A night to thank, reward Virden Oil Capitals players

The Virden Oil Caps had an enviable problem this season: too many noteworthy players deserving of awards. They solved it at last week’s year-end banquet by spreading the love around and awarding trophies to several pairs of players.

Captain Ben Dalke and Kolten Kanaski both got their names on the trophy for Most Valuable Player in the 2018-19 season.

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The Rookie of the Year prize was split between Tanner Andrew (of Virden) and Logan Rands.

And apparently Brock Shwaluk and Blake Sidoni did not get enough adoration during the season because they both were named Unsung Heroes (and were invited by WDFD Fire Chief and award presenter Brad Yochim to come work as firefighters in case the hockey thing doesn’t work out).

At the end of the awards ceremony at TOGP Thursday, Feb. 28, the club recognized and thanked five players who have hit the big 2-0 and will be moving on from the MJHL: Dalke, Sidoni, Shwaluk, Tristen Cross (of Virden), and Tanner McKechnie received team gifts including their own game-worn jerseys.  

Meanwhile, the shiny new jerseys hung with care behind the stage were auctioned off for a cool $10,500, which will go into the team’s coffers.

Guest speakers

Two guest speakers took the microphone to entertain banquet guests during the evening: sports broadcaster Leah Hextall (who also spoke at the team’s Ag Summit a few months ago) and Oak Lake’s Jason Taylor, who regaled the audience with tales from his life in hockey.

Born and raised in Oak Lake, Taylor’s family wound up in Houston, Texas where his father played hockey. 

“As a kid, I went to school in Texas and would come back to Oak Lake in summer to the farm. I played minor hockey in Oak Lake in the Provincial D league – that was the league for towns that didn’t have street lights!”

As an adult, Taylor played for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL and in seven other leagues around Canada and the world.

For the last 17 years, he’s been an agent and hockey advisor for a large professional hockey management company, Newport Sports Management, working with some of the biggest names in the NHL and other pro leagues. Most of his time is spent in rinks across North America and Europe evaluating future hockey stars. 

At the banquet, his talk repeatedly turned to one particular Oil Caps player, Ben Dalke, who he says delivers the whole package.

“I love your captain, here, the way he speaks. You’ve got a leader here who carries himself the right way, and speaks the right way. When you do that, it leads to better things.

“When I go to find players, the thing I look for is that passion, that drive. That’s the hardest thing to find. … I wanna see the guy when they’re losing 3-1 and there’s seven minutes left, the guy who’s gonna go to the net and drive through and wake his team up.”

Dalke picked up several awards for his work this season, his final year in the MJHL: Most Valuable Player (shared with Kanaski), Three Star award, and Most Sportsmanlike Player.  

© Virden Empire-Advance