The Elite Male Pathway Guide outlines the exclusive opportunities that are available to Alberta’s elite male hockey players registered with a Hockey Alberta member organization. These opportunities include the competition, coaching and development they experience on the ice, along with the supports and services available off the ice. Member organizations include Minor Hockey Associations, Accredited Schools, and Junior Leagues.
RED DEER – Six individuals and the teams comprising a “decade of excellence” in women’s hockey are being called to the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame (AHHF) as the Class of 2023.
This year’s class includes:
- CHARLIE HUDDY – one of seven Edmonton Oilers who was a member of all five of the franchise’s Stanley Cup winning teams (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990), and the NHL’s first recipient of the Plus/Minor Award in 1983. He played for 11 seasons and then served as an assistant coach for 23 years in the NHL.
- TIM HUNTER – with more than four decades spent in the NHL and WHL as a player and coach, he helped bring a new focus to smart technology to the sport. In 1989, he lifted the Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989 and continues his engagement in the community as an active alumnus.
- EARL INGARFIELD SR. – played in the NHL for 13 seasons, he was the first player selected in the Pittsburgh Penguins expansion draft. In retirement, Earl scouted and coached with the New York Islanders.
- KAREN KOST – spent 34 years as an official and leader in training and mentoring officials across Alberta and Canada. Karen worked almost every level of hockey nationally and internationally.
- BOBBY OLYNYK – a dedicated volunteer in the game for nearly 60 years. He is well known for his role as a builder and leader of what is now known as the Alberta Elite Hockey League U18 AAA division.
- JOHN UTENDALE – the first Black hockey player to sign an NHL contract. While he never played in the NHL, John is considered a trailblazer in the game in Canada and United States. He was the first Black member of the U.S. men’s coaching staff as a member of the “Miracle on Ice” Olympic champions in 1980.
- EDMONTON CHIMOS: “A DECADE OF EXCELLENCE” – the longest running Senior Women’s AAA hockey program in Alberta, the organization’s 1983-1993 era captured every Hockey Alberta Provincial Championship (Senior A, Female AA, Female AAA) and three Abby Hoffman Cup National Women’s championships (1984, 1985, 1992).
The Class of 2023 was selected based on their outstanding achievements, dedication and commitment to building hockey in Alberta in all aspects of the game.
“Once again, we have the opportunity to celebrate the rich hockey history in this great province,” said Al Coates, Chairmen of the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame Committee. “It’s another outstanding class of inductees with an extensive list of achievements that reflect in the game today.”
The honoured inductees will be welcomed into the hall on Sunday, July 16 at the AHHF Induction Gala at the Coast Hotel in Canmore. Tickets for the AHHF Induction Gala are available to purchase on ahhf.ca.
Full biographies for the Class of 2023 can be found on the AHHF website.
RED DEER – Team Alberta’s U18 Female hockey team is headed east to Prince Edward Island to defend its Canada Winter Games title.
The team, fueled by Gatorade, is slated to begin their journey on Monday, February 27 versus Nova Scotia at 4:30 pm (MT). With Manitoba and Ontario also in their pool, round robin action will continue through Wednesday. The tournament will conclude on March 5.
This year’s team is striving to earn Alberta’s fourth consecutive Winter Games medal. Alberta won gold in 2019 and 2011 and bronze in 2015. Aside from the current record, Alberta has an additional gold (1991) and bronze (1999) medal, to total five podium finishes in eight appearances.
“We’re focused on the next seven days of competition. This is a new year and every day is a new day with a new game,” said Kendall Newell, Hockey Alberta’s Manager of Female Hockey. “Our goal is to find success in the little things that both the logo on the front and name on the back can be proud of.”
Two goaltenders, six defence and 12 forwards make up Team Alberta. The entire roster has experience participating in short-term competition in the Team Alberta program.
