Thursday, September 9, 2021

ZONE homecoming happy one for Jahnke

By Darren Steinke
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

Dan Jahnke started at ZONE Sports Physiotherapy in March.
Dan Jahnke likes homecomings so much he did it twice.

Back in 2018, Jahnke finished up a four-year career playing baseball for the Newman University Jets, which is an NCAA Division II program in the United States in Wichita, Kansas. He completed his bachelor of science in biology at Newman University and moved back to Saskatoon to pursue his master of physical therapy at the University of Saskatchewan.

In December of 2020, Jahnke completed his master of physical therapy degree. At the start of this year, he began working as a physiotherapist in Cold Lake, Alta.

Jahnke saw a job posting for ZONE Sports Physiotherapy back home in Saskatoon. He applied for it, and at the end of this past March, he was back home working at the ZONE location inside the Gordie Howe Sports Complex.

“It was really nice to be able to come back,” said Jahnke. “This is where lots of my family is.

“I have lots of friends here obviously growing up here. It is home. It is just where I like being.”

The 25-year-old is a recognizable face not just in Saskatoon’s baseball community but in the city’s much larger sports community.

Jahnke played hockey along with baseball growing up. As a goalie in hockey, Jahnke suited up for the Saskatoon Blazers under-18 AAA for two seasons from 2010 to 2012 before joining the now defunct Beardy’s Blackhawks under-18 AAA squad for the 2012-13 campaign.

In his Grade 12 year in high school, Jahnke became a member of the Aden Bowman Collegiate Bears football team. On top of enjoying rounds of golf, Jahnke said his senior year in high school was the time he tried to soak in playing as many sports as he could.

“I just liked doing anything where I could move around and hit things and throw things – just have fun playing around and competing,” said Jahnke, who stands 6-feet and weighs 190 pounds. “It got me involved in a lot of different sports growing up.

Dan Jahnke playing for Newman University. (Photo Courtesy Dan Jahnke)
“Throughout high school, I was playing hockey and baseball mostly with the (under-18) AAA level there. I decided hockey wasn’t in my future competitively at least. I had a Grade 12 year after that.

“I figured I would try out everything I missed out on for the rest of high school. In that high school year, I did football, badminton, wrestling and track and field. I was just trying to do everything I could.”

During his high school years, Jahnke played for the Saskatoon Diamondback under-18 AAA baseball team. He credited his Diamondbacks coach, Matt Kosteniuk, as being a big influence on helping him enjoy baseball to the point he wanted to play it at the post-secondary level.

“I had really good experiences in baseball,” said Jahnke. “I had always been part of good teams growing up.

“We were good on the field and good off the field. In (under-18 AAA), I was lucky enough to have Matt Kosteniuk as my coach. He is a great guy. I still really enjoy hockey, but the competitive hockey I just decided wasn’t for me in the future.

“I wanted to keep playing something, and I loved baseball. I had a lot of fun with it. I figured it was a good way to keep competing and keep pushing myself while getting an education.”

At Newman University from 2014 to 2018, Jahnke played numerous positions with the Jets. He mainly played at first base and third base, spent a season in the outfield and was a backup catcher at one point in time.

Jahnke had such a good experience at Newman University that it did feel tough leaving the people he knew in Wichita to come home.

“Kansas is so similar to here in a lot of ways,” said Jahnke. “It is definitely different in some ways too.

“It is very similar in quite a few. I made a lot of good friends down there, so that kind of sucked leaving the friends behind. Coming back, I just got thrown right into the fire with physio school.

Dan Jahnke’s Jets promo picture.
“When you’re busy, it kind of helps you transition back into things. It forces you to get back in pretty quick.”

Once he returned to Saskatoon, Jahnke found it was a smooth transition to resume life where he grew up.

“I guess it was relatively easy,” said Jahnke. “I had been back every summer.

“I still knew everybody around here. I didn’t have any real issues.”

Jahnke said one of the obvious perks to becoming a physiotherapist is it allows you to stay involved in sports. That was just part of the reason he became a physiotherapist.

He had a larger interest in helping people function better physically.

“I obviously love sports,” said Jahnke. “I’ve played a lot of sport in my life.

“I’ve always been really interested in how people perform better and what makes people perform better from a physical perspective. That led me kind of into the biomechanics of things. Physio just seemed to fit that really well like combining biomechanics.

“You have the sport aspect of it. I thought if I was lucky enough to get to that area it would be great and here we are. It just kind of ticked all the boxes.”

Jahnke has enjoyed working alongside Mitch Dahl and Brad Spokes at the ZONE clinic at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex. Jahnke had been one of Dahl’s clients for years when it came to rehabbing from various sports injuries.

“Mitch (Dahl) and Brad (Spokes) are both awesome,” said Jahnke. “I have a lot to learn from both of them.

“It is interesting. I think back even two years ago I was coming into this clinic for physio to see Mitch as a client. It is kind of cool to be able to hang out and say ‘hi’ to somebody that helped you through that much when you were growing up and helped you keep playing and do what you want to do.

“I feel like I am getting to learn from one of the best crews around.”

This year, Jahnke began helping the Saskatoon Valkyries of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League as a trainer. He would like to be involved with more teams in the future and wants to learn and grow as a physiotherapist at ZONE.

Dan Jahnke enjoys being at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex.
When he sees clients, Jahnke believes the fact that he took part in numerous sports growing up aids in his career now.

