Yet another Moose Jaw Minor Hockey Association alumni is representing the community at the 2023 National Junior A Centennial Cup in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.
19-year-old Brydon Bell is a part of the newly founded Kam River Fighting Walleye of the Superior International Junior Hockey League (SIJHL).
They made their way to the national event by taking down the Thunder Bay North Stars in seven games to win the league title.
Bell says that the night they booked their ticket, it hadn’t really set in.
“It was just crazy, and I was just trying to soak it all in and have a fun night with all the fellas but the next morning it really set in,” says Bell. “I was trying to just get ready and prepare for the Centennial [Cup] and make a mark.”
He got his first taste of the Centennial Cup on Thursday, as they kicked off their tournament with a 4-1 loss to the highly touted Battlefords Northstars of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL).
Though they suffered a loss, Bell notes that it was a cool experience to play on such a big stage.
“We have one guy that has been here before, so he was telling all the boys about it. Half of our team came from the SJHL so knew what we were getting into. I thought we played pretty decent for the most part but couldn’t get the goals going.”
“They were a fast-moving team, and their transitions were really fast, and I thought we did pretty good for the most part and that’s what we're focusing on is controlling the puck.”
Bell was once a member of the SJHL with the La Ronge Ice Wolves for eight games in the 2021-22 season, putting up four points in that span.
“I would say that the SJHL is a lot more physical, but my team has a little more skill than the team I was on in the SJHL and I think that’s the difference make right there.”
Though he wanted to stay with the Ice Wolves, his plans changed after getting traded to the Fighting Walleye in November.
In 34 games this season, Bell put up seven goals and added 16 assists for 23 points. In 11 playoff games, he had three assists.
“Everything happens for a reason. I was glad when I went to SIJHL. After my first game, I got the feel of everything, and I was pretty happy with where I was. I know the skill in the league is getting better so I was very happy.”
The Centennial Cup is made up of nine teams from across Canada, who have won their respective leagues, and one host squad, which is an interesting facet for players.
“It’s pretty cool. I would never get to play against teams from the Maritimes or the OJHL [Ontario Junior Hockey League] and to see those teams play is special.”
Their next opponent is the host Portage Terriers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL), another team and league, Bell and the Fighting Walleye haven’t seen before.
“They're the host and will be a strong team. Instead of worrying too much about what they’re going to do, we’re going to go out and play our game because we know how special of a team we have, and we know how good we are.”
They will take on the Terriers on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. CDT.
As mentioned before Bell grew up playing in the Moose Jaw Minor Hockey system and says he wouldn’t be here today without the coaches and the development he received here.
“My biggest one was Mike Russell, he was my U18 coach and helped me all the way along and told me to not quit and if I really wanted it to keep going and not give up. They have an organization going on there.”
Bell played four seasons in Moose Jaw between the U15 AA and U18 AA Warriors totaling 60 points in 117 games.
He moved on to play in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League for the Grand Forks Border Bruins, where he had 17 points in 36 games, before moving on to the SJHL.
He will also be joined at the Centennial Cup by two Moose Jaw products that he grew up playing with and against. Caelan Fitzpatrick plays for the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League and Kirk Mullen is with the Steinbach Pistons of the MJHL.
“It’s a really special moment for all of us. I’ve connected to both of them already and we’ve talked about it. I watched Fitzy [Caelan] play last night and it’s a surreal moment for all of us, growing up playing Timbits hockey all the way up and now we’re playing for a national championship.”
Bell and Mullen will go head-to-head on Sunday night, as the Fighting Walleye and Pistons will battle at 7:30 p.m. CDT.
You can follow along with the 2023 National Junior A Centennial Cup HERE.