Prior to departing for the Games, Team Alberta U18 Female announced their leadership group. Sporting the “C” will be Robyn Brokenshire, with assistant captains Hanna Perrier, Sadie Makokis, Summer Fomradas.
The selection process for the Canada Winter Games began in the 2021-22 season, where athletes were evaluated with their Hockey Canada sanctioned team. In July, Hockey Alberta invited 72 female athletes born in 2005-07 to the U18 Summer Camp, in Red Deer. Twenty-eight players were shortlisted and invited back to Red Deer in September for the U18 Fall Selection Camp. Following the selection camp, athletes continued to be scouted with their teams through the fall.
Games can be streamed live on canadagames.ca.
Hockey is a family affair for the Obobaifo brothers.
And this week, the Obobaifo family is focused on Prince Edward Island, as Aaron suits up for Team Alberta U16 competing at the Canada Winter Games.
Their father, Charles, introduced hockey to the boys at an early age. For Aaron, he remembers he wasn’t sure he was interested in playing.
“My Dad took me to the rink and I didn’t like (hockey) at first,” Aaron recalled. “After my brother started playing, I fell in love with the game.”
From that moment, the sibling support and rivalry began. When the brothers weren’t at the rink, they could be found playing roller hockey in their backyard.
“It was a lot of fun growing up playing together,” said Aaron. “There’s a lot of competition between us, but we’ve supported each other since day one.”
Four years Aaron’s senior, his brother Charles played Junior A in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League before moving on to college. Younger brother, Kyle, is making a name for himself in the Alberta Elite Hockey League with the Calgary Flames U15 AAA.
Aaron currently plays at Shattuck St. Mary’s, a school famed for producing elite hockey players. He leads the Under 15 team in points with 55 (34 goals, 21 assists) in 43 games. Last May, he was selected 19th overall by the Vancouver Giants in the 2022 WHL Entry Draft.
Aaron and his brothers credit the success they have found in the game to their parents.
“My parents are really supportive, all the credit goes out to them,” said Aaron. “My parents moved from Nigeria to Alberta. The money they have spent, hard work, travelling, flights … all of it makes me want to push harder for them.”
The Team Alberta program has influenced the hockey journey of each brother. In 2015 the Obobaifo name first appeared on the provincial stage as older brother Charles participated in the Prospects Cup for Team Calgary Red. In 2017, he returned to the Alberta Cup with Team Calgary North. Continuing the Obobaifo legacy, Kyle took the ice with Calgary White at the Prospects Cup in 2022
Like many athletes, Aaron’s pathway with Team Alberta was derailed when COVID-19 cancelled the 2020 Prospects Cup. Then he was unable to make the Alberta Cup due to commitments with his club team. So when it came to preparing for the Canada Winter Games, he leaned on his brother for advice.
“Charles told me about the process. What to expect at the camps and what it looks like, he’s been really supportive,” said Aaron. “Now that I’m here, Kyle’s been asking me all the questions. He’s going to love it when it’s his turn.”
Despite the Canada Winter Games being his first opportunity with Team Alberta, Aaron has adapted to short-term competition, collecting a goal and an assist in three games played through the round robin.
“The coaches, the staff, the players, everyone has just been really supportive and I’m just excited to be part of it,” said Aaron. “I love Alberta and I love my city of Calgary, I’m proud to represent them and my family at the Canada Winter Games."
Team Alberta will meet Quebec in the Quarter Finals at 4:30 P.M. MT on Thursday, February 23. Games are available to livestream on canadagames.ca.
Calling all Canadian hockey families and coaches! It has become apparent that Canadians want to make the game we all love more welcoming for everyone - especially our kids. That’s why Canadian Tire Corporation, Limited (“Canadian Tire”) is giving the hockey community access to several Respect Group programs at no cost from February 21st till April 30th.
