The Canada West (CanWest) conference announced in May that the University of Manitoba will play host to the CanWest men’s basketball championship from Feb. 21 to 25, 2024.
Moving to a single-site format, all playoff games will be held at the Investors Group Athletic Centre.
The regular season tips off this November, with the Bisons men’s basketball team opening the season at home Nov. 2 against the Brandon University Bobcats.
And downtown, two former members of the herd are inaugural members of Winnipeg’s freshly minted Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) team.
Both the 2022-23 Bisons and U Sports national Rookie of the Year Simon Hildebrandt and 2017-18 Manitoba Male Athlete of the Year Justus Alleyn, who played for the Bisons from 2013 to 2018, play for the Winnipeg Sea Bears, along with fellow Winnipegger Chad Posthumus. Hildebrandt made CEBL history as the Sea Bears first-ever draft pick. The Sea Bears are currently first in the CEBL Western Conference, with a best-in-league 7-3 record.
Fresh off his 2022-23 Bisons Male Athlete of the Year award, AK Gassama was one of four Bisons selected for the annual U Sports East-West Bowl. McMaster University played host to the game on May 13.
Bison receivers Gassama and Birhanu Yitna, as well as defensive backs Stephen Adamopoulos and Nick Conway, were named to team West.
While the game was a resounding East win — the final score 37–0 for team East, and its first win since 2015 — all four Bisons made positive impacts for team West.
Adamopoulos made a huge interception off of team East quarterback Thomas Bolduc of the Université Laval Rouge et Or in the second quarter, stalling team East’s march down the field.
Conway and Adamopoulos also combined for four tackles over the course of the game and were part of team West’s huge goal line stand on its own 2-yard line in the third quarter.
While Gassama was targeted unsuccessfully twice in the game by team West quarterbacks Kinsale Philip of the University of Toronto Varsity Blues and Evan Hillock of the Western University Mustangs, Gassama had four successful punt returns over the course of the game, including successfully taking a missed team East field goal out of the end zone in the second quarter and a fantastic punt return to the 34-yard line in the third quarter.
It was Yitna who shone in the passing game, raking in 38 yards receiving in the fourth quarter and making him a favourite of West quarterbacks Hillock and Philip in the fourth quarter, who targeted Yitna five times.
Moreover, the four Bisons selected in the East-West Bowl were not the only members of the herd who made an impression in the football world this spring.
Five Bisons were invited to the CFL 2023 Invitational Combine: defensive back Markos Bockru, quarterback Des Catellier and defensive linemen Tyrece Viner-Cox, Collin Kornelson, Tristan Francis and Bisons linebacker Nick Thomas took part in the 2023 CFL Combine.
Both Kornelson and Thomas were drafted by teams in the CFL this spring. Kornelson has been drafted by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Thomas by the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The Bisons golf team recently put an end to their drought at nationals. The herd made the cut for the first time since 2018 at the Canadian University/College Championship that ran from May 30 to June 2 at FireRock Golf Club in Komoka, Ont.
The team finished 10th overall, with a team total of +61. Cameron McIntyre had the best individual outing in the tournament for the Bisons, shooting +9. Teammate Cole Peters finished close behind at +12. Trent Robertson finished the tournament with +19, Derek Benson with +28 and Connor Stewart with +33.
Both the men’s and women’s volleyball teams have had an exciting off-season. At the 2023 Volleyball Manitoba Awards & Hall of Fame Banquet on June 11, Bisons own Raya Surinx received the Cheryl Cable Memorial Award for under 20 (20U) women’s player of the year and Jordon Heppner received the Mark Tennant Award for 20U men’s player of the year.
Fresh off receiving her latest award, 2022-23 Bisons Female Rookie of the Year Surinx was named to Volleyball Canada’s women’s Indoor NextGen Team as part of its travelling roster. She was joined by fellow Bisons teammate Ella Gray, who was named to the practice roster.
Meanwhile, the Bisons men’s volleyball head coach Arnd (Lupo) Ludwig, assistant coach Mike Stephens and players Jonah Dueck and Sammy Ludwig are making a statement representing Canada in international volleyball. The Bisons foursome won bronze at the North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation U-21 Pan American Cup that was held in Havana, Cuba, June 5–10, defeating Puerto Rico in four sets.
Dueck finished the tournament with 38 points and eight blocks, while teammate Ludwig finished the tournament with seven points and two blocks.
The bronze medalists’ next tournament is the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball U21 World Championship hosted by Bahrain July 7–16.
The Bisons men’s hockey team officially has a new coach. Gordon Burnett has been named Mike Sirant’s successor.
A Regina native, Burnett was a defenceman in his hockey career, having played in the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) for the College of St. Scholastica Saints, and in both the East Coast Hockey League and the Central Hockey League, including a stint with the Arizona Sundogs, who he would end up becoming assistant coach of from 2012 to 2014.
In his coaching career, he was also assistant coach for the NCAA University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish, as well as for the Western Hockey League’s Kootenay Ice and Moose Jaw Warriors.
Burnett was head coach in 2019 for Team Saskatchewan at the Canada Winter Games, and has served as head coach of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Winnipeg Blues.