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Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League

Humboldt Broncos History

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Your Humboldt Broncos!!

History for the Humboldt Broncos

A big THANKS to Aaron Lukan for his contribution!!!
*updated January 21st, 2013


Humboldt has always embraced junior hockey and the Humboldt Indians of the 1940s and 1950s were well known and respected in that era. The Indian franchise is actually still alive today in Kamloops, B.C. The franchise transferred most of the players to Estevan. In 1971 the franchise was on the move again and landed in New Westminster B.C. In 1981 the Edmonton Oilers purchased the New Westminster Bruins and moved them to Kamloops.

After being out of junior hockey for a number of years a group of local hockey enthusiasts took the Swift Current Broncos up on their offer of an affiliation between the Western Canada Hockey League Broncos and a new entry in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. Originally the team was a joint effort with St. Peter’s College. Swift Current provided Bronco sweaters and the name Humboldt - St. Peter’s Broncos was struck.

The Broncos tasted immediate success in advancing to the league final in their first year (1970/71) before losing to the Weyburn Red Wings.

The following season the Broncos won their first SJHL championship and were then subjected to their first taste of thuggery, also known as the Manitoba champion Dauphin Kings. The Broncos battled their way through to win their first Anavet Cup trophy, emblematic of the champion of Manitoba/Saskatchewan Junior A hockey. They lost the western final to the Alberta Champion Red Deer Rustlers.

The Broncos went on to win their second straight league championship in 1972/73 and again came up against a team from the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. So vicious were the tactics of the Portage La Prairie Terriers that Coach Terry Henning and General Manager Gerry Rooney pulled the Broncos off the ice and out of the series, despite threats of lengthy suspensions from the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association. After an investigation the suspensions were lifted and a move was made to clean up junior hockey.

The Broncos went through a long drought before winning another league title in 1985/86. The Broncos dominated the league posting a 56-4 regular season record. They won the league championship in a thrilling 7th game showdown with Gerry James and the Estevan Bruins, in front of an absolutely jam packed Uniplex.

1986/87 was a hugely successful season for the Bronco organization as they hosted the Centennial Cup. Bronco fans were treated to some great hockey as the Broncos had an extremely talented team, led by Bill McDougall, who set a league scoring record 83 goals and 104 assists for 187 points. The record still stands 19 years later. The team was guaranteed a berth in the Centennial Cup tournament as host, but won the league title and defeated the Manitoba reps before meeting the Richmond Sockeyes, who would eventually break the hearts of Bronco fans by winning the Centennial Cup final against the Broncos.

With the experience gained in hosting the Centennial Cup tournament the Bronco organization decided to go international during the 1988/89 season. They put on an international tournament involving teams from Sweden, Czechoslovakia, the United States and the host Broncos. The tournament was played over the Christmas break.

Later that season the Broncos won their 3rd league title in 4 years and again got past Manitoba only to lose to Vernon, B.C. in the Western Final.

Humboldt had to settle for North Division pennants in 1990, 1991 and 1999. After a move to the South Division the Broncos won a south pennant in 2002, losing a heartbreaking final to Kindersley.

The previous loss must have strengthened the resolve of the Broncos, as the 2002/03 season was the crowning achievement for the organization. They won the league championship and advanced against the heavily favoured Manitoba Champion OCN Blizzard of The Pas. The Broncos beat the Blizzard and advanced to the Royal Bank Cup (previously the Centennial Cup) tournament in Charlottetown, PEI. Again the Broncos surprised the experts who had virtually conceded the Cup to the Alberta Champion Camrose Kodiaks. The Broncos won in a thrilling final against Camrose and Humboldt finally had their national championship. For Head Coach Bob Beatty and Assistant Coach/General Manager Dean Brockman it was the culmination of a long-term plan that seemingly was derailed when Humboldt lost out in their bid to play host to the Royal Bank Cup. The championship was especially sweet for Humboldt natives Joey Eaton, Orrin Hergott, Craig Olynick and Russell Gehlen. Olynick returned to his hometown to play his final year of junior hockey after 4 years with Seattle of the WHL. For Eaton - who had won the Air Canada Cup Canadian Championship with the Tisdale Trojans the previous year - it marked his second national championship in 2 years.