CLICK HERE to access the Respect Group programs
PLEASE NOTE: Once the Respect in Sport (RIS) program under the Jumpstart platform has been completed, the certificate MUST be imported to the Hockey Alberta platform. Once the certificate has be imported, it will show on the Hockey Canada Registry (HCR) and can then be recognized by Hockey Alberta.
CLICK HERE to import a completed certificate
These critical tools are part of Canadian Tire and Respect Group’s ongoing commitment to players, parents, family members, caregivers, coaches and officials. They empower us to be the best we can be so we can all enjoy hockey together.
Here’s a quick snapshot of the first Programs being provided to all Hockey Branches and Member Partner organizations across the country.
These positive, proactive programs offer an opportunity, for all of us, to help ensure a safe and respectful hockey culture.
Male hockey will be played during the first week of the Games, Sunday, February 19 – Saturday, February 25. Team Alberta begins its quest on Sunday, with a 9:30 am (MT) start against Team Nova Scotia. Round-robin play will continue through Wednesday.
After winning bronze in 2019, Team Alberta is looking to claim its 12th medal at the Canada Winter Games. Team Alberta’s medal record includes four golds, four silvers and three bronzes in 15 events.
“We have a talented and resilient group set to take the ice,” said Michael Kraichy, Hockey Alberta’s Manager of Elite Male Hockey. “This (Canada Games) cycle has presented its own challenges but these are COVID athletes and they have overcome the uncertainty and focused on their development on and off the ice. Together, they’ve come together and are ready to represent Alberta the best they can.”
The team chosen to compete at the Games includes two goaltenders, six defence, and 12 forwards. Eighteen athletes suited up in the 2022 Alberta Cup and 19 were drafted in the 2022 WHL Draft.
The leadership group for Team Alberta was announced on Thursday prior to their departure for PEI. Kadon McCann will lead the group, with assistant captains Jack Kachkowski, Kyle McDonough and Luke Vlooswyk.
Players were selected to the roster based on their overall play throughout the Team Alberta scouting process, past Team Alberta programs and at the U16 Summer Camp. Eighty players were invited to Red Deer, and worked through high intensity on-ice sessions, as well as off-ice training and classroom sessions. From summer camp, thirty-three players were placed on a shortlist, and scouted with their club teams throughout the fall.
Games can be streamed live on canadagames.ca.
WETASKIWIN – The puck is set to drop on the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Global Girls Game and a celebration of female hockey in central Alberta.
Leduc Minor Hockey is hosting Alberta’s segment of the Global Game in Wetaskiwin as the U11 Leduc Roughnecks take on Westakiwin WE401F at 1 pm on Saturday, February 18 at the Civic Centre.
The Global Girls Game is an IIHF initiative to unite the hockey community by having players from around the globe play in the same game. A cumulative score is kept around the world between Team White and Team Blue with a winner being declared after all games have been completed. Canada’s portion concludes on February 20, with a Rivalry Series Game between Canada and USA Women’s National Teams.
In Wetaskiwin, Hockey Canada has provided jerseys for each team featuring numbers worn by members of the 2022 Women’s World Hockey Championship team. Prior to the game, the U11 players will meet and mingle with the North Central Impact U15 AA team in the Alberta Female Hockey League. The Impact also will join the Roughnecks for pre-game warm-up.
Leduc is taking the IIHF Global Game a step further and engaging all levels of its female program to make it an unforgettable experience. Following the U11 game, the Impact will host Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs in an AFHL tilt, with the U11 players cheering on their new friends with cupcakes and chocolate milk to celebrate females in the sport. Events in Wetaskiwin will wrap up with a U18B female game between Leduc and Wetaskiwin.
Leduc’s female teams (U15 B, U18 AA, and U13 A) are also in action on Saturday at home, in Edmonton and Sherwood Park.
On February 26, 2020, the Provincial Archives of Alberta published a Facebook post that asked the following question:
“Did you know that Edmonton-born John Utendale; was the first Black hockey player to sign a contract with the NHL?”
