A Winnipeg hockey team stranded during the storm that walloped southern Manitoba Sunday night found themselves at the receiving end of some small town hospitality, spending the night at a Shoal Lake pizza restaurant.

The Winnipeg Bruins AAA midget hockey team was in the community Sunday for a playoff game against the local team, the Yellowhead Chiefs, when the storm hit.

Bruins head coach Dan Eliasson said while his attention was on the game, “Assistant coaches kept peeking out of the door,” watching the snow on the ground grow while trying to form a contingency plan.

He said by the time the game ended, a drift that looked close to two feet high had formed around the team’s bus, and they got word the Yellowhead Highway had been closed.

That’s when the team manager and a parent went to pick up pizza from the same restaurant the team eats at after every game in the town, and got an invitation that would only seem unlikely to an outsider.

“While they were over there, Brad offered up his restaurant and told the parent to bring the boys over,” said Eliasson.

Brad is Brad Benton, who co-owns Benny’s Astoria Pizzaria in Shoal Lake with his girlfriend, Diane Cramer.

Cramer had already gone home to fetch sleeping bags and pillows for a few other people stranded in the community that night when he made the same offer to the team: stay over.

“What else are you going to do,” Benton told CTV News. “I’m not having them sit on a bus for 12 hours.”

Benton said in addition to chairs and couches for sleeping, the team, its staff and players’ parents were invited to use the juke box, pool table and watch sports on the restaurant’s televisions.

“It didn’t take them 15 minutes” before everyone was relaxed, bonding and making the best of the situation, said Benton. “They had a ball.”

After a long day, Benton also told parents and coaches where to find beer or wine.

“That was an adult offer,” confirmed the coach with a laugh, who said the team is mostly aged 16 to 17, with a few 15 and 18-year-olds.

Benton said this isn’t the first time he’s let people stay at the restaurant when the highway was too dangerous to drive on. He said he left at around 1 a.m. after giving instructions on how to lock up.

When he got back the next morning, the team had already left, after showing their appreciation by cleaning up and doing the dishes.


Eliasson said he wasn’t necessarily surprised by the offer, because in the ten years he’s coached, the community has “always been great” to the team.

He said others also helped the team be comfortable, by requesting blankets from the fire department and keeping arena facilities open. In the morning, he said a worker with the municipality used a front-end loader to help get the bus out.

“I knew that was a warm community coming into that,” he said.