time they pass us during warm-up there is a kind hearted “good luck tonight boys” regardless of our three-game winning streak or our eight-game losing skid.
And last, but definitely not least, the fans.
Thank you for your support this year.
As a fan of a junior hockey team, or any team for that matter (with the exception of the Detroit Redwings who always seem to be good) you have to be patient and watch the ups and downs of the team, just hoping that at the end of the year it will all come together at the right time.
And for us it did. But a big thanks must be given to all the fans who watched us in those games where we weren’t so good. Where our passes weren’t on. Where our shots weren’t good and on top of all this, we didn’t even win the fights that we picked.
You stood behind us no matter what, that’s what true fans do.
It has been an amazing ride for many of us this year and it definitely climaxed during playoffs where we did what many people thought was impossible.
Those six last home games were utterly amazing. The atmosphere in the vault was electric and it is safe to say that a big part of the quarter-final series win against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks can be credited to our rowdy fans that spurred us on in the toughest of moments.
Even when our season was coming to a clear end, you stood on your feet and cheered us on.
Those games will be something I will remember for the rest of my life and will carry with me as fond memories of my junior hockey career.
Wednesday the Observer (March 17) featured us on its front page as your “hometown heroes” but really I believe that it has been a privilege to play in front of such loyal and enthusiastic fans and it could be said that you are our heroes.
And although my chapter as a Millionaire has come to an end, I will always hold Quesnel close to my heart and hope that you as a community continue to support the Mills like I know you can in the coming years.
Eliot Raibl and Skyler Smutek patrolled the blueline for the Quesnel Millionaires.