Barbecue, bidding, and a whole lot of appreciation for hockey - what's not to love? 

The ice sheet on Affinity Place was packed with community members to further support the Estevan Bruins in last Saturday's annual Sportman's Dinner. The event featured a catered barbecue dinner, a live auction held by Mack Auctions and guest speakers Mike Commodore, Chris Chelios, and former Bruins' play-by-play host Rob Mahon. 

"It was an amazing night. We were really excited to be able to host this event in Affinity Place this year. It's been a long time since the Sportsman's dinner has been in affinity. So beautiful venue. We had a great night. Everyone that came out really enjoyed it," expressed Robert Godfrey, the director of gameday operations for the Estevan Bruins. 

Throughout the night, Mack Auctions held a live auction that featured signed jerseys from Estevan-born Brayden Pachal of the Calgary Flames, Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers and couple from the guest speakers. Bidding was also available on VIP experiences at a couple of Chicago Blackhawks games next season, a golf expedition with Mike Commodore in Scottsdale, Arizona and art created by Laureen Daae depicting an entire city on an Estevan Bruins goalie's shoulders. While the numbers aren't final, it can be estimated that on the live auction alone, the items raised close to $26,000 for the home team. 

Arguably the highlight of the night was the panel with former NHL players Mike Commodore and Chris Chelios, moderated by Rob Mahon. "When we talk about our speakers, you can't get much better than that. Some amazing stories from their time in the NHL and the experience [of] being there. Just a really fun night all around, it was really nice to see people asking [Mike and Chris] some questions," Godfrey said. 

Both hockey veterans spent some time in Saskatchewan in their early years in the game. Chelios started his hockey career in Moose Jaw with the Canucks (now known as the Moose Jaw Warriors with the Western Hockey League). By his own admission, it all started with a conversation on a beach in San Diego, California. 

"I met a kid in San Diego on the beach who was from Moose Jaw. I wasn't playing at the time and he gave me the coach's number up there. I called, they gave me a plane ticket, and the rest was history." 

"I mean, playing in San Diego, there's no competitive hockey - mostly just senior league. For me it was, you know, it was the best level hockey had ever played. [I] just got really lucky I had a coach in Larry Billows - he was pretty patient with me. I got lucky physically, I grew. That was probably the biggest issue as a kid when I was 15 and 16 is physically, I wasn't ready. By the time I got to Moose Jaw in the Saskatchewan League, physically I was a lot bigger and I loved it." 

After being drafted to play for the Montreal Canadiens in 1981, Chelios had a long-storied career in the NHL, with stints in Chicago for the Blackhawks and the Red Wings in Detroit. 

Mike Commodore didn't play in Saskatchewan but passed through Estevan in his early years with the University of North Dakota. In a press conference with the media before the event, he admitted that he didn't see himself going pro. 

"I was drafted by the Tacoma Rockets, [who] moved to Kelowna. I was on the team when I was in grade 12 and my mother just wanted me to finish high school, so I went back to Fort Saskatchewan. I just wanted to play junior.[Then,] I got an offer for a fly down. I didn't know what US college hockey was. I just played hockey cause I like doing it. I couldn't have named the team, had no idea. [I] was blown away by the atmosphere at the games. When I went down to North Dakota my thought was 'Well, I might as well go here. At least I'll get four years paid for and get a scholarship at least. Mostly paid for, and then I can go from there'. 

Both speakers were connected with their mutual hatred of NHL coach Mike Babcock.