The Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame announced its inductees for the 2019 class, who are officially headed to the Hall of Fame at a July 6 induction ceremony in Saskatoon.
There's a quintet of southwest connections to this year's class:
- Darren Evjen (Swift Current) - Coach of the 2004-05 Saskatoon Contacts
- Jeremie Houde (Swift Current) - Defenceman on the 2004-05 Saskatoon Contacts
- Kyle Bortis (Former Swift Current Bronco, 2005-08) - Forward on the 2004-05 Saskatoon Contacts
- Travis Yonkman (Former Swift Current Bronco, 2005-09) - Goalie on the 2004-05 Saskatoon Contacts
- Murray "Bert" Olmstead (Sceptre) - Inducted as a Player
2004-05 Saskatoon Contacts
Though an historic Midget AAA organization in the province, this Contacts team stood head and shoulders above the rest in their prominent 42-year history.
The roster included two future NHLers, and six total players who'd play at various professional levels:
Justin Leclerc (WHL)
Travis Yonkman (WHL)
Eric Gryba (NHL)
Jeremie Houde (Jr A)
Luke Schenn (NHL)
Riley Clark (NCAA)
Ryan Adams (Jr A)
Scott Zurevinski (AHL)
Brady Wacker (NCAA)
Cody Danberg (NCAA)
David Richard (WHL)
Derek Hulak (AHL)
Dustin Cameron (ECHL, Germany - Div 2)
Kyle Bortis (WHL)
Makstr Lacoursiere (Jr A)
Nick Kalnicki (Jr A)
Patrick Cey (ECHL)
Russell Goodman (NCAA)
Scott Brownlee (WHL)
"I think the best part of that team - we had a good hockey team, but we had exceptional leaders," said Evjen, who was behind the bench in his seventh of eight years with the Contacts.
"They were a group that would give a ton and take very little back. They didn't care who they played with, they just played as a group and they held each other accountable to play good."
The team, led by Evjen and co-coach Jim McIntyre, ticked every single box possible that season en route to the team's first - and only - national title:
- SMAAAHL regular-season title with a 38-3-2-1 record
- SMAAAHL championship with a 9-3 playoff record
- 2004 Mac's Midget AAA Tournament Champions
- 2005 Midget AAA Western Champions with four wins and an OT loss
- 2005 Telus Cup (National) Champions
"There were a lot of close calls in that season to get knocked out," noted Evjen.
The Mac's title still holds as the Contacts' second and most-recent. Saskatoon earned the championship with a 1-0 win over a dominant Team Illinois, bolstered by a shutout from Yonkman.
The Provincial Championship series culminated with a 2-1 win over the Notre Dame Hounds - a game that needed three overtime frames.
Into the team's Telus Cup run in Quebec, the Contacts went 3-1-1 in the round-robin - their lone loss was a 2-0 decision at the hands of the hosts from Gatineau.
Saskatoon then earned a 3-1 win over Don Mills in the semis. Opposite of them, Gatineau toppled Lévis 5-2 in their respective semi.
That set up a nationally-televised final against the host squad - an atmosphere, and experience, that Evjen won't forget any time soon.
"They were the host team, they knocked out the team that was supposed to be there," he said. "I remember it was on TSN, it's a big day. You get there and everybody's cheering for their hometown team. It was in Gatineau, which they called 'The Little Forum', similar to the Montreal Forum I guess."
"We got up 1-0, and then we scored a short-handed goal. We played like we always did - we just played our four lines, six D, and our goalie was really good. We just kept playing throughout the game, and won it."
Saskatoon cruised to a 4-1 win over the host club.
"At the time when we had that year, it was something really special - we didn't know how special it would be, but when we sat down and flew home from Gatineau, it was pretty incredible what the team had accomplished," said Evjen, the current coach of the Home Hardware Midget AAA Legionnaires.
"I don't know if the trophies are everything, but the group has just been everything. I'm excited to see everybody again, and just be a part of it - happy for everybody."
Coaching Houde, a fellow Swift Current product, was also a great experience for Evjen, as he noted the defenceman's demeanor was a natural fit on the high-flying team.
"Houder was just a character guy. He was a third-year player that was a defensive defenceman," said Evjen. "Great penalty-killer, shutdown guy. He and another guy were unbelievable when you put them against top lines. Very intelligent, was very competitive, and again - what a teammate. He just knew how to bring the guys together and hold guys accountable when he needed to. He was a huge reason why we won."
Lastly, but certainly not least, fellow coach Jim McIntyre, who will be inducted seperately as well as a Grassroots contributor, made a lasting impression on Evjen and everyone he encountered over his nearly 40-year involvement with the Contacts.
"You get to work with a lot of good people throughout your career. Jim McIntyre really taught me a lot of things about people, and how to treat people. He just had a way of figuring people out, and what needed to be done," Evjen explained of the now-80-year-old McIntyre.
"He was retired at the time, but he was there six hours a day making sure everything was taken care of. He was a lot of fun. He is the Contacts. For him, hard work trumped everything. He liked the underdog - he always wanted to take an underdog, he'd pull for them, he'd give them every opportunity to get better. The player knew that he believed in him, and that's what made players good when they came to the Contacts."
As for the early-July ceremony at Prairieland Park in Saskatoon, Evjen said on a lighter note that he has no plans to be a part of any potential recreation of a somewhat iconic hair-style.
"I'm going to go with white, but they'll probably go with orange," he laughed. "When they did that, it was bright orange. The people around here that know Kyle Bortis, he had black, black hair with black eyebrows. When he went with orange, it was pretty funny."
"That's what teams do, they do those things to show their commitment to each other. I've got a picture at home with the orange hair from Gatineau - it's something, I'll tell you that."
Murray "Bert" Olmstead
The late product of Sceptre, is already a member of the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame, after getting inducted back in 1998.
Olmstead, who was born September 4, 1926, played his junior hockey with the Moose Jaw Canucks from 1944-46, playing in the 1945 Memorial Cup final.
The left winger went on to play for three prestigious NHL teams over his 14-year professional career.
Olmstead played parts of three seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks from 1948-50.
He was dealt during the 50-51 season to the Montreal Canadiens, where the physical 6-foot-2 forward would play until 1958.
Olmstead's highest-scoring output came in the 55-56 season, when he scored 70 points in as many games, also notably playing on a line with Jean Beliveau and Bernie 'Boom Boom' Geoffrion.
Olmstead's final four seasons came with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He finished his steady career with five Stanley Cups (MTL - 53, 56, 57, 58 / TOR - 62), 602 regular-season points, and 59 playoff points to his name.
Olmstead also garnered NHL Second Team All-Star honours twice, and tied the single-game scoring record on January 9, 1954, with four goals and eight total points.
That mark held as the all-time lead, until Darryl Sittler scored six goals and 10 points with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1976.
Olmstead, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1985, passed away at the age of 89 on November 16, 2015.