A Saskatchewan based hockey podcast recently had on a special guest to talk a bit about the world of Junior B hockey, specifically from the point of view of the Delisle Chiefs. Team President Wes Noon joined the Monday Nooner podcast on their most recent episode.
The hosts discussed with Noon what he went through to purchase the Chiefs, his reason for so badly wanting a junior hockey franchise, and some of the upgrades they were forced to make almost immediately upon taking control of the team. Other things touched on during the conversation had to do with the topic of 20 year old’s losing their last year.
That problem is something that has been mentioned time and again during the pandemic, but maybe not as much from the Junior B perspective.
“Every player that comes through our organization we have a saying, once a Chief always a Chief,” explained Noon.
He explained how he could see the hope in graduating players eyes that there was maybe a chance to salvage the end of their junior career, but the toll just kept getting tougher and ended up spreading over two different years of players.
“You are thinking ok some of these players missed their playoffs (in 2019), that’s devastating enough, but we will be back next year," said Noon, "Then the season getting canceled last year? Some of these kids never get to play junior hockey again.”
Noon touched on the fact that these players can obviously still play hockey, but that in his past experiences he has run into many players that regretted not playing their final season of junior for whatever the reason may have been.
That topic was an important and relevant one to cover, but the conversation mostly revolved around the man who owns the Chiefs.
That’s a slap shot reference for anyone who missed it, and it was surprisingly the only reference noted from the interview.
Noon says his purchase of the Chiefs is a long story. He was a coach down in the Pacific Northwest United States for nearly 20 years while doing some other skills work around the region, and his story of wanting to own a junior team began during a trip to San Jose.
(via the Monday Nooner Podcast)
From there he would meet somebody from Saskatoon who would turn into one of Noon’s best friends, and the pair later on started their own hockey school in Seattle. Noon’s counter-part would eventually move back home to Saskatchewan, and Noon had a special request for him upon his departure.
“I had told him that if ever there was an opportunity a junior hockey team became available I would be very interested in buying it," said Noon, "A year later he gave me a call, he said we have an opportunity if you are interested. I said give me all the details and we will go from there. The rest is history.”
Excited to officially be the owner of a team Noon made the trip up to Saskatoon, and then over to Delisle, where they would check out what existing things the club had to offer. Noon quickly realized his first job would be a complete rebuild after he entered the equipment room.
“We showed up there and I swear it was like walking back in a time machine, opening up the door and seeing the equipment that was there. None of it was good enough to use! Basically, we ended up having to pay to get rid of it.”
With the dream of owning a team now attained, Noon knew there would still likely be some not-so-smooth sailing along the way. The transaction took place in 2008 and changed the teams title from Saskatoon to Delisle, and the Chiefs have been established in the west central community ever since.
The podcast hosts went on to ask Noon about the ins and outs of running a Junior B program, including some talk on the monetary aspect of owning the team and how that affects players in a lesser league. The PJHL is in a great spot financially compared to some leagues, as Noon noted players only need to commit around a $1000 to play Junior B, compared to around the $10,000 mark he set out for some of the leagues he had communicated with in the states. The Chiefs try their hardest to keep as much money in the pockets of a players family as possible, using gate revenue and different fundraisers to support as much of the costs as they can.
They don’t like relying on the money from the gate because Chiefs fans can dependent on the weather, as well as time of year with much of the fan population found to be out farming during hockey nights in Delisle.
(via Delisle Chiefs PJHL)
Noon is very happy to be a tenant of the community owned rink in Delisle, and knows the unfortunate situation the team was put under when it came to using the facility was a move that had to happen.
“When you hear from the government that players 18 and under can be on the ice and skate, but those over 18 cant? For junior hockey that basically wipes out your whole team,” spelled out Noon, “You can’t pick a handful of guys and say I’m gonna pay for ice so that you can go skate, and have 3/4 of your team not be able to do anything.”
He explained that most of the Delisle rink’s revenue comes from the Chiefs and the SVHL’s Delisle Bruins, and that them not being able to operate means the buildings biggest lessees have been unable to provide their expected share. The team has turned into one of the premier ones in the PJHL, complete with a 38-0-1 record in 2018-2019 that helped establish themselves as one of the best.
With no explanation really needed for the past two years of will-they-play-or-won’t-they play hockey; Noon says it was a whirlwind of an experience.
“We heard about this virus just as our playoffs were ramping up,” said Noon, “We ended up sweeping the first round, and were waiting for the next round so we took our players and did a team building thing. After that weekend we came back and were told our season is being shut down.”
The fact that some kids who were so dedicated to the game were forced to miss almost 2 seasons is something that seems to stick with Noon. He said they were cautiously optimistic about the hopes of playing a full season this year, and did get a chance to fit some pandemic hockey in before the league shut down along with all of the others back in late November.
He is still cautious, but more hopeful this year because of the current vaccine roll-out program. The club has already held their AGM, and are moving forward as if they are going to start the season on-time. Some other good news for the league also came out of the meeting.
“The one team that pulled out last year Assiniboia, they actually joined our AGM and gave us the positive information that they have secured sponsors and are planning to move forward,” shared the Chiefs President to the Monday Nooner hosts.
Noon can thank the podcast hosts for his invite, but the self-described Saskatchewan hockey guys talking mostly about Saskatchewan hockey, love providing the chance as their podcast started around senior hockey, but wasn’t afraid to twirl into the Junior B side of things among other features. They have been known for some pretty notable guests despite a still growing following, evidenced by Noon being the tertiary guest to former professional goaltender and current NHL analyst Kelly Hrudey. Check out the podcast here: Twirl #55 ft. Kelly Hrudey.
Noon’s hockey journey will continue again one of these days after a positive carry-out of the new re-opening plans in Saskatchewan, continuing his business and hopefully leading the resurrected Chiefs franchise to continued success down the road.