(Article written by Jamie Neugebauer)
The professional position in which Benny Walchuk finds himself is pretty unique.
A Melville boy, he not only gets to call himself the voice of his hometown Millionaires but also gets to call himself the soundtrack of a bitter and intense rivalry.
That is because he is also one of the voices of the Yorkton Terriers, the Mils’ bitter Highway 10 rivals only 25 minutes or so northeast.
Unique indeed, and the 31-year-old does not take it for granted for a minute.
“I love it here,” he says.
“These are two great communities, I’m in my home area, I work for a great company in Harvard Media, and I have a chance to call the teams I cared about and watched growing up. When I first started it was really different for me, cheering for the ‘orange and black’ (of the Yorkton Terriers), and wearing their swag. I got a little bit of a hard time from both sides at first, but I always think that when I am broadcasting the games between them, if I’m excited for both teams and both sets of fans are giving me grief then I’m doing my job. It took a few years to wear off, but now it’s just a normal thing. It’s great though, both are great organizations to be a part of and I can’t wait for any game between them.”
Walchuk is the Sports Director at GX94, a country music radio station out of Yorkton that serves eastern Saskatchewan and Western Manitoba. It is a post he’s held since 2012, after interning there only two months out of broadcasting school in Saskatoon.
It turned out to be a perfect time to hop into covering the Mils and Terriers as both were in very competitive situations at the time, culminating in a league final between the two in 2014, and a subsequent run to the Junior ‘A’ National Championship for Yorkton.
“(The biggest highlight of my career so far) has to be of course calling the RBC Cup (as the national championship used to be called) winning goal in Vernon, BC,” he says.
“The Terriers won their first and only national title, and the last one by any SJHL team, and it’s probably never going to be topped in my broadcasting career; it’s hard to imagine that being beaten. It was an incredible run and I still talk to a lot of the players and coaches that I was on that run with.
“Another moment was calling that first-ever Highway 10 final. Growing up with that rivalry, having a chance to experience that and call those games – unfortunately, it was only four – but to see 2,500 fans pack in each rink every game was just incredible. Being a kid from the area, it was just so special.”
As much as Benny is thrilled to have the job he does, there is also a very real sense in the two rival communities that he is a truly loved and appreciated part of the fabric of both clubs.
One evidence of this is the huge sticker of Walchuk’s smiling face that greets you on the main door when you enter Yorkton’s Westland Arena.
Scott Musqua, who has been an assistant coach for the Terriers since 2016-17, is Benny’s roommate on the road, and simply cannot speak highly enough of him as a person first, and an elite broadcaster second.
“Getting a chance to be his roommate, seeing the work he has to do and the number of teams he is involved with,” Musqua says, “I have a lot of respect for him.
“But he is also like a brother to everyone on our team, and I’m sure it’s the same with Melville. The biggest thing about him is that he’s so compassionate, he cares about you, and you know that you can rely on him to have a real genuine relationship. He’s a hockey guy through and through, and strongly connected with his family. He represents the Walchuk name with so much class in all the areas that he puts his hands to.”
Benny’s personability and intentionality are made all the more impressive given how busy the man is.
He is not only the voice of the Mils and Terriers, but of the Swan Valley Stampeders of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, as well as the Junior ‘B’ Fort Knox of the Prairie Junior Hockey League and various senior hockey teams in the area. On top of that, his passion for giving back shines on numerous coaching jobs he has had with Melville Minor and high school football. Walchuk is also responsible for the sports department at GX94 in general and often goes into the office early in the morning to take care of business there so he has time for coaching, playing baseball himself, and his extensive preparation to call games.
Besides a regular amount of his favourite green tea with two creams and one honey, how does he keep it all together?
“I guess I would say that I’ve learned to get some good rest,” he says with a laugh.
“The napping has been a little more often than I used to, and I mix in a lot of (lozenges) and water. I take walks around the rink before every game and talk to people around there to get a bit of the lay of the land wherever I am, and that just keeps me good to go.
“At the beginning (the people at GX94) kind of picked my schedule, but a couple of years in I was able to rearrange my schedule how I like to do it. I do around 15 games a year per team right now and then figure it out come playoff time, so it’s busy, and I need to make sure I keep my calendar up to date and organized. But it also keeps me out of trouble in the winter, allowing me time to coach football in the spring and fall, and enjoy my summers a bit more.”
With all that talent, polish and local cache, the offers and opportunities have come in for him over the last number of years. While Benny certainly has ambitions to move up one day, he is also adamant that it would take the perfect gig to pull him away from his family, and the teams and communities he has loved his whole life.
He grew up in the area, and he listened to SJHL Hall of Fame broadcaster Terry Struthers, so for now, he is exactly where he wants to be.
“This is all been a dream come true,” he says.
“From when I was three, four years old, I just wished to call Melville Millionaires and Yorkton Terriers games and be Terry on GX94. To be able to do it, with all those great moments, and all the great people I’ve met has just been awesome, and hopefully, we can get the Melville Millionaires their first championship in team history while I am on the call.”
From his excellence on the mic to his writing online, to his social media presence, and everything he puts his busy mind to, Benny is truly one of Saskatchewan’s finest.