The year following the Royal Bank Cup championship the Broncos finished first overall but lost out in the semi finals. The 04/05 and 05/06 Broncos seasons were of rebuilding – finishing 4th and 5th respectively – a bright spot in the 04/05 season was a thrilling come from behind playoff series victory over the eventual Royal Bank Cup Champion Weyburn Red Wings – trailing the series 3 games to none the Humboldt Broncos stormed back to win 4 straight on some strong goaltending from rookie goalie Nathan Heinen. The Red Wings were hosting the RBC that year so automatically had a spot in the tournament – they just had a few months off to get prepared after the early exit from the playoffs at the hands of the upstart Broncos.

The Broncos returned to glory in the 06/07 season – finishing first overall in the SJHL and winning the Credential Cup defeating the Melville Millionaires before losing the Anavet Cup to the Selkirk Steelers. The Anavet went to 7 games – the Broncos losing the 7th game in a quadruple overtime heartbreaker.

Coming so close, but not capturing the Anavet did not sit well at all with the Broncos; particularly for the 15 returning players. They set their 07/08 season goal high right off the start. They declared early on to end the season with less than 10 regular season losses. The Broncos wrapped the season with a remarkable 48-9-0-1 record. Four of their losses came in November and one in early December which spurred Dean to make a few changes. He wheeled and dealed managing to land Eddie Gale and Tanner Vandesype from Notre Dame as well as Shawn Hunter from Drayton Valley, AB. These moves proved to be huge as the team stormed through the remainder of the season with only one more loss.

Led by Taylor Nelson, the Broncos steamrolled the opposition through the early rounds of the SJHL playoffs to meet the Kindersley Klippers in the SJHL Credential Cup final. The Klippers were not at all prepared to roll over to the Broncos who were looking for the repeat provincial title. The Klippers jumped out to an early series lead surprising the Broncos and putting them on their heels. The Broncos had to go into Kindersley to win game 6 and then return to Humboldt for the sudden death game 7. The Broncos didn’t disappoint the capacity crowd back in Humboldt and shattered the Klippers dream for a Cinderella finish to their season.

The Broncos then chose not to take their foot off the gas and rolled over the Portage Terriers to take the Anavet cup in 4 straight games.

The Broncos were off to the Royal Bank Cup for the second time in 5 years, this time in Cornwall, Ontario.  The entire week was a rollercoaster as the Broncos went 2-2 in the round-robin and beat the host Cornwall Colts 6-1 to advance to the final against the Camrose Kodiaks. The game was played on May 13th; five years to the day after the Broncos had defeated the Kodiaks in Charlottetown.

The game was a defensive battle with the goaltenders stealing the show at both ends of the ice. On a power play 17 minutes into the first period Eddie Gale came out from behind the net to score the only goal of the contest. How big did the December 1st trade that brought Gale and Van DeSype over from Notre Dame look now. The goal was one of only 5 the Kodiaks gave up in the 6 games they played.

That is all Taylor Nelson needed as he came through with a 31 save shutout in the 1-0 victory. Nelson saved his biggest save for last, as with 1 second on the clock and the Kodiaks on a 6 on 4 man advantage the puck came to eventual 1st round NHL draft pick Joe Colborne in the deep slot. Nelson made a remarkable save on a wicked snapshot with his glove hand, and the Broncos dealt the Kodiaks another crushing defeat, to claim their second National Championship.

The next season Bronco Coaches Dean Brockman, Murray Brookbank and Tim Klimosko were faced with what most would have thought an impossible task in trying to get back to the Royal Bank Cup Championship.

Although they had 15 players eligible to return, there were some huge holes to fill, including Nelson, forwards Gale, Jordan Schindel, Braydon Klimosko, Laurent Benjamin and Justin Stoski, as well as defensemen Matt Rintoul, Voldy Dashko and team captain Russ Nielson.

