Province sports writer Gord McIntyre sat down with Canucks' Bryron Bitz for a Q&A.
McIntyre: You finally played a game at Rogers Arena this week, leaving just Rexall Place [site of today’s game vs. the Oilers] as the only NHL arena you haven’t played in. Ironic, given you’re from Saskatoon, a six-hour drive from Edmonton.
Bitz: The rink closest to home, yep.
McIntyre: I grew up in Saskatoon. I left in 1980, four years before you were born.
Bitz: Oh, yeah? Whereabouts?
McIntyre: Mt. Royal. As a kid it was bald prairie across the street; now it’s houses for miles. The population was about 180,000, now it’s about 270,000. The neighbourhood where you live, Stonebridge, that sure never existed. There was nothing on that side of the Trans-Canada/Yellowhead.
Bitz: Just a field.
McIntyre: The homes obstruct the view of Mt. Blackstrap [elevation 45 metres].
Bitz: Ha ha. There are about 15,000 people, I think, in Stonebridge, houses going up all over the place.
McIntyre: Saskatoon had the third biggest population gain since 2006, after Calgary and Edmonton, according to the latest census.
Bitz: It’s like it’s blowing up. There’s a lot of mining and oil.
McIntyre: And wheat. You enjoy working on your uncle’s farm in Allan [pop. 641].
Bitz: It’s 30 minutes east of the city, there’s a big potash mine there. If I’m home in the spring I help him with seeding, driving the tractor, loading up the seeder. Just doing whatever he needs to do. It’s not very labour-intensive, it’s sitting on equipment and driving the equipment. I find it therapeutic after the season ends, just sitting there. Outside of the equipment being on, you can’t hear anything, there’s nothing around. It’s pretty peaceful. [Province columnist Ed Willes interjects: There’s no scenery to distract you.]
Bitz: It’s flat, it’s peaceful and I enjoy it.
McIntyre: People laugh at Saskatchewan because it’s so flat, but there is a stark beauty to it, isn’t there?
Bitz: Yeah, there is, there is. You appreciate that. You think 100 years ago, the courage it took to homestead there, living in mud huts, wood shacks, with 40-below temperatures in the winter. It took a lot of courage to get that province started.
McIntyre: Think about those brides arriving from England, what they were thinking when they got off the train.
Bitz: Yeah. The whole story of the settlement of the West is fascinating. Just the hard work it took to set up those towns, the different farming communities.
McIntyre: You wear No. 34. Are you a Roughriders fan?
Bitz: Not really, I’m ashamed to say. I get disowned back home, but I’m not a big fan.
McIntyre: Ever hear of George Reed? The George and Ronnie [Lancaster] show?
McIntyre: Reed wore No. 34.
McIntyre: Your son Wyatt just turned one, he and your wife Christina are back in Saskatoon.
Bitz: Both our families are there. It makes it easier for her to be there with the little guy. We make our home there. Her parents have a cabin at Wakaw and we go there once in a while in the summer.
McIntyre: You went from Saskatoon to Nanaimo, to Ithaca, then Providence, Boston, Florida, Chicago and now you’re in Vancouver. Some pretty nice places, but it sounds like you always get drawn back to Saskatchewan.
Bitz: I do. I was on the East Coast for a long time, played on the Island, now I’m here. I’ve seen a lot of interesting places in North America. I was excited to leave home at first, but I think the more you travel, for me anyway, you appreciate what home has to offer. My wife is a registered nurse. Whenever I’m done, I’ll find something to do and Saskatoon is where we’ll make our home.
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