Is the curse of the moose leg a real thing? Were the Weyburn Red Wings affected by this curse for the past six seasons? Are the Estevan Bruins now under this curse?
Let’s roll things back a little bit, for those who may not know what I’m referring to.
The Flin Flon Bombers faithful at the Whitney Forum have thrown a moose leg onto the ice after a win, especially during the playoffs, for nearly 30 years now. It is said the first person to throw a moose leg onto the ice was former Bomber Tom McDermott during the 1993 SJHL playoffs. The Bombers would go on to win the league title that year, and the tradition has been there since and is a very big part of the team’s history.
Since the start of the tradition, very rarely has an opponent even thought about picking up the moose leg as a way to get under the skin of the Bombers. That is, until the 2016 playoffs.
The Bombers had entered the postseason that year in the sixth seed and were up against the Weyburn Red Wings, who were the third seed. Weyburn had found themselves down 3-1 in the series, thanks to the play of a strong goaltender in the Flin Flon net. After the loss in game four, in Flin Flon, Weyburn’s Tucker Neuberger would do the unthinkable.
After the moose leg had been thrown onto the ice, Neuberger skated over, picked it up, and headed towards the locker room. He wouldn’t get there, though. He was caught by Brandon Switzer, and a brawl would ensue. Suspensions were handed out on both sides, although surprisingly not to the player who initiated the brawl, Switzer. He would score the game and series winner in Weyburn in Game 5. The Bombers would ride the momentum to come within two games of the championship that year.
The fortunes of the Red Wings have been mixed since that year, leading many to say the team became cursed when the moose leg had been picked up. Since the 2015-16 season, Weyburn has had a regular-season record of 106-161-27 and has not made it past the quarterfinals of the post-season as well. In Fact, Weyburn has missed the playoffs two years in a row.
Fans have attributed this to a curse of the moose leg. Weyburn was the last team, aside from the Bombers, to pick up the moose leg at the Whitney Forum and try to skate off the ice with it. That is, until this past Tuesday.
As Game 3 of the SJHL finals between the Estevan Bruins and Flin Flon Bombers ended at the Whitney Forum, with a 4-3 win for the Bombers, Estevan's Jamie Valentino skated towards centre ice and picked up the moose leg. This action drew the attention of the Bombers players, and being outnumbered, Valentino opted to toss the moose leg towards a net, and skate off the ice.
Once the incident happened Tuesday night, people on social media started pointing out the curse of the moose leg – how the last time a team other than Flin Flon touched the moose leg in the playoffs, they would lose the series, and go on to have a run of bad luck. Of course, the less superstitious of the Estevan Bruins faithful laughed off this supposed curse. Then, Game 4 happened.
The Bruins, who have been dominant all season in the SJHL, found themselves down after the first period. Then, the Bombers would pour things on, eventually skating to a 7-1 win over the Bruins to even up the best-of-seven series at two games each. The six-goal difference was the largest in a Bruins loss this season, regular season or playoffs, and it was only the second time since the start of the regular season that Estevan had given up more than six goals.
Could the curse be real?
Even the voice of the Estevan Bruins, Nolan Kowal, mentioned it when writing a recap of the loss Wednesday night in Game 4.
On social media, Weyburn Red Wings fans were thanking Valentino for grabbing the moose leg. It was as though by doing so, the Bruins had lifted the curse off the Red Wings, and placed it on themselves.
So what will happen next? Well, both teams will go from the electric Whitney Forum, where the crowds provided the atmosphere that shows why it is affectionately called ‘The Zoo’ to Estevan’s Affinity Place, which can be just as raucous when the crowd gets going. With the best-of-seven series now just a best-of-three, we may very well discover how much the curse of the moose leg is a real thing. For many Weyburn Red Wings, they hope it is real, and that the curse is now lifted off their storied Junior A franchise.