The 2023 Centennial Cup will take over Stride Place in a matter of days. May 11 is the first official day of the national tournament, with the Portage Terriers' first game going down on May 12 against the MJHL league champions.
The last time the Centennial Cup was held in Portage la Prairie was in 2015, and the Dogs were the last team standing. Defenceman Tanner Jago scored five points in six games at the 2015 Centennial Cup Tournament. He says the Portage crowd was unlike anything he's experienced.
"It was unbelievable. We had incredible fan support. The rink was full every night and was just an electric atmosphere. They are the best fans in the MJHL, for sure," Jago explains. "We were lucky, we had all the evening slot, so it was prime time for everyone to come after work. There weren't many seats available, that's for sure."
The Terriers will be playing in "prime time" once again this year, as all five of their round-robin matchups will have a 7:30 p.m. start time.
Jago encourages all the Terriers to enjoy every day of the tournament, win or lose.
"It's hard to stay present sometimes, especially during the tournament. Emotions are riding high and that crowd will be full every night," Jago continues. "Just enjoy it, stay present, and stay in the moment because you never know if you're going to get an opportunity like that again. For (the 2015 Terriers), eight years later, it's probably the highlight of most of our careers still. Make sure to soak it all in."
The Brandon native played four years in the NCAA after the 2015 championship victory. He then played two years in the ECHL and has spent the last two seasons playing professional hockey in Europe.
Jago is returning to Portage and volunteering at the rink for the event and says this will be the first time reuniting with all of his 2015 Terrier teammates. The defenceman is looking forward to enjoying the tournament from a different perspective.
"It's going to be totally different. It'll be nice not to have any stress or nerves. I can just sit back and watch and enjoy the hockey. I'm excited to see the team. I haven't seen them play all year. I'm excited to just relax and not have that stress because that week and a half can be stressful for a player. It's kind of business as usual but there's definitely a lot more expectations and pressure on you when you're on that side of things."
The Centennial Cup begins on May 11, and the 2015 Portage Terriers will be honoured during the second week of the tournament.