That National Hockey League contract was signed with the Detroit Red Wings in 1955, three years before Willie O’Ree broke the NHL’s colour barrier in 1958 with the Boston Bruins. Utendale attended three or four camps with the Wings, skating with the likes of Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio and Red Kelly.
Utendale never played for the Red Wings, instead seeing action with Wings’ farm team, the Edmonton Flyers.
But O’Ree has been quoted, including in a 2018 article in The Undefeated, that it could easily have been Utendale, or O’Ree’s Boston teammate Stan Maxwell, or Herb Carnegie or Art Dorrington who could have the NHL’s first black player.
According to an Edmonton Journal article in 2006, as a youth and teenager, Utendale played on the outdoor city rinks in Edmonton while playing peewee, bantam and midget hockey. His post-minor hockey career started with the Edmonton Oil Kings, prior to his historic signing with the Red Wings. After that, he played three seasons with the Flyers, followed by a couple of seasons where he moved east, playing for teams such as the Windsor Bulldogs and North Bay Trappers (Ontario Senior league), Quebec Aces (Quebec Hockey League), and Sudbury Wolves (Eastern Professional Hockey League).
In his 1958-59 part-season (five games) with the Aces, Utendale would be joined by O’Ree and Maxwell, where they played together on “The Black Line.” And it is believed Utendale was only the fourth black player to play Senior A hockey in Ontario, joining Herb and Ossie Carnegie and Manny McIntyre
He eventually returned to western Canada, getting married to Maryan “Mickey” Maddison Leonard in 1959, and starting his university education. Utendale earned his teaching certificate from the University of British Columbia in 1961, and then enrolled at the University of Alberta, earning his Bachelor of Education degree in two years. He worked for three years at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), when that school was being established in the mid-1960s, becoming the school’s first Director of Physical Education and coaching the men’s hockey team (1966-67).
Throughout the 1960s, until his on-ice career ended in 1969, Utendale was still playing, including stints with the Ponoka Stampeders, Edmonton Nuggets and Edmonton Monarchs, along with the Spokane Jets (Western International Hockey League).
Had his story ended here, Utendale would already have established himself as a significant figure in the history of the sport of hockey.
But a sentence included in his obituary, published in the Edmonton Journal following his death in 2006, illustrates that hockey really was a lifelong passion for Utendale:
“John’s career was a story of diversity from professional hockey player to professor.”
With the conclusion of his playing career in 1969, Utendale’s focus shifted to what would be a long and influential career in post-secondary education.
He earned his Master’s degree at Eastern Washington State College, and was hired at Washington State University. During his three years at WSU he was academic coordinator for the athletic department, a member of the Washington State Human Rights commission, taught a course in the black studies department and coached little league baseball, all while earning his Doctorate in Education.
Dr. Utendale then joined Western Washington State College (now University), becoming the first black faculty member of the Woodring College of Education. For a quarter century, he headed the Student Personnel Administration graduate program, dramatically increasing the number of minority students at the school. Utendale was nationally recognized for his academic work, and moved into full professorship, becoming one of the few minor faculty members with tenure. He also held numerous positions in the Washington state community, including leading the Higher Education Administration.
But hockey always played a significant role in Utendale’s life. During his time as an educator, he was involved in hockey at the local, post-secondary and regional levels in Washington State. He helped found the Bellingham Area Minor Hockey Association and the city’s junior team (which he also coached), coached the Western Washington University Vikings team, and served as Western Regional Director for the Amateur Hockey Association of the U.S.
He was also an assistant training coach with the U.S. Olympic team in 1980, becoming the first black member of the coaching staff of the men’s hockey team. That team won gold at the “Miracle on Ice” Lake Placid Olympics.
John Utendale was born in Edmonton in 1937. He retired from Western Washington University in 2001, and he died in Bellingham, Washington in 2006.
