Ten years of Junior B hockey was a real milestone for a small town who had never had a team of that calibre before. “If not for the vision of our recreation director, Lyle Thomas,” stated Randy McLean, “we would not have the Posse here today.” It was these words and many more that bounced around Princeton Arena this past weekend.
Ten years ago, the idea of purchasing a Junior B hockey team was just that—an idea. Ten years forward, and the Princeton Posse have gone from an idea to a force to be reckoned with in the KIJHL From, struggling to find sponsors and a effective executive, the Posse unfolded an identity that today includes the coolest zamboni in possibly all of Canada and a very supportive community.
The weekend started early with retired Canuck hockey legend Cliff Ronning coming to town. He brought with him his new company, “Base” that fits top notch hockey sticks to their owner.
On Friday night and then Saturday, the Posse had two local games and a banquet to partake in. Special guest Cliff Ronning was there for all three events. The Saturday game included some special guests, special presentations and special surprises. A line of tenth anniversary banners was hung above the ice honouring local players and local supporters. Ronning was presented with his own Posse jersey by Posse president John Babiak. Valley First Credit Union passed out water bottles, lip balm and key fobs to the fans.
“Many people put their money where their mouth is to make the Posse a reality for Princeton,” stated McLean. “The volunteers have been essential. They are here for the love of the game. The Posse bring two dozen more young people to our community and help out our local economy in the slowest time of the year.”
Emcee and regular Posse announcer Dean Stinson spoke at the games and the banquet held at RockRidge Canyon. “The Posse have become a real asset to our community. When I was asked to announce ten years ago I had no idea where it would lead me, but I do know that is because of people like Mayor Randy McLean who doesn’t just talk the talk, but walks the walk who have made this ten year anniversary happen. Randy has been a mainstay. He stays and he goes to the games. He is just one of our many true supporters who have been with us since day one.”
Regional director Brad Hope added, “It was great to see all the new banners up in the arena and it is great to know the Posse are becoming more stable. We need to note people like Blair Noel our first general manager and Coach Duner who has been with us for over half our time as a team. Duner’s real thanks has been in all the alumni he has moved up and on…that, is a statement to his dedication.”
Coach Dale Hladun “Duner” started out with a simple statement that is one of the reasons he is so loved by the community, “I love Princeton. I come from a small town in Manitoba and Princeton is a another great place. I have enjoyed the ride.”
Duner has been the Posse coach for seven years and had many stories to tell about his kids. “Where else could I shoot pucks, yell at people, get paid and avoid a real job,” he joked. “This team has been about finding the right guys…the guys that fit in,” he continued on a serious note. “We need guys who want to play. There is so much ice time here and the community has been so supportive. The whole town is about supporting the Posse and that helps me. I am really proud of our community and I am really proud of our guys.”
President Babiak recognized many of the top volunteers and sponsors of the organization over the years. On behalf of the team, Babiak handed out commemorative anniversary jerseys to Bob Gibney and Judit Horvath from Fortis, Rob Bettt manager of Cooper’s Foods, Ed Muckle of the Image Emporium, Jim and Del of Jebway, Lorraine Babiak of Dairy Queen, Randy McLean of Billy’s Restaurant, Frank Armitage of Town of Princeton, Brad Hope of RDOS, Ted Coyne who walked the extra three miles for the Posse. “I give a big thank-you to the Posse executive and volunteers like Lorna Coyne and Rob Hicks who keep the game going.”
First general manager Blair Noels attended and thanked Randy McLean and Lyle Thomas for “the tremendous job they did in getting the team relocated to Princeton.
I remember Brad Hope telling me, “you run a little mill…you should be able to run a little team.” Next thing I knew I was wondering what I had done and the Posse were having a press conference to announce who the new general manager was. I was able to recruit a good support team with Stan Turner, Dr. David Reid and Clayton Hamilton…I thought I was bulletproof with a doctor, lawyer and accountant with me. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t gone to that first meeting ten years ago. I am extremely fortunate and truly blessed.”
Princeton Community band played at the event. A highlight was their rendition of Hockey Night in Canada.