It's been more than 50 years since Scotty Monroe moved the Humboldt Indians junior hockey club to Estevan, which led to the birth of the Estevan Bruins.
Don Anderson was among those players who relocated to Estevan in 1957. The rugged, physical defenceman would play for the Bruins in their first two years.
He remembers playing in the Civic Auditorium, which, at that time, was a brand new, state-of-the-art arena. Its cozy dimensions suited Anderson and his teammates just fine.
“We were a rough team in a small rink,” said Anderson. “The other teams, they didn't like coming here very much.”
The Civic seemed like a palace to the players who had played in Humboldt. Anderson said Humboldt's rink in the 1950s was run down, and not in very good shape.
Anderson also has fond memories of the crowds that used to pack the Civic.
“We used to have really good crowds, over 2,000 every game,” said Anderson. “We came from Humboldt, where there weren't too big of crowds, just 500 or 600 a game.”
The first-ever coach for the Bruins, Scotty Monroe, was the best coach that Anderson said he ever had. Monroe became like a father figure for Anderson and the other Bruin players.
Anderson was an SJHL second-team all-star in his final year of junior in 1958-59. He had a tryout with the Boston Bruins, and then was reassigned to the Kingston Frontenacs of the Eastern Professional Hockey League for the 1959-60 season. He played with several former and future NHL players, including Willie O'Ree, who was the first black player to play an NHL regular season game.
“He had one of the hardest shots that I'd seen, but you never knew where it was going,” said Anderson. “He was a terrific skater.”
O'Ree was a likeable person who got along well with his Kingston teammates, Anderson said.
After he was released by Boston, Anderson played professional hockey for a team in Kelowna, B.C., and senior hockey for a team in Yorkton. And he spent the 1964-65 season playing professional hockey with the Jacksonville Rockets, a Florida-based team in the Eastern Hockey League that was coached by Monroe.
When he wasn't playing hockey, Anderson was busy working in the agriculture industry or on the oil rigs. His work in the oil industry took him to Medicine Hat for a few years.
Anderson relocated to Estevan about five years ago. His wife, Rosemarie (nee Walsh), is from Bienfait originally, and they decided to move back to the southeast.
Anderson dropped the puck for the ceremonial opening faceoff at the Bruins' home opener against the Melville Millionaires on September 21. It was his first time inside of Spectra Place, and he marvelled at the arena's appearance.
It was an honour for him to drop the puck before the home opener, he said.
Anderson's appearance was among the highlights of the opening night festivities. The Bruins had a pyrotechnics display and offered a salute to the fans. Every ticket for the game was sold, making it the first sell-out in several years.