TEAM ALBERTA NORTH WINS GOLD AND SILVER AT 2023 ARCTIC WINTER GAMES
Team Alberta North won one gold and one silver medal on home ice at the 2023 Arctic Winter Games. The Junior Female team went undefeated throughout the tournament en route to a gold medal. The U15 Male team battled to the end, but fell to Team NWT 6-5, ultimately finishing with silver. The U18 Male team finished round robin as the first seed, but lost two close games in the medal round to finish fourth.
FORT MCMURRAY – Team Alberta North won one gold and one silver medal on home ice at the 2023 Arctic Winter Games.
The Junior Female team, comprised of players born from 2003-2009, took home the gold medal after a dominating tournament. The team went 4-0-0 through the round robin portion of the competition, outscoring opponents by a total of 29-4. They would advance through the semi-finals with an 8-0 win over Alaska, which set up a thrilling 2-1 victory over the Northwest Territories to capture the gold.
“The girls came together and created a culture built on teamwork and trust. The way each one of them bought in was ultimately the reason for their success. They were relentless with their efforts all week, while still embodying the spirit of the Arctic Games in terms of sportsmanship and fair play. They are an incredibly dedicated and hard-working group of players that carried themselves as professionals both on and off the ice,” said Head Coach Hayley Runnalls. “We had an amazing week of learning from each other and I’m sure they’ve all made lasting friendships! The gold-medal game was a hard-fought battle against a strong NWT team that made winning gold on home soil, in front of their friends and family, a once-in-a-lifetime moment they will never forget!”
The U15 Male team, comprised of players born in 2007-2008, had a slow start to the tournament after dropping their first two games, picked up steam towards the end of the round robin, finishing with a 2-0-2 record. They would move on to the semi-finals, where they avenged their tournament opening loss to Nunavut and advanced to the gold medal final. In a tight, back and forth game against the Northwest Territories, they would end up on the losing side of a 6-5 decision, landing the silver medal.
"We described our players that they competed as "warriors" all week long while playing fairly and and with the spirit of the games sportsmanship in mind," said Kevin Kuryluk, head coach of the U15 Male team. "As coaches we were extremely proud of all of our players. Our message as coaches to the team before the final game was to take it all in and enjoy the moment as this is a once in a lifetime opportunty, but most importantly have fun!"
The U18 Male team, comprised of players born in 2004-2006, started off the tournament strong, landing the top overall seed after the round robin with a 3-0-1 record. They moved on to face Alaska in the semi-finals, where they dropped a heartbreaker 5-4. In the bronze medal game, the U18’s dropped another one game to the Northwest Territories and ultimately finished in fourth place.
The 2023 Arctic Winter Games were held in the region of Wood Buffalo from January 29 – February 4, with the hockey events taking place in Fort McMurray.
Hockey Alberta’s Elite Female Hockey Committee has been reviewing the location and number of teams at each level of hockey within the Alberta Female Hockey League (AFHL).
On November 2, Hockey Alberta announced the addition of a new U13 AA division within the AFHL, as well as expansion of the U15 AA division, and officially opened an application process for Minor Hockey Associations (MHAs) to apply to host those teams.
After a thorough review of all applications, Hockey Alberta’s Elite Female Hockey Committee is excited to announce the addition of the following Host MHAs, effective for the 2023-24 season:
- U13 AA - 16 Teams
- Host MHAs: Airdrie, Bonnyville, Calgary (3), Camrose, Edmonton (2), Grande Prairie, Leduc, Lethbridge, Lloydminster, Okotoks, Red Deer, Sherwood Park, and St. Albert
- U15 AA - Addition of 2 Teams
- 1 in Calgary (3 total)
- 1 in Edmonton (2 total)
The Elite Female Committee also identified the need to address the operational structure of the South Central recruitment area. The current structure included two Host MHAs separately operating teams within the same recruitment area and lacked unified leadership. After working with the Host MHAs, it was determined one Host MHA was required, and Airdrie MHA will take on the responsibility of hosting all U13 AA, U15 AA and U18 AA teams in the South Central recruitment area.
