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by Doyle Fox

Despite an egregious and drawn-out season, University of Regina Men’s Hockey coach Blaine Sautner is quite content with his latest crop.

His canola crop, that is.

Last week Sautner, with the help of the men’s hockey team alumni, finished combining 280 acres of canola -- a crop that was planted in an effort to raise money for the hockey team.

 When he was the head coach and general manager of the Battlefords North Stars of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, Sautner raised money for the North Stars by farming several acres of a crop each year.

He pitched the idea to the alumni board after he accepted the head coaching job with the Cougars in 2005. After approval from the board, the support of sponsors and land purchase in 2008, the project was ready to run like a Deere.

“Our alumni have been outstanding since day one,” he said. “I don’t think people realize what that group does for us and the amount of work they put in.”

Robert Jamont, who has been involved with the team since 1984, remembers the uneasiness that he and other members of the alumni board felt when Sautner approached them with the idea for the fundraiser.

“There was some fear at the idea of shelling out thousands of dollars for land rentals,” Jamont said.

The alumni faced a different sense of fear this year, as farmers in most areas of Saskatchewan faced record-breaking rainfall. However, Sautner said the Strasburg area, which was where they farm, wasn’t badly hit with rain. He said they were lucky to have been able to get the crop in on time and combine a 40 bushel per acre crop.

The majority of the work this year was done by Sautner, who is an experienced farmer, but he credits the alumni for their contributions. The alumni are responsible for organizing equipment rentals, handling all the expenses and even putting in work hours during seeding and harvest.

“It’s a great fundraiser because a lot of guys can’t contribute money, but they can come out for an hour or two and combine and take some crop off, so there is an opportunity for them to give back without having to go into their pockets,” Jamont said.

Sautner figures that once the alumni pay all the expenses and set aside some money for other projects, they will donate approximately $50,000 to the team.

“It’s great because, coming into this job five years ago and looking at what we needed to take the team to another notch, it was probably more funds,” Sautner said.

Jamont added that the Cougars are in constant competition with other schools in terms of player recruitment and raising funds plays an important role in making the team more appeasing to players. He says that the funds from the crop have gone to improving the new team locker room; helping pay for scholarships and even buying new team clothing.

“Those little things help enhance the program and make it better for players to come here,” he said.