Losing is never easy to watch.
As a former resident of the ‘City of Champions’, I’m used to watching hometown teams fall short of the mark. The Edmonton Oilers haven’t won the Stanley Cup for years now despite having some truly talented players.
That was the same case last Wednesday as I watched the 100 Mile House Wranglers get mauled by the Revelstoke Grizzles. With some of their best players off the ice due to injury and an untimely team-wide sickness, it was a punishing game. Despite that, however, the Wranglers held on and made the game a spectacle until the final whistle blew.
I have watched the Wranglers through two of their most difficult seasons. I wasn’t here during the team’s glory days when they won the KIJHL Teck Cup in 2016 and were serious contenders for the years that followed. I have always known them as a team that fights against adversity and a series of bad hands.
Through it all, I’ve listened to coach Dale Hladun talk about the team’s potential to win big if they just rebuild the Wrangler culture. Maybe it’s just my desire to write about a winning team talking, but I tend to agree with him.
This year the Wranglers did improve by leaps and bounds over last season. The return of veterans helped set a tone for the rookies to follow and while they struggled in the fall, during the back half of the season they put on a real show. Through sheer grit and stubbornness, they forced more than a few games into overtime and clawed their way into the playoffs.
Going up against the reigning champs straight out of the gate was a bad stroke of luck, compounded by the sickness. I knew looking at the standings last Saturday that the chances of them pulling off a victory were slim, but I resolved to be there for what turned out to be the last game of the season.
While they lost, the Wranglers did so in style. In my view, they have nothing to be ashamed of. They gave it their all, fought hard, and set an example that the future players would do well to follow.
After all, you learn a lot more from failure than you do from success and one thing this team clearly knows how to do is to never quit. That, I think, is well worth watching, win or lose.
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