With another Junior A hockey season in the books, the Portage Terriers are bidding adieu to their eight 20-year-old players.
One of the hardest for many Terrier fans to say goodbye to is the team captain and Portage-born defenceman Kian Calder. He was disheartened after the Terriers' playoff loss in Game 7 against the Virden Oil Capitals, but Calder is very proud of the way the squad responded at the Centennial Cup.
"We had a little bit of a disappointing playoffs, so the guys really wanted to prove ourselves. Throughout that tournament, I thought we played our best hockey of the year," Calder explains. "We came up short in the end, but now that I've had some time to think about it, it's definitely something to be proud of, winning those games in front of everybody in town. It was awesome. I couldn't have asked for much better other than winning the thing, but we did what we could."
Calder played six games with the Dogs last season before being traded to the Estevan Bruins in the SJHL. Estevan was the host of the 2022 Centennial Cup but they didn't fair as well as the Terriers. Calder says he was happy to have a better showing in front of his friends and family in Portage.
"After we lost our last game there and I saluted the crowd for the last time, that's something I'll definitely look back on later in my life and really appreciate," says Calder. "It was an emotional ending but there was no other place I'd rather finish my junior career than back in my hometown. I'm really happy with the way things happened."
In his senior season, Calder was fifth in the MJHL for points among defencemen (42) and tied for second in goals from a blueliner (15). He added eight points in the playoffs and finished the Centennial Cup tournament averaging a point-per-game.
Knowing where his journey has taken him this far, if Calder could go back a decade and speak to himself as a 10-year-old, this is what he would have to say.
"Play every night like it's your last. Every night is special when you step on the ice in front of your hometown crowd. Don't leave anything out there. You don't want to look back in ten or 20 years and have regrets. I think, for the most part, I don't have any regrets about my time here," Calder continues. "I'd tell myself to enjoy it all. Don't let anything negative come in, and that's tough sometimes, but I tried my best, and I think I did a good job to enjoy every moment at the rink."
Growing up a Terrier fan, Calder says it was truly incredible to see how passionate the community is from the other side of the glass.
"They always come out in bunches. This was the first playoff hockey they've had since before COVID. So, I think everybody wanted a taste of it again. Junior hockey doesn't happen without fans and community support. The community support in this town is next to none. It's unbelievable. I couldn't be more proud to be from Portage la Prairie."
With his junior career wrapped up, Calder's hockey journey will continue next year down Highway #1. The defenceman committed to play for the University of Manitoba Bisons in 2023-24.
Congratulations to Kian Calder (@Umanitoba), Brandon McCartney (@Yorkulions), and Mike Stubbs (@UPEIMHockey) for committing to three different USports schools! #Playheregoanywhere #MJHLTerriers #TerrierAlumni pic.twitter.com/pXIrjapzT6— Portage Terriers (@PortageTerriers) June 9, 2023
"The facilities there are great, and there's a great group of guys in that locker room. I'm super excited. The tradition there is awesome," says Calder. "It's also nice to play close to home. I like when my parents come out to watch, and all my friends and family can be there. So, it was an easy decision for me at the end of the day."
Calder says it may take a while but he hopes to see the next generation of Calders suit up in the green and white as well.