The Portage Terriers Junior A Hockey team has a long history in the community. Over the years, hundreds of players that grew up in the area have pulled the jersey over their head. Hundreds of others came from outside of the region to join the team as well.
In any given season, there will be a dozen or so players that arrive in Portage with no real connection to the community. The only reason they are here is the hope that they will become a Terrier and continue playing junior hockey. Many of these players are from Manitoba, a few come from out of province, and some come from thousands of kilometers away.
For most, when junior hockey comes to an end in Portage, life rolls on and they return to where they came from or they head off to a school or community to continue their education or life elsewhere. Many rarely return and their time in the community becomes a cherished memory. For others, Portage la Prairie becomes their lifelong home.
George Miller may be the Terrier alumni who came from outside the community that has stayed here the longest. Although he didn't come from far, (Elm Creek) he joined the team in the early '70s and was the Assistant captain of the Centennial Cup championship team in 1973. There was a very brief period when he left the city but for the most part, Portage has been home for 50 years. It's the place where he started and raised his family and their roots remain strong today. After hockey, Miller went on to become a prominent business owner while volunteering countless hours to boards, charities, and the sporting community.
Another name you may recognize is Shane Moffat. From the Souris area, Moffat had several options available when it came to advancing his hockey career. His mom was originally from Portage but he had never lived here.
"I was actually going to go to Yorkton and play, but there was a fella named Kenny Hale that played for the Terriers back then. He was also from Souris and said, why don't you come to Portage? So I decided to come here. During my first full year here I had a couple of side jobs through the team and then I was lucky to get on with Centra Gas/Manitoba Hydro. I played for the next three years and stayed. Portage has been really good for me and my family"
The Terriers were happy Moffat chose the team as he still holds the record for goals in a season with 60. While that record has since been tied, the players that did it (Junior Lessard and Tyler Skworchinski) needed more games to accomplish the feat.
"I met my wife Pam here and we got married - then had two boys Brody and Joey. Joey played for the Terriers for a few seasons and Brody was in the league for four"
Moffat has also given back to the community in many ways including coaching sports like hockey and baseball and helping raise money for different projects over the years.
Kelly Funk is another such person. The local business owner (Keystone Sports) grew up in the Neepawa/Arden area and arrived in the city as a 17-year-old in 1990 after a season with the Neepawa Natives. He would play 3 years with the club before finishing his junior career in Neepawa. During his time with the Terriers, Funk became very involved in the community and when a job opportunity came up, he was happy to move back. Eventually, he would marry his wife Nancy (also from the area) and even though they moved around a little, Portage ultimately became home. They have both contributed to the city in many ways and continue to give back today. Their son Reilly also ended up as a Terrier and Portage is the place they have been raising their family with their youngest still in middle school.
Bob Lund came to the team via a trade in the mid '90s. He is one of a long list of Terrier alumni from the Elkhorn area. His younger brother was a Terrier so despite the fact he loved playing for the Bombers in Flin Flon, he relished the opportunity to join the Terriers.
"Junior hockey can be like a family. Last year when I had health issues, the Bombers passed around a boot in the playoffs. Fans and alumni that never even really knew me raised around $3000 to help with all the expenses. It was pretty amazing after almost 30 years"
Even though the Bomber organization holds a special place in his heart, Portage la Prairie is the place he decided to make his home. Following hockey, he would join the Agassiz Youth Centre and has been employed by Manitoba Corrections since.
"Portage is home. We did move to Oakville for a few years but ended up back here for health reasons. It has been a great place to raise a family. My daughter Sophie is 14 and my son Oliver is 12. My wife Birgit has been the rock of the family here. Who knows where I would've ended up if that trade didn't happen but I'm very thankful I had the opportunity to play with my brother"
Most recently, Justin Minoletti came to Portage from Thunder Bay to play in 2008 and was part of the championship team of 2009. After finishing his career in Winkler he returned to Portage and has been here ever since.
"Growing up in Thunder Bay we did play Central Plains a couple of times so I did know of the city. The Terriers had even scouted my dad at one point. I worked at a school while with the team and it was a really good job that I enjoyed. I actually worked with my wife for a long time. We were good friends and then ended up getting married and starting a family. It's kind of crazy that the Portage Terriers were a piece that helped carve out my life. When I was thinking of signing I was also invited out to Salmon Arm for a tryout. Portage sounded like they wanted me on the team and that there was a good opportunity for me. I guess I made the right choice, we like it here. Our families are scattered all over and this is a good central location"
When putting together a list of this sort, you always run the risk of missing a few key names. It's a rather lengthy list of others who came to Portage for the sole reason of playing hockey but then decided to make it their home. Plus, how far do you need to come from before you are considered "outside" the community? The list we have includes school teachers and administrators, people doing various trades, business owners, and more. One common theme is that almost all of these people have given back to the area that supported them during their time with the team. Most have also started families and their kids are now or have been involved with sports as well.
The list includes names like Eric Inman, Ian Cunningham, Derek Grimeau, Travis Ross, Alan Patterson, Chris Reykdal, Jess Brooks, Kelly Anderson, and Scott Smith amongst others. These fine people may be your friends and neighbors yet none would probably be here without the Terriers. All of them came from somewhere else for the sole reason of playing hockey and we're glad they stayed for various reasons. Portage la Prairie is a better place because of them.