A Hyperbolic History of the Regina Cyclones (by Al MacLean)
In the Beginning
In the late 1960s a number of young men who had enjoyed playing hockey as youngsters decided to renew their enthusiasm for the sport. Principal among them were Carl Wagner and Eugene (Gene) Scheibel, now Mr. Justice Scheibel. Gene had connections at Notre Dame and as no other ice was available, Saturday games were arranged at Wilcox. His then partner, Ken Halvorsen (Mr. Justice Halvorsen) was also active in this renewal.
These games at Wilcox continued for many years. In the mid - 1970s other hockey players who had enjoyed the game in their youth had similar ideas about returning to the game and “Old-Timers Hockey” was off and running in Saskatchewan. Important rule changes with respect to no slap shots and no body-checking were instituted to keep injuries to a minimum. In Saskatoon a league was organized with several divisions according to skill level, with all games refereed. There was no such organized league in Regina although the George Reed Charity Tournament became the first venue for Old-Timers to participate in an organized tournament. Concurrently with the George Reed came the formation of the Cyclones who first played in the George Reed Tourney in 1976.
Original Cyclones from the Wilcox days were the following: Gene Scheibel, Carl Wagner, Gerry Naylen, Hugh Wright, George Grass, Willie Shuba, Richard (Dobie) Mark, Chuck Duncanson and Al MacLean.
The Core Team
Players changed over the years but those who played for a considerable length of time were:
Willie Shuba – was the first goalie soon to be replaced by Wes Cudmore. Wes had played intermediate and senior hockey and made no bones about advising as to mistakes his forwards and defencemen might (or might not) have made. At the time he played, he was the oldest player on the team and today looks younger than all his contemporaries. Wes was originally a high school teacher and then a businessman who owns and manages a number of properties in Regina.
On the retirement of Wes, he was replaced briefly by Ken Peters, a Regina City Policeman. Then came Ken Stewart who was the longest playing goalie. He had great reflexes and loved the game to the point that he also played regularly in the Saturday morning games at the Agridome and as well substituted for the Regina Canadians. On many occasions the Cyclones were badly outshot but still managed a victory because “Stew” stood on his head. Stew worked for Revenue Canada.
Chuck Duncanson and Dobie Mark – these two were a great defence combination. Chuck came from a long line of hockey players in Saskatoon. Although Chuck was primarily a defensive defenceman, he could handle the puck well and the passes he and Dobie made when coming out of their end made opposing forwards skate in circles. Dobie, originally from Yorkton and also a renowned shortstop in baseball circles, was perhaps the best rushing defenceman and had a great many moves and dekes. He was likely the top scoring defenceman on the team. Chuck was a salesman for CKCK and Dobie, like Ken Stewart, worked for Revenue Canada.
Danny Wong and Alex Young – were another great defence combination as they had been defence partners for the Regina Caps. Danny had played professional hockey in England as a player coach. He was the most colorful and humorous personality in the dressing room and kept everyone in stitches. In the late 50s he was playing for the Caps against a visiting Russian team and is reputed to have yelled at the Russians (who of course could not understand him) – “You’re making me dizzy with all your passes – will ya shoot the bleeping puck!” Dan was one of the Cyclones who died too early. Alex Young was a high school principal who had played for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies and the Regina Caps. He now does a good deal of public speaking on prostate cancer throughout Canada and still plays morning hockey with the original retiree teams at the Exhibition Stadium.
Lorne Weighill – was likely the toughest defencemen to play for the Cyclones and suffered the most injuries of any Cyclone. Hailing from Davidson he played junior hockey in Saskatoon and several years as a pro in Dayton, Ohio, where his professional career ended when he suffered a detached retina when blocking a shot. Not long after he started playing for the Cyclones he was involved in a serious accident when his car skidded at a railway crossing and hit a train which carried his car for over 100 feet. The accident, which we used to say “broke one of each of most of his bones” occurred at Christmas and when team members visited him in hospital the collective thinking was that he would never play hockey again. By Easter he was back on skates and the next fall returned full time. Since that time he has had three hip replacements, one without an anesthetic. He still plays for Hicke’s Hookers and with the retirees at the Exhibition Stadium.
Gene Schiebel, Gerry Naylen, Dick Morris.
Gene Scheibel – Gene was one of Pere Murray’s better hockey players and was scouted in his youth. He played University hockey at St. Francis Xavier and from the blueline in was a great goal scorer. He always stayed in good shape and did a good deal of running. A nagging hip injury forced him to retire.
Gerry Naylen – Gerry came from Fairlight Saskatchewan and is the brother-in-law of Gene. Like Gene he stayed in great shape, was one of the faster skaters and had an extremely hard shot. He was probably the strongest player on the team and could bench press both Wagner and Dietrich on any given day. Gerry not only practiced law but was a businessman who over time became owner of multiple M&M Meat franchises.
