The History of the Estevan Bruins
The Estevan Bruins Alumni would like to thank Dolores Clements for researching, compiling, writing and editing this 40th Anniversary Commemorative history Program.
The First 40 Years
Scotty Munro descended on Estevan in the summer of 1956 to lay the groundwork for his upcoming entry into the hockey world here.
"Scotty" as he is known throughout hockey circles explained the operation of his club and stressed the fact that the 'Indians" would not cost the city a cent, if they made the move here.
In fact, he said, "We will bring money into the community." Munro said, "Not only will we bring money into Estevan, we will bring top notch hockey entertainment, and much needed help for minor hockey here." He added, "The league that we play in, is the best junior hockey in the world." That statement is as true today, 40 years later, as it was then.
The reason for moving the Humboldt Indians from that community, is that they can no longer support the team. With a population of only 3,000 and not growing, it is no longer a viable situation. Melville was also being considered as a home for the Indians.
Mr. Munro explained that a team such as his, and playing in the best league in the Province, would help pay for a new arena building in 10 years. He stated that only "a good hockey team" can make the $250,000.00 arena pay.
Munro explained that he alone can not make the decision as to where his team will move, that decision will come from the Boston Bruins, the Indians, parent club.
Rinko's were held and profits went to complete the quarter of a million dollar auditorium expected to be completed by the end of August, 1957, ready for Scotty Munro's Junior Hockey team to move in and commence training in September. The franchise and location having been approved by the parent club, The Boston Bruins.
Estevan's entry into the SJHL will extend the league travelling distance to 600 miles. The Flin Flon Bombers, being Canada's most northerly junior hockey team, will have to travel 600 miles to play Estevan, Western Canada's most southerly team.
The new unnamed club will play 25 home games. The Estevan Mercury ran a contest to name the new club.
The new name, "The Estevan Bruins", was chosen by C.H. Hook, of Toronto, who was visiting in the city. Some of the other names considered for Estevan's first Junior Hockey Team were: 1. The Estevan Gushers, 2. The Estevan Oilers, 3. The Estevan Cups, 4. The Estevan Boomers, 5. The Estevan Wildcats and 6. The Estevan Soo Liners. Needless to say the best possible name was chosen.
Scotty was quite pleased with the name chosen and said it would certainly meet with the approval of The Boston Bruins.
William "Moe" George, was appointed The Estevan Bruins first business manager.
Roderick "Scotty" Munro has been coaching hockey for 14 years, since 1943, and during this period he has developed more professional hockey players than any other coach in Junior Hockey. Scotty has had 78 players to date, go from teams he has coached, to the N.H.L., A.L.L., and the Western Canada League. Some of the big names Scotty has produced are: Al Rollins, Jack Evans, Bert Olmstead, Jack Le Clair, Metro Prystia, Glen Hall, Bill Gadsby, and a host of others including Estevan's own Al Nicholson. Sports writers in Western Canada declared Scotty Munro, the most colorful coach in Western Hockey.
The new team colors will be the same as the parent club, Black, Yellow and White.
The General Admission for that First Season were:
STUDENTS: $ .50
KIDS UNDER 12: $ .25
Now 40 years later, General Admission prices are:
SRS. & STUDENTS: $5.00
KIDS UNDER 12: $3.00
Thursday October 17th, 1957 was the Estevan Bruins first hockey game, where they defeated the Winnipeg Rangers, 8 - 4 in an Exhibition game. There was a long list of firsts associated with that game.
It was the first Junior Hockey Game played in Estevan.
It was the first game ever played in the new arena.
It was the first game ever played on artificial ice in the city.
It was the first hockey game ever played in October in Estevan.
There were 1,321 paying fans attending that first game.
Ernie McLean, an Estevan boy became Scotty's first assistant. The team, that first year, ended in 4th place.
In the 1965-66 season, Scotty sold the club to 35 shareholders, which included Ernie McLean and Bill Shinske. Ernie McLean began his coaching career in the 1966-67 season, only one other coach had shared the reins and that was Howie Milford, during the 1960 campaign. This was also the year the Round Robin playoff system was introduced.
The 1967-68 season saw the formation of the Western Hockey League. Estevan was one of the founding teams, other teams were Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Flin Flon, Regina, Moose Jaw, Weyburn, Swift Current, Saskatoon, Brandon and Red Deer. Estevan also had the honor of hosting the first W.C.H.L. All Star Game.
It proved to be the right move and an extraordinary year, as the Bruins were winners of the Abbott Cup, symbol of Western Canada Hockey Supremacy and went on to meet the Westfort Hurricanes in the Memorial Cup. As runners-up it was a great start in the new league. Jim Harrison also beat out a young fellow by the name of Bobby Clarke, from the Flin Flon Bombers for the leagues M.V.P.
Ed Hudson, one of the major promoters in bringing the team to Estevan and in getting the rink built remained as an Executive Director for 14 years and a great supporter for many more. He passed away in 1979.
The beginning of the end of the "Old" Bruins undoubtedly began when Scotty sold his and his wife's shares, in 1969 to Ernie and Bill and moved on to Calgary in the W.C.H.L. The new owners became Ernie, Bill and the other 33 shareholders.
