Late Huskie’s legacy to live on in Merlis Belsher Place

Members of the Smuk and Ditlove families join together at the Inland Steel Products site in Saskatoon (photo by David Stobbe).

Hanging proudly above the ice in Rutherford Rink, a banner reads, “We all play the Cody Smuk way.”

It’s one of the many tributes to the late University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey player, who lost his battle with testicular cancer in 2015. As the Huskies play their final season in the arena, a local business is making sure that Smuk’s legacy lives on when the team begins a new chapter and moves into Merlis Belsher Place next year.

Inland Steel Products, a scrap metal recycling company servicing Saskatchewan, has contributed $150,000 to the Home Ice campaign to create Smuker’s Lounge in Merlis Belsher Place, a gathering spot for players, alumni and friends of Smuk’s to reminisce while cheering on the Huskies. Continue reading

Hockey Canada Foundation invests in Merlis Belsher Place

On Thursday, October 5, the hockey community came together at the site of Saskatoon’s soon-to-be newest multi-sport facility to celebrate a significant investment back into local sport.

The Hockey Canada Foundation announced that Merlis Belsher Place will be one of four provincial hockey initiatives to receive funds raised through its largest annual fundraiser – the Hockey Canada Foundation Gala & Golf event held in Saskatoon earlier this year.

A total of $83,272 will go towards construction of Merlis Belsher Place, with $40,000 designated specifically to accommodate the facility for sledge hockey, making it the first sledge-friendly arena in Saskatoon.

“The fact that Merlis Belsher Place will accommodate sledge hockey shows the incredible versatility and importance of this facility in its commitment to the great game of hockey,” said Huskies Chief Athletics Officer, Shawn Burt. “The Canadian sledge hockey team are reigning Olympic gold medalists, and we look forward to the many opportunities this facility will offer to develop world-class athletes and grow the sport here in our own community.” Continue reading

Ushering in a new era with Home Ice

With a new era of hockey on the horizon, alumni Kerry (BCOMM’85) and Bonnie Preete (BSPE’82; BED’84) reflect fondly on their memories of playing with the Huskies.

Kerry Preete, top row, fifth from left, with the Huskie’s mens hockey team in 1983.

Both were student athletes while they attended the U of S – Bonnie playing with the Huskiettes from 1979-1982, while Kerry joined the men’s hockey team in 1980. It was a turning point for the men’s team in particular, as new coach Dave King propelled them to the final game of the University Cup three years in a row.  But it wasn’t until 1983 that the team was finally victorious, having lost in the championship game during the first two runs. Kerry explained that the roller coaster of emotions that the team shared during those years helped build the foundations of friendship with his teammates that, nearly four decades later, remain today.

“I think we had something special going on,” Kerry said. “Maybe part of that was forged by being so successful as a group over those three or four years and coming really close twice, and then to end up winning, it added an extra something special to the relationship and to the bond that all of us had.”

The Preete’s relocated to St. Louis, Missouri nearly 20 years ago, where Kerry has assumed the role of Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer at Monsanto. He says much of his professional success can be attributed back to the lessons and values he learned as a Huskie.

“I look back and I see what playing in that program did for me personally, in terms of some of the life lessons that I learned from playing the game at that level, the things I learned from extremely successful teammates, and from Dave King, who was a mentor to all of us,” Kerry said.

Bonnie and Kerry Preete

The Preete’s have stayed connected to hockey in St. Louis, spending hours at the rink cheering on their three sons with Kerry acting as a coach.  Watching their boys grow up with the game and having been players themselves, Bonnie and Kerry know how important a good facility is to building a strong program.

“In order to have strong sports team you need good facilities,” Bonnie said. “I think a new rink facility for the U of S and the Huskies is long overdue.”

Continue reading

Heroic blue heeler back in the field thanks to donor support

Dwane McLaren calls his dog Jango a “firecracker.”

The three-year-old blue heeler is an expert cattle herder, and when McLaren found himself cornered by 14 angry bulls, Jango came to his rescue.

Jango outside the WCVM after his final appointment after surgery (photo by Jeanette Neufeld).

The small dog took on the bulls, and Jango didn’t stop protecting McLaren even after suffering a broken jaw.

“The bulls were 2,200 pounds — and he’s 40,” says McLaren, who hauls cattle for a living. “One [bull] decided he didn’t like me very much, and he started coming after me … [Jango] grabbed onto the back of his ankle and distracted him enough that I could get over the fence.”

McLaren says he’s amazed at Jango’s protective nature.

“For him to know to come and do that — I didn’t call him or anything. The natural instinct to help in a dog is unbelievable,” he says.

After a three-hour struggle, McLaren finally got the bulls loaded in his semi-trailer. That’s when he noticed Jango was bleeding from his mouth. Despite being injured, the dog hadn’t stopped helping his owner the entire time.

“He’s tougher than nails, this fellow,” he says of his dog. Continue reading

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