The annual Oil Caps awards banquet took place on Thursday night inside the Sunrise Banquet Hall at Tundra Oil and Gas Place.
It was a packed house as Oil Caps staff, players, billets, marketing partners, fans, volunteers and many others were in attendance to enjoy some cocktails and a wonderful dinner before the main program got underway.
Master of ceremonies Travis McColl did a great job on the mic directing traffic all night which included guest speaker Karissa Kirkup, a local product who is a member of the University of Manitoba Bisons women’s hockey team, who provided an inspiring speech about her hockey career, which has included stints with the Westman Wildcats AAA midget squad, the University of Maine Division 1 team as well as U of M.
During her speech, Kirkup took time to direct her attention to the Oil Caps players, providing some motivation for the team as they prepare for what they hope will be a long playoff run.
“As a player, if you set your mind to something, you need to do the things that are necessary to get it done, which includes strength training, eating well and sleeping well,” Kirkup said. “If you don’t do those things that are necessary, you can’t really tell yourself that you’ve earned the right to reach those goals you’ve set. If you don’t do everything in your control, as an athlete you can’t really say that you’ve earned the right to be disappointed if you come up short of those goals.”
After Kirkup’s speech, Oil Caps head coach and GM Troy Leslie spent some time on the podium, thanking everyone associated with the organization as well as providing some insight into this year’s club.
“It’s a very exciting group. We have a good mixture of older and younger players. It’s fun to coach these guys on a nightly basis. The skill level is high on our team and they’re a real fun team to coach.”
Leslie highlighted a situation the team got into in a recent game in Winkler.
“We were down early and as a coach sitting behind that bench this year, you never ever feel like your team is out of it,” he said. “We were able to claw our way back into that game. This is a very exciting group of players to move forward with into the playoffs.”
Oil Caps co-captains Dylan Thiessen and Morgan Magwood took the stage next to address the audience before Jamie Hodson, director of business and hockey operations spent some time talking about the year overall. He’d also address the audience later in the evening, thanking everyone – from top to bottom – from staff, players, billets, marketing partners, volunteers, fans, absolutely everyone for their continued support of the organization. He also addressed the players, adding just how important it is for all those who wear the Oil Caps sweater work hard on the ice but off it as well.
“We expect our guys to work just as hard away from the rink,” he said. “That is going to set you up for life. It’s easy just to go to practice, it’s easy not to work out, it’s easy to go home and play video games and hang out. But at the end of the day when you turn 21 that all changes. I know that sometimes you probably wonder why we do what we do, but that is why. You guys are going to come out of here and you’re going to be better brothers, you’re going to be better dads in the future. You’re going to be better sons. You’re going to know what it takes to succeed in life is to know what it takes to succeed in hockey. There’s a lot of same parallels.”
The awards were then doled out – 12 awards in total – to several players, including Tyler Kirkup, who came away with four awards in total, including the Virden Footwear MVP trophy, which was presented to him by Hodson and support staff member Chance Toder, who came on board with the Oil Caps at the beginning of the year.
“It was awesome,” Kirkup said. “The last couple years I’ve seen a couple guys go up for it and I thought it would be nice to get that one day. So it was just an unreal feeling.”
He says everyone on the team has played a role in helping the club get to where they are today.
“Everyone who was nominated for the awards deserved to be nominated and I was lucky enough to get a couple awards. Overall, I’m very happy with everybody’s season and it’s been fun so far.”
Kirkup had nothing but fond words for his older sister Karissa who addressed the audience earlier in the evening.
“It was nice to get her out to our banquet. I’m very proud of her and everything that she’s accomplished in her career.”
A 13th award, the Cole Hamblin Memorial award, which is presented to the playoff MVP, will be announced after the season is over.
Here’s a rundown of the award winners:
Twin Valley Co-op Three Stars Award: Tyler Kirkup
McNeill, Harasymchuk, McConnell Top Scorer: Tyler Kirkup
Redfern Farm Services Hardest Worker: Jeran Knorr
Fountain Tire Fan Choice Award: Tyler Kirkup
Wallace District Fire Department Unsung Hero: Morgan Magwood
The Alexandra Hotel Most Improved Player: Jack Einarson
Black Gold Trucking Top Defensive Player: Dylan Thiessen
CIBC Most Sportsmanlike: Kyle Salaway and Dylan Thiessen
Sunrise Credit Union Most Community-Minded: Riley McVeigh and Dalton Dosch
Cross Plumbing and Heating Top Defencemen: Tristen Cross and Justin Lee
GCS Energy Services Rookie of the Year: Justin Lee
Virden Footwear Most Valuable Player: Tyler Kirkup