Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League

Saskatchewan’s Finest: La Ronge’s Merrimans wear the ‘Heart of the Wolves’ on their sleeves.

(Photo credit to Anna Robertson Photography)

(Article written and submitted by Jamie Neugebauer)

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League is full of people who ask, ‘How else can I help?’ instead of arguing that they do too much already.

Perhaps of nobody else in the league is that truer than in the case of La Ronge’s Lynnette Merriman and her husband Grant.

Lynnette’s title is the team’s treasurer, while Grant is the President and bus driver, but truly they do whatever the club needs on a given day.

And they go about their business with the passion typical of those in that great northern community.

“The biggest thing for me,” she says, “and I know I can speak for Grant as well, is that we just really believe in La Ronge, our community, and what it has to offer.

“I think we kind of go unnoticed because lots of people don’t realize what northern Saskatchewan has to offer, and La Ronge specifically. We want the players on the team to know how very important they are to our community, and to know what we offer them as well.

“As a couple, we’ve just always been very volunteer-orientated,” she adds.

“So, to have a Junior A team in our town, we just need to be super proud of that. They are few and far between across the province and Grant and I just want the players on the team to know that they bring real joy and economic value to our community. They bring us hours of entertainment, and at the same time, we want the local kids to see a piece of Saskatchewan, people from other places, that they might never have seen otherwise.”

Lynnette is originally from Dinsmore, SK, a town equidistant between Saskatoon and Regina, but has lived in La Ronge since the 1980s. Grant has been there most of his life, and they have since had five kids, three grandchildren, and another grandkid on the way.

They began with the Wolves over a decade ago, as billets, and as they became more involved, with Grant driving the club around the league, the suggestion was made to them to get more involved and join the board.

Alongside their work with the Wolves, they run Little Rock Enterprises, a landscaping, trucking and expediting company, as well as a busing company, a retail space, and other businesses in the La Ronge area.

With all that going on, a piece of their hearts is always at the Mel Hegland Uniplex, through all the intense ups and downs of helping to run a Junior A franchise in the 21st Century.

“Stressful is probably a good word for it,” she says.

“I do the books for our businesses, so I got my feet wet there, but yeah, a lot on our plates. It’s stressful, but on the other hand, it’s very rewarding. When we first got on the board we were hurting very badly financially. Still, as a group we’ve made some changes, brought in the current board, and together with the help of the community I think we take a lot of pride in the Ice Wolves and work hard to make them better as an organization. We’ve overcome some of those financial burdens, not that we’re wildly flush with cash, but it’s really nice to look back and say ‘hey, you know, we’ve made a positive difference.’”

According to Lynnette, a big piece of the recent turnover is the long-term commitment to head coach and general manager Kevin Kaminski.

The Churchbridge, SK native, and former National Hockey League took over the club in 2019-2020 and has guided the Ice Wolves to the post-season every year since.

“Kevin has just done an outstanding job,” she says.

“He’s really down to earth and wears his heart on his sleeves for the most part. He’s very real and he knows the players have to get out in the community for the community to reciprocate and come back and support them in the rink. He has a great attitude, and he really instills in the players the idea that they have to be proud of the town, and to work hard because the community is behind them and deserves that. He’s also not afraid to get his hands dirty and get in the community himself, and we know not all coaches are like that. He’s recognized everywhere and knows we appreciate him, and that’s super important.”

As much as the Merrimans are high on Kaminski, the man they call ‘Killer’ is just as high on them as well.

“Without Lynnette (and Grant) I’m not sure where the Ice Wolves would be or if they’d even be around at all,” Kaminski says.

“Lynnette is the glue of the organization, she’s a go-getter, and gets things done. She does everything with passion and heart and she and her husband are a blessing to work for. (They) mean everything and wear the Wolf heart on their sleeves!”

Grant has been the Ice Wolves president for over six years, and with the club in the hands of the Merrimans, Kaminski, and many others, it is certainly on solid ground.

“We’ve got an uphill battle (to get into the playoffs),” Lynnette says, “but we have tons of hope.

“I think the players have shown the last few games they can dig deep if they need to and they just to follow that through. We must be real, and we have to want it, and I think for the most part, the players really do believe that. So, we’ll see if they can dig deep and get us into the playoffs!”.

Lynnette and Grant are a pair Saskatchewan’s Finest, and the rest of the league should count themselves fortunate that the couple is not eligible to lace them up for the teal and black.