“It’s a beautiful thing. You just never know. You never plan for it, and when it happens, it’s absolutely fabulous.”
That’s how Wranglers Junior B Hockey Club president Tom Bachynski summed up his feelings the day after the 100 Mile House boys captured the Keystone Cup in Regina, Sask. on April 17.
“Maybe we were being a little too humble; maybe it was going to happen all along – I don’t know.”
Expectations were certainly more humble among the Wranglers brass at the beginning of the 2015/16 season.
However, that all changed when the boys came back from the Christmas holidays.
“The Christmas break was the best thing that could have ever happened to the hockey club.”
Noting they went through January undefeated even though it’s a tough month because the players went home to their families, came back to play hockey when the schedule is typically busy.
“The chemistry happened and the right things were said in the dressing room by the right people. They started to buy into one another and believed in one another and the rest is history.
“Since January and certainly in the last 60 days, we have beaten teams that have had more skill than us, but none of the teams held up to our team as a whole and it shows in the trophies they have won.”
Bachynski agrees this group of players are great because they play for each other.
“When they play against these other teams and [those teams] hit some adversity, their tires start to go flat.
“That was key with Kimberley [in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) finals] when they felt the adversity of our body checks and our forecheck, they just didn’t know how to handle that adversity.”
He notes, however, the Wranglers know how to handle adversity – whether they’re down by two goals or they’re up by two and the other team comes back and takes the lead – they find a way to come back and win.
They don’t look at adversity the same way other teams, he adds.
After they won the Doug Birks Division by knocking of the Chase Heat, Bachynski says he thought they could beat Summerland to win the Okanagan/Shuswap Conference.
“When we went against Kimberley [KIJHL finals], I was a wreck because I wasn’t sure how powerful Kimberley was, and we showed them right off the bat with a smack in the mouth that we could keep up and when we won that first game in Kimberley, I knew we could win.
“That gave me the belief going to the Cyclone Taylor Cup that we had a really good shot [at winning it all] even after we lost the first game.”
Despite losing the first game at the Keystone Cup, Bachynski says he knew the Wranglers had a chance to win.
“I said that night we only needed three wins to get to the final game and that’s what we got.
And yesterday [final game against the AGI Insurance Quakers], I really didn’t have a doubt. When they fell behind 2-0 and the crowd in the Red Rock Grill was moaning and groaning, I just remember Duner [coach Dale Hladun] saying it’s the Wrangler way – the hard way [having to come back from adversity and win].”
Bachynski says he is so proud of the team and his smile just isn’t going to go away.
Noting the Wranglers had fans travelling to all of the championship games, Bachynski says there were 60 fans rooting for the boys in Regina.
“It blows my mind and the things they have done for us. We reached out and said it’s going to cost us $29,000 for the Keystone Cup and we need some help if you can donate anything.
“I just handed off $14,000 to the treasurer because the people in Regina who were there as fans filled the bus up with diesel fuel, bought breakfasts, bought lunches and bought dinners. They took care of the boys; they bought them hotel rooms last night.
“The outpouring of good will towards the Wranglers has been second to none.”
Bachynski says it helped an “awful lot” and he feels comfortable “we’re going to be able to backfill next year’s seed money and we’re going to be OK.”