Dick Morris – known as Rapid Richard because of his skating ability, Dick was a great competitor, improved greatly over the years and was likely the best backchecker on the team. Carl Wagner claims it did not take much to be the best backchecker, as no one on the team backchecked (which merely shows his cynicism and the fact that he never backchecked himself). Dick and Gerry practiced law together for some time.
Carl Wagner, Al MacLean and Eric Dietrich.
Carl Wagner – was born in McNutt Saskatchewan and claims to be the best hockey player born in McNutt in 1940. Danny Wong went to great lengths to confirm this boast and reported that Carl was correct because of the seven births in McNutt that year, the other six were girls. Carl was one of the original organizers of both Wilcox and the Cyclones. He was an excellent skater and had a deadly accurate shot as a left hander playing right wing.
Al MacLean – had played for the Saskatoon Junior Quakers, had played Huskie basketball at the U of S and as well played competitive handball, all primarily winter sports. He was sometimes referred to as a jack of all trades and master of none and to compensate for this, his teammates let him be Captain for the over 20 years he played. His son Iain subbed for the Cyclones regularly. MacLean played with Hicke’s Hookers until 2006 when a knee replacement at age 65 ended his playing days and at that time had played for them longer than any other player.
Eric Dietrich – was a fast skating left winger with a knack of scoring key goals, who had played (at the same time as Alex Young) for the U of S Huskies. He was a high school principal and later a consultant to the Department of Education. Eric always maintained that other than having to play with two lawyers, he really enjoyed his time with the Cyclones. Wagner, with his customary 20/20 hindsight, now says that the WMD line were Weapons of Mass Destruction long before George Bush ever thought of the term. These three were recruited to play for Hicke’s Hookers in 1979 and played for both teams from that time on. Carl, Al and Eric have each made holes in one at golf,(they have six between them), which is likely something of a record for an oldtimers forward line.
Lyn Smith, Dwayne Pho and Wayne Bernakevitch.
Lyn Smith and Dwayne Pho – had played hockey in their home town of Estevan and were both excellent skaters. Regrettably, Lyn was another Cyclone who died far too early.
Wayne Bernakevitch – was and continues to be a smooth centreman. A pin point passer, he possessed a unique ability to set up his wingers. Before coming to Regina, he was one of the last cuts from Canada’s Olympic Team. He is likely the longest playing Cyclone, not to mention one of the best. Enough said. Dwayne had the same complaint as Eric Dietrich in that he had to play with two lawyers, and from the same firm at that.
Jeff Bugera, Doug Cross and Ted Knight.
Jeff Bugera – over the time he played, was unquestionably the player who improved most, especially in the areas of skating and stickhandling and in his final years was the best on the team in terms of using his skates to shift the puck when stickhandling. Cancer took him at an early age while still playing for the Cyclones. He was mourned and sorely missed by his teammates. He, like Dan Wong, had a great sense of humour and was the master of many accents. He was a Deputy Minister in various departments for the Government of Saskatchewan.
Doug Cross – had played for the Regina Caps and his nickname of “The Dart” was most apt. A quick skater and good stickhandler, he was pound for pound one of the best players on the team. His entire working life was devoted to Supreme Office Products (now Supreme Basics) and he held the position of Vice-President Sales on his retirement several years ago. After leaving the Cyclones he continued to play adult safe league hockey with his son Dustin, one year winning the National Championship in Toronto.
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Conclusion of 'A Hyperbolic History of the Regina Cyclones'
Ted Knight – as a junior, had played on a Memorial Cup Winning Team in Winnipeg. When he first started playing with the Cyclones he had not been on skates for quite a while. In short order he regained his old form. He retired from the Cyclones to expand his car dealerships both in Saskatchewan and Alberta and now divides his time between Regina and Naples, Florida.
Others played for shorter durations
Of note was Ken (Stick) McNab – a longtime Regina player who held several executive positions with the Provincial Government before moving to Las Vegas to pursue business interests.
Garnet McKee – played both football and hockey for the U of S Huskies and worked for his Huskie football contemporary Ron Graham of Graham Construction.
Another was Steve Mazurak – who had played football for the Regina Rams and the Saskatchewan Roughriders and who is presently employed by the Roughriders.
In addition to Wayne Bernakevitch, mentioned earlier, those to whom the original Cyclone torch has been passed are Tim McLeod and Bill Johnson.
Tim McLeod – was a strong player and very competitive. He could, and probably still can, hit a golf ball out of sight. Athleticism was in his genes. His uncle, Mr. Justice Ken McLeod, had been an excellent baseball player who arguably was the greatest contributor to minor league baseball in Regina over an extended period of time. I noticed a recent e-mail where Tim used the word “redacted”. I can assure you that when I played with Tim he neither knew the meaning of the word nor could he spell it. The most charitable view the writer can take is that Tim has taken on airs after becoming General Counsel at SGI.
