By Dave Leaderhouse
There is more to hockey than goals and assists, wins and losses or saves and shutouts.
Improving skills in order to advance further in the game is certainly a popular component, especially at the junior level, but developing the player into a better person can’t be overlooked.
The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League appears to be a strong advocate for the latter as earlier this week the Hockey Humanitarian Award Foundation, in association with its member NCAA schools, announced the 11 finalists for its 2018 Hockey Humanitarian Award and two of those selected are graduates from the SJHL.
Devin Buffalo, who spent the better part of three seasons with the Flin Flon Bombers from 2011-14, and Jared Pilet, who was with the Kindersley Klippers from 2012-14, are up for the prestigious honour that will be handed out during the Frozen Four tournament in early April.
Buffalo, who is also on the initial list of nominees this year for the Hobey Baker Award, is finishing up his senior season at Dartmouth College. In 15 games with Dartmouth this year, Buffalo has a 3.10 goals-against average and .903 save percentage, but it is what he has been doing away from the rink that is equally impressive.
Born on the Samson Cree Nation and raised in Wetaskiwin, Alta., the 24-year-old Buffalo worked at three different levels of indigenous games last summer taking him right across Canada. Buffalo has been a mentor for First Nations youth for several years and while in Dartmouth he has continued his volunteerism by being involved in the Go Team Impact program, toy drives and by spending time at the children’s hospital in Hanover, NH.
While in Flin Flon, where Buffalo appeared in 105 regular-season games and captured the SJHL rookie of the year in 2012, he was involved in a school mentorship program offering support to local youth.
Pilet, a 24-year-old defenceman from Seattle, Wash., is finishing his college career with Concordia University, a Division III school located in Mequon, Wis. In 90 career games with the Falcons, Pilet has five goals and 16 assists, but aside from being the captain of the squad this year he has been a leader off the ice as well working with church youth groups and being a tutor to other students.
Pilet, who played in 98 regular-season games with Kindersley amassing 12 goals and 27 assists, has twice been named to the NCHA all-academic team while attending Concordia.
The Hockey Humanitarian Award has quickly risen to become of the two most sought-after awards at the college level (the other obviously being the Hobey Baker Award).
Initiated by a pair of fathers who watched with great respect and appreciation for a coach who overcame huge obstacles to provide leadership and guidance to their children, the award is intended to “honour college hockey’s finest citizen – a student-athlete who makes significant contributions not only to his or her team, but also the community at large through leadership in volunteerism.”
A quote at the conclusion of the press release announcing the 11 nominees summed up the award perfectly: “In the end it’s not how many times you touch the puck, but how often you touch a life.”
The SJHL is proud of both Devin and Jared and wish them continued success in the future as they move forward down their career paths.