The club kept on rolling and put together another stellar regular season, coming within 4 points of the 97 put up the season before. In the playoffs the Broncos were in tough a number of times but managed to win their 3rd straight SJHL Championship to advance to the Anavet Cup series, and another date with the MJHL Champion Portage Terriers.

The Terriers were very determined to avenge the previous year’s sweep and had the Broncos in some very serious trouble when they went up 3 games to 1. The Broncos administered a 12-2 thrashing in game 5 but were faced with the herculean task of winning the final 2 games in Portage. The Broncos prevailed in game 6 with a 4-3 overtime win, but they had more late game heroics up their sleeve. Game 7 was all Portage as they went up 4-1 and held that lead until the midway point of the 3rd Period. A major penalty for kneeing opened the door and the Broncos stormed back, scoring the tying goal with 47 seconds left on the clock. Nick Kalnicki scored the game winner just less than 6 minutes into overtime to finish one of the most impressive comebacks you are ever going to see.

The Broncos had 6 days to get themselves to Victoria for their second straight Royal Bank Cup appearance.

To their credit they did not use fatigue as an excuse, winning their opener against the host Victoria Grizzlies. As has been their pattern at the Royal Bank Cup the Broncos went 2-2 in the round robin, and saved their best performances for the playoff round as they advanced to the final with another victory over the Grizzlies.

After losing 7-1 to Vernon in the round robin not many were giving the Broncos much chance in the final, but they overcame some tough breaks at the hands of the officiating, but were on the wrong side of a 2-0 score, despite outshooting the Vipers.

After all their success over 3 seasons the 2009-10 season was a retooling effort and the Broncos finished 5th in their conference and lost in the quarter finals.

The 2010/11 season saw the team improve by 11 points, and they moved up to 3rd in the conference, but again lost out in the quarterfinals. What was really impressive though was the fact that with the club set to be the host team for the Royal Bank Cup, all of the 20year olds - with the exception of goaltender Andrew Bodnarchuk – were dealt close to or at the trade deadline, to set the Broncos up for the next season. The young Broncos were every bit as competitive, and the experience they gained proved to make the moves a stroke of genius.

The trades brought key pieces like Ryan Marshall, Mathew Backhouse, Robbie Ciolfi, John Lawrence, Andrew Herle and Taylor Duzan, and the Broncos were immediate contenders in 2011/12. Dean Brockman was not through though as he engineered a futures trade with the Flin Flon Bombers early into the season that would prove to be mutually beneficial.  The Broncos became an instant powerhouse when they received Andrew Johnston – who would later sign a contract with the Philadelphia Flyers –, while keeping power-play quarterback Josh Roach in the fold until the end of the season. Brockman also pried Jonathan Parisien and Emrik Guillemette out of Major Junior in Quebec.

Humboldt topped the league with 89 points, but they built momentum heading into the playoffs. They won the SJHL title and their old nemesis from Portage La Prairie was all that stood in the way of advancing to the Royal Bank Cup through the front door. The Broncos assumed a 3-0 stranglehold on the series, but Portage fought back to tie the series, before the Broncos knocked off the Terriers in game 7. The Terriers and Broncos put on quite a show considering both teams were guaranteed a berth in the RBC Cup tournament, regardless of what happened in the final Anavet Cup series to be played.

If there were any residual effects from the drawn out lead up to the RBC Cup tournament, the Broncos quickly put them behind them as they swept all 4 games in the round robin, including their much anticipated game against the eventual Cup winning Penticton Vees.

It was off to the semi-final against a decided underdog in the Woodstock Slammers. Possibly the Broncos looked past the Slammers as the pre-tournament buzz had virtually conceded it was going to be a Humboldt, Penticton final. In any case the Slammers broke the hearts of the hometown faithful, not to mention the RBC Cup host committee, as they won a thrilling 4-3 overtime game to eliminate the host Broncos.

Once again the Broncos find themselves in somewhat of a retooling mode in 2012/13, and who could blame them if they were feeling the effects of a RBC Cup hangover, but if there is one thing history has shown, it is that you never count out a hockey team that has Dean Brockman’s stamp on it.