During their last two seasons in Estevan, the Bruins made history as they became an international team, known as the Bismarck Bruins. They played as many as half a dozen home games there. Both they and their successors, the "new Bruins" made their home in the beautiful Civic Centre in Bismarck. Visiting teams were bussed down and all were treated extremely well by a city which grew to love the Bruins and the "New" game of hockey.
Throughout the entire period, the Bruins were assisted by very capable professional people, such as Dr. Bob Inglis, team doctor, and trainer John MacDonald. Larry Dean began his training and went on to become Ernie's trainer at New Westminster. His younger brother, Rod, later became trainer for the "New" Bruins, following John MacDonald's retirement.
Following the 1970-71 season, Ernie informed the Directors and the City of Estevan that he and Bill were moving the team to New Westminster as a B.C. entry in the W.C.H.L. Estevan, long accustomed to the great entertainment provided by the Bruins, were sorry to see them leave. So they did something about it. Ray Frehlick approached the SJHL about re-entry into the Jr. league, that endeavor was successful, and the "New" Bruins were born. The shareholders along with many others who acted as Directors lent their support and another local sportsman, Gary McKechney, became their first coach. The late George Sereggela, a local business man, was the first fan to make a membership loan and remained the Bruins #l fan, lending every type of support to the team.
At the time the league featured such teams as the Regina Pat Blues, Melville, Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, Saskatoon, Humboldt, Weyburn, Estevan, Regina-Ft. Quapelle Silver Foxes and Notre Dame.
Due to the shortage of organizational time, the "greenness" of those involved, there hadn't been time for scouting, etc. So they began with local kids, mostly Jr. "B's" such as Daryl Drader, Bob Larter, Murray Fleck, Dallas Burns, Carter Sears, Brian Shirley, Rick Anderson, Murray Miller of Oxbow and Doug Allan of Stoughton.
Strong ties remained between Estevan and New West. Both coaches attended each others camps. New West used the Bruin bus on eastern swings and New West provided great hockey entertainment at the annual Bruin vs Bruin game. Most games were to see a 2 goal difference with Estevan winning one and tying one with their seniors. Old fans enjoyed renewing Ernie and Bill's acquaintance at the social gatherings after each game.
Several new ideas were suggested in the hockey world. Frank Boucher of the N.H.L.'s New York Rangers, said that "The red line is obsolete" and a jury investigating an 18 year old hockey players death, recommended the elimination of the slap shot and that all equipment meet safety standards.
After just 3 seasons in the league, the "New" Bruins ended up in 1st place and took out Moose Jaw in four straight; then it was Weyburn's turn. They went out 4-1 and it was on to meet Prince Albert as Southern Champs met Northern Champs. The Raiders went on to win the League Championship. This year 1980, they were named to the Sports Hall of Fame.
Over the years the "New" Bruins have had great help in people like Dr. Inglis, Dr. Kirchgesner, and present day team doctor, Dr. Wahba. Trainers like Jack Teal, Butch Gardipie, Doug Sargent, Larry Erickson made it easier on everyone too.
During the last 40 years, the Bruins, old and new have been an important facet to this community The "New" Bruins now being totally community owned instills special pride. Scotty Munro said it years ago, "The Bruins have put Estevan on the map" They may not have done it single handedly, but they certainly have helped to promote the community. It's a credit to the community too that many of the boys, no matter where they end up, maintain their ties with Estevan and the Bruins.
Where have they ended up? From the "Old" Bruins, Hockey Night in Canada fans have seen Stan Gilbertson, Dale "Red" Hoganson, Greg Polis, Ross Lonsberry, Ted Hodgson, Lorne Henning, Greg Sheppard, Berry Gibbs, Dallas Smith, Skip Krake, Joe Watson, Jim Harrison, and the late Brian Spencer. Graduates from the "New" Bruins include Allan May, and Neil Little.
In researching the information for this project, I came across the names of coaches, players, trainers, team doctors, executive members, billets, assistant coaches, scouts, stick boys etc., so numerous that these few pages could not handle them all. But anyone who has been a long-time Bruin fan remembers different ones from different years with fondness.
As we all know, the present day SJHL, with its academic, college scholarship program, is one of the best if not the best Jr. Hockey league in North America. Each year a great number of SJHL 20 year old graduates receive college scholarships and a wonderful education, owing it all to the great game of hockey.
Many SJHL teams struggle financially, but somehow or other they survive to carry on the spectacular tradition of those who've gone before. Without the help of many die-hard fans and volunteers, some clubs would probably be forced to fold. There simply is not adequate words to express the thanks and appreciation to these special people, for all the hours they donate, for all the many jobs that need doing during the season and to all the special projects in the off season. Without them, a Jr. Hockey club could not survive.
In closing, it has been my honor and privilege to have compiled this brief history of the beginnings of the Estevan Bruins. A very special thank you goes out to every one who had a hand in the planning of this reunion, and Thanks to all the Alumni returnees who found time in their busy schedules to attend this 40th Anniversary Reunion.