Canada's national pastime, hockey, has been played in Prince Albert since the early 1900s. From the pre-World War II era until late in 1961, Prince Albert hockey fans had the opportunity to cheer on first the Black Hawks and then the Mintos in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
Like other towns and cities in Saskatchewan, the winters are long and cold making it difficult to be an active member in the community. Hockey for the City of Prince Albert has always been the central focus of winter activity for the residents. The city would rally around its clubs and make the home games a social event.
On December 12, 1961, hockey in Prince Albert was changed forever. On this date the Minto Arena was destroyed by fire along with the spirit of the fans. The thought of not having hockey to watch throughout the long winter months made the next nine years unbearably long.
Early in the spring of 1971, a group of hockey enthusiasts, led by a young chiropractor by the name of Reg Martsinkiw, got together and tossed around the idea of getting a new franchise in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League for the 1971-72 season. This local group was in the process of raising funds to build a multi-purpose facility in the southeast corner of Prince Albert. A major donation by the Prince Albert Pulp and Paper Mill in the amount of $100,000 took the project from the planning stages to the construction site. Many other fundraising events followed this large donation covering the remaining costs of the building. The local group formed the Northern Hockey Development Association whose main function was to create, foster, and support hockey in Prince Albert and area.
This new legal organization had Martsinkiw as president and Ches Leach as vice president. Other directors that were named to the inaugural board were Jim Town, Ed Habetler, Len Warner, and Roy McShannock. Don Wickens was appointed as the treasurer while Art Strueby was the first team manager and Vince Grimes the initial trainer.
After many bids and legalities were surpassed a contest was held to name the new team in the Saskatchewan Amateur Junior Hockey League. The winning name that was chosen was the Mintos. However, due to legalities, that name could not be used so Raiders was the name finally settled on.
The new arena also needed a name so another contest was held. Many names were submitted, such as those of well-known sports people, but the name the Comuniplex was chosen, and the winner of the contest, Nestor Hryciuk, was given two season tickets.
The season began on the road with Humboldt registering a 6-4 victory despite outshooting their hosts 38-20. Prince Albert continued playing on the road and was in sixth place in the nine-team standings when the calendar turned to December and the day of finally playing a home game was in the immediate future. The Raiders were set to play the Moose Jaw Canucks in the new facility, but despite many efforts by a volunteer force, the game had to be played at the Kinsmen Arena. The Raiders however, achieved their first shutout in front of 600 fans by beating the Canucks 11-0.
Three days later, 10 years to the day from when the Minto Arena was destroyed by fire, the Raiders took to center ice at the Comuniplex before more than 3,000 screaming fans (many carrying pillows and blankets, for in those days the seating consisted of cold, hard slabs of concrete). Mayor Val Longworth, a central figure in the arena project, officiated at the ceremonial face-off. Prince Albert boys' choir gave a bilingual rendition of the national anthem, singing courageously on while being drowned out by wild cheering. Although the seating was cold and hard, the ice was not necessarily of the same quality. First Referee to the building, Ed Lyster, had to stop the game several times for ice repairs and it took over three hours to complete the contest. The Raiders did not disappoint their fans, however, and they came to a 9-2 victory over Regina.
The Inaugural Team by Scoring Leaders was as follows: Lennie Hicks, Ron Boyer, Ron Boskill, Ray Bansley, Mike Kindrachuk, Mel Parenteau, Rod Mcivor, Willie Friesen, Tom Brown, Bob Lang, Merv Brown, Marty Feschuk, Bob Balicki, Lorne Sarnosky, Hugh McDonald, Daryl Jorgenson, Bob Daniels, and Mike Rushby. Goaltending, Cyril Zurowski, B. Medve, D. Cadrian, Dennis Weigel, and Gord Blanchette.
The Saskatchewan Amateur Junior Hockey League 1971-1972 Raiders Program
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Information obtained from the books "Raiders: 1971 - 1981" and "Prince Albert Raiders 1971 - 1996".