Despite a last-place finish in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League standings, the Neepawa Natives celebrated their 25th season with pride last Wednesday night.
Acting as master of ceremonies, assistant coach Cam Tibbett led an evening of acknowledgment of enduring fan support and volunteer commitment.
Included in the evening’s program was a tribute to long-time team supporter and talent scout Jeff MacDonald by Mayor Ken Waddell, team president Dave McIntosh, captain Robby Moar and coach Dwayne Kirkup.
As well, on behalf of his family, Lionel Crowther explained in a recorded video how his late father, also Lionel, was able to see from the stands his dream of Neepawa’s MJHL franchise come true on the ice.
To conclude the season, the team's commemorative retro blue third jerseys worn throughout the season were auctioned off.
Team awards for the season included:
Unsung Hero (sponsored by Team Electronics) - #11 Steven Phillips
Rookie of the Year (Home Hardware) - #17 Riley Hillis
Leading Scorer (McLaughlin GM) - #9 Sam Briscoe, #10 Drake Lindsay, #16 Brady Bouchard
Coach’s Choice (RBC) - #2 Jaxon Elmes, #7 Riley Kolesar
Most Improved Player (Harris Pharmacy) - #20 Reigan Buchanan, #18 Kyle McDonald
Three Stars Award (Stoney Creek Transport) - #9 Sam Briscoe
Top Defenceman (Neepawa Natives Alumni) - #14 Clayton Heinrichs
Hardest Worker (RBGC Properties) - #15 Robby Moar
Best Manitoba-Born Player (Neepawa Tire) - #16 Brady Bouchard
Lionel Crowther Memorial Award (Crowther Family) - #5 Ty Webber
Most Valuable Player (Bank of Montreal) - #10 Drake Lindsay