Bill Johnson – is the one who pressed for this history. Not often do we encounter someone with the natural athletic ability and dedicated scholarship of a Bill Johnson. His natural ability is evident in the way he plays the game of hockey, could play both forward and defence and was truly a two way player (unless he has been taking recent advice from Wagner). Saskatchewan has had very few Presidents of the Canadian Bar Association and to attain that prestigious office is a singular honor. Bill now has the pleasure of playing with his son. Who knows, we may have another torchbearer. To care for the tradition of the Cyclones as Bill does bespeaks his passion for the game and the team.
The Cyclones and Hicke’s Hookers
These two teams were the earliest two Oldtimers teams in Regina. The Hookers were formed several years earlier than the Cyclones. In 1979 the Hookers invited Wagner, MacLean and Dietrich to play with them and they accepted. This triggered players from one team suiting up with the other and vice versa. In several early tournaments Dennis Curtis and the Jerome brothers, an excellent forward line who had played together for years and years would play for the Cyclones as some of the Cyclones had commitments which would not permit tournament play.
Bev Bell – who played for the Regina Pats and professionally for teams in the Montreal Canadiens’ organization, played regularly with the Cyclones for a number of years. Bev, a member of the Pats Hall of Fame, was likely the most talented player of his era. His skating, stickhandling, passing and his accurate shot were exceptional and there was no one better at bringing the puck out of his own end.
In addition to Wagner, MacLean and Dietrich, at a later date, Lorne Weighill became a regular member of the Hookers and is still playing for that team today. Wayne Bernakevitch also suited up with the Hookers from time to time as did other members of the Cyclones.
The first tournaments the Cyclones played in were the George Reed, which was the first and at the time most prestigious tournament. While the Cyclones never won the tournament, one year they lost in the final to the Hookers in a shootout and in another year lost, again in the final, to the Regina Caps Oldtimers by a goal.
When the NuCentral Homes Oldtimers from Saskatoon first organized their tournament (which ultimately became the largest tournament in Saskatchewan) the Cyclones were more successful, winning their division in the first three years.
The Saskatoon Oldtimers League held a tournament at the end of every season and the Cyclones played in the tournament for a number of years. In one memorable year the Cyclones, with a team consisting of the following eleven players won the tournament. In my recollection they were: Ken Stewart, Chuck Duncanson, Dobie Mark, Bev Bell, Dick Morris, Lyn Smith, Doug Cross, Carl Wagner, Al MacLean, Eric Dietrich and last but not least Pete Petrovitch.
Pete was truly the Dean of Oldtimers as one of its oldest players. After playing junior hockey in Crow’s Nest Pass, he played for Eddie Shore in Springfield and regaled the team with old stories from the past.
Even at his age he engineered a play that was remarkable for a player of his age and one that Chuck Duncanson has told countless times. In the last period of the final game the Cyclones had a faceoff in the opposing team’s end. Peter corralled Chuck and Dobie and said, “Listen guys, I’ll get the faceoff back to Chuck and Dobie from his defence position will drift towards the net. Chuck, you fake a shot, get the puck over to Dobie and we will have ourselves another goal.” The play went exactly as Pete scripted it and the Cyclones won. Eric Dietrich scored the winning goal.
The Spirit of the Team
It was not so jokingly said that the qualifications for playing for the Cyclones were as follows: you had to love the game, you had to be a team player, you had to have a sense of humour (even if it might be weird) and last but not least you could never, ever take yourself too seriously.
These criteria must have worked as the team had an excellent record. It won far more games than it lost. It won more than it lost against Hicke’s Hookers and the same was true for the other teams it played regularly, including the University of Regina Cougar alumni team, the Regina Canadians, the Slowshots and the Westridge Bruins.
More importantly, the team always acquitted itself in a sportsmanlike, gentlemanly manner and was as gracious in winning as in losing. Bill Johnson might amplify on my last point and it is this. As will have been noted, a great many of the players over the years were lawyers. When the team first started, from a public perspective, lawyers were sometimes perceived as a cloistered group and perhaps somewhat aloof. This perception, in my view, was not beneficial to the profession.
I truly believe that over the years. the gentlemanly and sportsmanlike conduct displayed by the Cyclones was of some assistance in changing this perception.
In conclusion, my memories of the Cyclones were happy ones and as has been said (at least by us old guys), these memories were in Technicolor with stereophonic sound. In addition to playing the splendid game of hockey, the fun, fellowship and last but not least the laughter, made cold winters in Saskatchewan a grand place to be.
Respectfully and with thanks to Bill Johnson for recognizing the tradition of the team and for giving me the occasional nudge to put pen to paper.