“I think it helps,” said Jahnke. “It is nice to know when somebody comes in that I can say I was doing something in this sport.

“It is nice to know what they mean. It is good for talking points. It is easy to make conversation with people, especially with a few of the people from (The Going Yard Training Centre) that we might say high too and people over at Ignite (Athletics).

“We are all into sports and performance and just general fitness. It is kind of what we are doing here. The variety of sport definitely adds to that for sure.”

Hilltops make long-awaited return to SMF Field

By Darren Steinke
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

The Hilltops celebrate a CJFL title win in 2018.
The last time the Saskatoon Hilltops graced the turf at Saskatoon Minor Football Field they were making yet another memorable moment.

On October 27, 2019, the storied Canadian Junior Football League club downed the visiting Edmonton Huskies 30-14 to capture the Prairie Football Conference championship. The Hilltops proceeded to march onward from there to captured their 22nd CJFL title in team history.

That encounter with the Huskies marks the last time the Hilltops played a game at SMF Field as the 2020 CJFL season was cancelled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has gripped the world.

The Hilltops make their long-awaited return to SMF Field on Saturday, September 11, taking on their provincial rivals the Regina Thunder at 7 p.m. The will be a battle of teams that both sport 2-0 records so far in the CJFL regular season.

Legendary Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant said his team is pumped to be back in action.

“It is just awesome to be back here,” said Sargeant. “It is awesome to be around my coaches and my players.

“It is such a good vibe and such a good feel. We have a lot of rust. We have lots of things we have to get better at.

“There is lots in front of us. We have the right kids here. We’re ready to develop this team and take it to great places.”

The Hilltops have played most to almost all of their home games at SMF Field since 1960, when the stadium was originally called the Holiday Park Bowl. 

The Hilltops raise the Canadian Bowl in 2015.
They have won 19 of their 22 CJFL championships since they started playing their home games at SMF Field.

The Hilltops have won the last six straight CJFL titles before the circuit went on hiatus in 2020. During that run of six straight titles, two of those championship wins came on the grounds of SMF Field.

In 2015, the Hilltops hosted the CJFL title game – the Canadian Bowl - downing the Kelowna, B.C., based Okanagan Sun 38-24. That contest was played on the new field turf that was install prior to the start of the 2014 season, and both clubs were able to use the dressing rooms at the nearly completed Gordie Howe Sports Centre building.

In 2018, the Hilltops won the Canadian Bowl again dumping the Langley Rams 58-21 at SMF Field to complete a perfect 11-0 campaign. This marked the first CJFL title game played at SMF Field where all the renovations and improvements at the facility had been completed.

In 2020, the Hilltops gathered for practice for six weeks in September and October at Ron Atchison Field.

When the 2021 CJFL season was given the green light to go, the Hilltops couldn’t wait to get back into game action.

“It feels great,” said fifth-year left tackle Mason Ochs, who is a three-time CJFL all-Canadian all-star. “It has been too long.

“It almost kind of felt like it was never coming back after you lose 2020. I didn’t even know if that was my last game in 2019 there. It couldn’t be better to be back.”

The Hilltops enter their home opener with linebacker Emmarae Dale on their roster.

Jared Giddings makes an interception for the Hilltops in 2018.
Dale has been a familiar face for a long time on the Gordie Howe Sports Complex grounds. Before joining the Hilltops, Dale starred for the Saskatoon Valkyries, who are a powerhouse club in the Western Women’s Canadian Football League, from 2016 to 2019.

She helped the Valkyries win two WWCFL titles in 2016 and 2019.

Dale also works at the front desk and is a strength and conditioning coach at Ignite Athletics.

The former member of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s track and field team was added to the Hilltops roster last year.

On August 22, she became the first female player to play in a CJFL regular season game as the Hilltops downed the Edmonton Huskies 18-17 at Jasper Place Bowl in Edmonton, Alta. Dale had a special teams tackle in the win.

“It was pretty surreal,” said Dale. “I think it was just such a long time coming that it is kind of weird to think that it has already come and gone.

“It was the first game back since COVID. I think everyone is still just kind of getting the rust off after such a long wait, but it was awesome being there. I think even when I was just first putting on the shoulder pads and the Hilltops jersey it definitely kind of hit me that it was going to be a big game and very meaningful game.

“It was really awesome. It was definitely exciting and humbling. It was just a lot of emotions just kind of wrapped into one I think.”

After going through 2020 without a regular season, Hilltops fifth-year defensive back Jared Giddings said there is a renewed appreciation for the chance to take part in practices and game. Giddings said there were times where he wasn’t sure if he would get to play his fifth and final season with the team.

Along with Ochs and right tackle Jonathan Chisholm, Giddings is one of three players who are playing a fifth full season with the Hilltops in 2021. Giddings has always appreciated being part of the storied Hilltops, but he admits his spark for playing a season has been renewed.

A sign at SMF Field lists the Hilltops CJFL title wins
“Football is a grind, and sometimes coming to practice isn’t easy,” said Giddings. “Honestly, it is all just a little bit easier now.

“When we were off, you don’t know what is happening. You don’t know what is going to happen next. Every day, it is like it is a blessing.

“I don’t mind coming to practice and getting bruised up a bit and hitting some guys. It is a lot of fun. I think it brought the fun back into football for me personally.”

For more information about the Saskatoon Hilltops, feel free to check out their website at