By: Ted Stovin August 20, 2014@ 01:00:00 PM
In 1995, the Quebec Nordiques moved to Denver and were coined the Colorado Avalanche. A year later and the Colorado Avalanche won the NHL’s Stanley Cup, the league’s championship and the trophy every young hockey player grows up dreaming to win.
Canadian Curtis Leschyshyn realized that dream in 1996 with Colorado. While there, he re-connected with another passion of his childhood.
“If there was a rodeo around I sure liked to go and watch it,” he said. “Bull riding was one event that really intrigued me. It’s one event that everybody sticks around to watch. My parents and grandparents grew up on farms and I rode horses every summer. It was something I enjoyed. I could be on a horse all day long. That’s what I really enjoyed about this, is that Western heritage and culture. It’s so deeply rooted in it.
“The year that our team moved to Colorado from Quebec I had some friends that worked for Coors that got us some chute passes for Bull Riders Only. I’ve been hooked ever since that.
“There were a bunch of us hockey guys that went on to the back of the chutes to watch it. We thought we were pretty tough with all the body contact and stuff. We realized we were a step below bull riders in terms of their toughness. I’ve always had mutual, real deep respect for bull riders and what they do. The courage they have, and the try they have. They battle through injury and they don’t have any guarantee on salaries. They get bucked off, get in the car and drive all night to the next one to get on and ride again. We were a little more spoiled as hockey players, when we got on a chartered flight and we knew we had a pay check coming in the next week.”
Bulls were what caught his eye, the bull riding part didn’t appeal to him.
“No, I never really wanted to ride one,” Leschyshyn said. “I just love watching the athleticism of the animal, all the speed and strength they have. It’s an athlete that’s real impressive to me.
He then added that the bull riders’ determination is similar to that of a hockey players.
“If you’ve done it growing up, from mutton busting to steer riding, it’s like anything, you get the knowledge and experience,” Leschyshyn said. “It’s what you do. It’s no different than me playing hockey, I started in the back yard and worked up to the youth teams and then all the way up to professionally.”
Leschyshyn got into the bull business himself in 2005.
“I bought my first bull after I retired,” he said. “4G Ranch trained them for me and hauled them to events for me. It’s been a real good partnership with them (the Griggs Family) and I’ve developed some good friendships.”
Like he did, Leschyshyn’s kids are growing up around both sports. Jake and Kate were both in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, last week at a PBR Canada event at the Dakota Dunes Casino. Neither was there to ride a bull.
“My son came in golf shorts and a Toronto Blue Jays hat on,” he said. “There’s not a chance he’s getting on one. My daughter is absolutely terrified of them. I took her to an event a couple years ago and we went to visit Kent Cox, who was caring for my bulls at the time he also had a couple bulls he was taking to PBR events.”
The bull Leschyshyn is referring to is Porcupine Puncher. One he bought as a 3-year-old.
“I thought the best way to get him to the PBR was to have Kent training him. Kent did a tremendous job with him. We all know what kind of a bull handler he was.”
Porcupine Puncher went on to place in the Top 10 at the ABBI World Finals.
“Kent had all the time in the world for me, he listened and gave me his opinion. I respected it,” Leschyshyn said. “He was a great guy for sure. First class. He was a caring and compassionate guy.
“I wanted to go out and see some of my bulls at his place, we got to see Bushwacker. Kent had a real pet at his place (named Howling Waters). Kate was absolutely terrified with bulls and he had her petting a bull by the end of the whole conversation. Kent had all the time in the world for her. It was a real breakthrough for Kate. Still to this day she talks about it.”
“Kent was a great man, sorely missed, I know everyone in the PBR and bull riding and the world of bulls miss him and it’s a tragic thing but we all miss him.”
Curtis’ son, Jake Leschyshyn was drafted in the first round of the WHL Draft in 2014, following his father’s footsteps.
“My son was just drafted to the Red Deer Rebels so I guess the Western culture is part of what I am, with my son going to Red Deer. We are real excited, that he’s a part of the Red Deer Rebels and the Sutters,” he said. “I know the tradition that they have with hockey and the championship teams. He’s a few years away from playing there but it’s a start and he loves what he does. I have the opportunity this winter to coach him with the Midget AAA Blazers and I’m looking forward to spending more time with him and my daughter who plays.”
Since getting more involved in the bull riding business, Jason Davidson and his event production company, 3D Bull Riding Inc., got Curtis involved on another side of the business.
“A few years back Jason approached me and asked me if I would be interested in doing an event in Langham with my name and I said, ‘absolutely.’ It was something that I was real proud to be a part of. The town and community were great to me when I lived there and grew up there. Just to give a little bit back to the community was something I was all in favor for,” said Curtis.
The third annual Curtis Leschyshyn PBR Classic, presented by the Transall Group of Companies, takes place this coming Saturday in Langham, Saskatchewan.
“I admire Curtis’ passion, for what he does. Whether it be as a father, coach, hockey player, or stock contractor,” Davidson said. “Guys like Curtis are what have made the PBR bull business what it is today.”
Davidson is involved as a partner of Thunder Creek Professional Player Management, which is based out of Saskatoon, as a player agent. It just so happens Jason now represents Jake Leschyshyn.
“Jake’s worth ethic and bloodlines are what had him drafted in the first round of the WHL’s Bantam draft by the Red Deer Rebels,” Davidson said.
“Honestly it was more of a relationship built around bulls. JD has represented a lot of quality NHL, WHL, and other professional players,” Leschyshyn said. “I always knew along the way that if Jake needed representation, J.D. would be the guy.”
“It’s something I don’t take for granted. I take this opportunity seriously and will provide Jake with every opportunity to be a professional hockey player,” Davidson said.
Curtis mentioned his agent when he played professionally.
“My agent, Rick Curran, he was out of Philadelphia. I didn’t get to see him much. That’s kind of why I wanted to have Jake represented by someone locally. If we ever wanted to sit down and have coffee or a drink with J.D. we could easily,” Leschyshyn said. “In the summer, Thunder Creek does a tremendous job with their players preparing them for the upcoming year with training and on ice training. It just really worked out well that Thunder Creek and J.D. were in Saskatoon. It was a pretty easy relationship to develop.”
“As a coach I see the relationships Curtis built with other clients of mine,” Davidson said. “He cares about them and that’s crucial in their development as a pro. Curtis has walked the walk, playing over 1,000 games at the highest level and hoisting the greatest trophy in professional sports. If you want to be a player, you’d better pay attention when he speaks.
“The best line I’ve heard from Curtis, and I’ll never forget it is: ‘Do you want to be a hockey player, or just play hockey?’ All athletes including bull riders should live by that as well.”
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