The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League has approved the sale of the Grand Forks Border Bruins to local physician Dr. Mark Szynkaruk, who assumes ownership of the club from the community-owned Grand Forks Border Bruins Association.
“We’re very pleased to welcome Dr. Szynkaruk to the KIJHL and excited by his plans for the franchise,” says league commissioner Jeff Dubois. “We’re also very appreciative of the efforts of the executive and members of the Border Bruins society, who have been tremendous stewards for the club over many years.”
A native of Komoka, Ont., Szynkaruk moved to Grand Forks in 2017 and took over his family practice a year later. In the course of treating patients and building relationships in the community, he became interested in the Border Bruins and began looking at ways to help boost the prospects of his local team. He soon learned that new energy and financial resources were needed to ensure the organization’s long-term viability, and felt that private ownership can make the program more competitive and attract a community that loves its hockey back to the Jack Goddard Memorial Arena.
“The first thing is that the Border Bruins is a legacy team,” says Szynkaruk on what it means to him to own the franchise. “It comes with an immense amount of pride to be involved with something that has been run successfully for that long. The team means a great deal for the community, so as somebody who’s immersed in the well-being of folks in town I think this investment to make the on-ice product the best possible in Junior B is wonderful to be part of.”
Szynkaruk is not taking the responsibility of running the Border Bruins lightly. Since moving to Grand Forks, it’s been important for him and wife Tracey to become engaged in the community. Taking sole ownership is a “great opportunity to invest and give back to our community”, he says.
“Everything I put my mark on I am going to put in my best and a lot of what ownership comes down to is having a sustainable financial future,” says Szynkaruk, while looking after sons Theo, two, and Will, aged five-months. “I was able to offer that in addition to my relationships in the community to bolster the resource pool that the players will have. I think that if we could have some moderate to good years, people will come back to support the club and the boys.”
“I take it as a vote of confidence from folks in the community who have become not only my patients and colleagues, but also my friends. It means a lot on my end for them to pick me as the guy for the job. My vision with every project I have ever been involved with is to bring it to the next level.”
Szynkaruk plans to reinvest any profits he earns back into the organization for further success. And his mandate goes beyond owning a team that helps to develop better players on the ice; he believes that molding athletes as young men is just as important, and wants the organization to play a positive role in enhancing the overall strength of the league.
The Border Bruins have a proud history as the only continuous member of the KIJHL since they joined the league in 1969. Among the key figures and players that have shaped the franchise are local legend Ron Areshenekoff, who played for the Border Bruins before advancing to the National Hockey League in 1979. Other players to come through the organization on the way to the NHL include Glen Merkosky, Rudy Poeschek, Craig Redmond and Kevin Sawyer.
And Szynkaruk’s goal is to have the Border Bruins to be part of the journey for future NHLers as well.
“Once players see the level of investment we’re going to put into them, not only on the ice, but also off of it as well, I think we’re going to start attracting really good players.”
One way he plans to do that is with the team’s education program. Every Border Bruins player who has graduated from high school will be expected to take at least one course at a university or nearby Selkirk College, with their tuition being paid by the organization.
“We want to bring in the best players and people,” says Szynkaruk. “We want to develop them and move them through the pipeline whether that’s going to the NCAA or Junior A; that’s the vision I’m setting forth.”