By Marcia Love
After 33 years on the ice, the Battle of the Little Big Puck hasn’t grown old. Players laced up their skates once again on Friday night for the annual event with proceeds in support of the Southwest Integrated Healthcare Facility.
“Some of us have been in it for a long time, but it never gets old,” said Joe Braniff, a long-standing organizer and member of the Cowboys team. “It’s one of those deals that you look forward to all year long.”
It’s a feeling shared by members of both teams.
“We’ve got some guys from our end that think they’re going to slow down a little bit, but then as the time comes nearer they get this youthfulness,” chuckled Dale Mosquito, also a long-standing organizer and member of the Indian team.
The stands were filled as spectators watched the excitement on the ice, where the score remained tight, but the Indians pulled ahead in the final period to earn their second consecutive win with a score of 9-7.
The Indians’ Derek Pahtayken and Ron Thomson both had hat tricks, with Donnell Watetch, Myles Mosquito and Tatroy Stanley each adding one. The Cowboys’ Quinton Bock had a hat trick, with his father Brett netting two, and Tanner Jones and Adam Gilchrist each slipping in one.
The event brought in a total of $3,926 for the Southwest Healthcare Trust.
Both Miss Rodeo Maple Creek Kristina Resch and Treaty 4 Princess Chloe Francis were a part of the opening ceremony, where Tom Reardon and the late Raymond Anderson were honoured with beautiful beaded buckles made by Shirley Buffalocalf. Both men were two of the original organizers of the decades-old game. Alvin Francis accepted the gift on behalf of his late uncle Raymond.
With the Cowboys donning their cowboy hats and the Indians their colourful headdresses, the third period opened with native drumming before the fun game resumed.
Unfortunately a shortage of available members meant RCMP were unable to officiate this year’s game. Instead, James Braithwaite, Perry Resnechenko and Lawrence Robertson helped keep the players honest.
The Indians had a bench of 20 skaters while the Cowboys had 24. Robert Delorme was this year’s announcer.
Following the game, awards were given out to members of each team. The Cowboys’ Shelton Udal and the Indians’ Charles Matechuck were awarded most sportsmanlike, while the Cowboys’ Mike Gordon and the Indians’ Lyle Michaud were awarded best dressed. Most valuable player awards went to Derek Pahtayken and Brett Bock.
Both teams noted the new integrated healthcare facility has been a good cause to support for the past several years – one that’s made all the more special this year as it is set to open by the summer.
“I don’t think we could find a cause that’s more universal than our new health centre,” said Braniff. “Everybody in the whole surrounding area will have to use it at one time or another, and it just brings the whole package together.”
Both teams had a few first-time players this year, which Dale said is encouraging to see for the future of the unique game.
“We’ve got young guys and girls that really want to play, so I don’t think it’s slowing down, I think it’s actually growing,” he stated. “It’s gaining momentum, so five years or 10 years from now, we don’t know how big it’ll get.”