On the surface Donovan Nunweiler and Jerome Bechard seem to be quite different.
Yet the two players — in their own way — did a great job of defining the character of the Moose Jaw Warriors. The pair were inducted along with builder Rose Mary Hartney into the Warriors & Legends Hall of Fame banquet presented by Conexus Friday.
Nunweiler was a studious, baby-faced goalie who used determination and will to get to the Western Hockey League and then excelled in the league. He later put that same will and determination on display in becoming a doctor.
“Sports teaches you a lot about life. There’s disappointments that you face and accomplishments. When I carried over what I learned from athletics — particularly my challenges in the Western Hockey League and my successes — that kind of shaped me into the person I am and helped me academically as well,” said Nunweiler.
Bechard made the Warriors through sheer force of will and his heart and desire allowed to be one of the best players to don the colours.
When Warriors head coach Greg Kvisle told Bechard that he was too small and didn’t skate well enough to play defence, Bechard found another way to impress Kvisle after moving to left wing.
“Me being me, that pissed me off,” said Bechard. “I was going to have to find another way to make an impression and that was basically skating through a wall.”
Kvisle would later call Bechard “the ultimate Warrior” and his relentless style brought him many admirers in his own locker room and in the stands. In many ways his style helped set the template that defined “Warrior hockey.”
“We’ve always been a hard-working team; kind of rough-and-tumble. We’ve been the kind of team that takes no prisoners. That’s me to a tee,” said Bechard. “Coming down the stretch, whatever we needed to win a hockey game: whether it was getting into a fight, blocking a shot, running through that wall, whatever, that’s what I loved and what made me what I am.”
Bechard played parts of five seasons with the Warriors. After playing four games in the 85-86 season, he was a mainstay for the next four years. He scored 46 goals and had 93 points in 69 games in his overage season. He finished his WHL career with 284 games, 100 goals and 238 points. He also put up 880 penalty minutes in his career.
It took three years and four trades for Nunweiler to finally get his chance to tend the nets regularly in the WHL. He played a game with his hometown Medicine Hat Tigers in 1993-94, but had to wait two more seasons to get a shot to prove his worth in the WHL.
As an 18-year-old he was traded from Medicine Hat to Swift Current to Kamloops to Lethbridge and finally to Moose Jaw. He actually spent that season with the SJHL’s Melville Millionaires.
“I was on the Medicine Hat protected list from the time I was 15 to 18. I was always the last goalie cut at training camp and if someone was injured I was the back-up. It was really tough to get in,” said Nunweiler. “I spent a year in with Melville and we won 10 games all year. I had a 30-shot second period. That really was a grooming year for me to get another chance and I’m grateful for the chance Moose Jaw gave me.”
The Redcliffe, Alta product began the 96-97 campaign backing up Jason McLean before putting together a great rookie season. Nunweiler posted a 27-18-3 record, a 3.04 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage.
He was named the WHL’s rookie of the year and also set a team record that he still shares as he posted six shutouts.