The Elite Female Hockey Committee is working with all Host MHAs to finalize details of program and league operations for the upcoming season. We will also continue to review the structure and alignment of U18 AAA and U18 AA, discussing a potential expansion in the 2024-25 season.
For questions or more information, emails can be submitted to:
Chair, Elite Female Committee
Manager, Female Hockey
February 1 is National Women and Girls in Sport day.
To celebrate, Hockey Alberta is reflecting back on Female Hockey Day, presented by ATB.
Female Hockey Day is a Hockey Alberta initiative to celebrate the female game by bringing together players, coaches, officials, parents and supporters to learn, develop and grow.
“Female Hockey Day is about introducing new girls to the game and encouraging girls already in the game to experience different sides to the game,” said Morgen Kidney, Hockey Alberta’s Female Hockey Coordinator.
This year, Female Hockey Day was held on January 7 in Calgary. The 2023 event marked the sixth annual Female Hockey Day. Previous events were held in Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Red Deer, and Lloydminster along with a virtual event in 2021.
Traditionally, the event features Try Hockey and Try Goaltending sessions, a local feature game and off-ice activities including female coach and female officials development sessions and parent sessions.
Hockey Alberta encourages all communities to participate in Female Hockey Day, with support grants available from the Hockey Alberta Foundation.
“Success is measured by the smiles on faces and fun had at the event and Female Hockey Day is successful every year,” said Kidney.
Renee Hess was just a hockey fan in California when she noticed a lack of representation of Black women in the game. Wanting to create an inclusive and supportive space, the Black Girl Hockey Club (BGHC) was born.
“Renee noticed that when she went to games, she always felt really awkward and excluded, so she figured, why not make a club for Black women in hockey,” said Saroya Tinker, Executive Director of Black Girl Hockey Club Canada. “Renee has never played hockey, but a lot of girls that started out in Black Girl Hockey Club were just fans.”
Tinker got involved with the BGHC when she began volunteering on the scholarship committee. As a professional hockey player, Tinker saw an opportunity to raise money for the BGHC during the National Women’s Hockey League bubble in 2021.
“I set my goal at $5,000 and we ended up raising $32,000,” said Tinker. “We realized there was a lot of interest from Canadian companies. Obviously hockey’s huge in Canada and there was already a network of girls in the Greater Toronto Area, specifically. So we decided to broaden our network and move the BGHC across the border to Canada and implement our programming here.”
BGHC Canada offers a mentorship program for Black women between the ages of 8 and 21, financial aid and scholarships for Black women of all ages to play, mental health and wellness resources, including subsidized therapy and focus groups and partners with NHL teams and community initiatives to create accessible, diverse and welcoming events across the country.
“We want girls of all ages to play. A Black Grandma who wants to learn how to play hockey or two years old and need your first pair of skates,” said Tinker. “I think that’s really what we’re aiming to do is create that sense of community and realize that Black women do play hockey and we’re just trying to normalize it.”
Tinker began playing hockey as a kid. Her dad, a Black man who faced his own challenges in the game, had a passion for the sport. After introducing Tinker to the game, she fell in love with the freedom of being on the ice.
“Over the course of my career, I kind of always felt like I had to take a piece of my Blackness out to fit in in the arena and those settings,” said Tinker. “The experiences that I’ve had led me to what I’m doing today and that’s my purpose - to make sure these girls have a community.”
One of the first experiences of overt racism Tinker can remember happened when she was 12 when a teammate called her racial slurs in the dressing room.
“I didn’t know how to react. I remember talking to my Dad and he explained that I’m going to have more experiences like that,” said Tinker. “Now I’m trying to make sure that their (Black girls currently playing hockey) experience is better than mine and make sure that they have a piece of representation to look at.”
Today, Tinker plays defence for the Toronto Six in the Premier Hockey Federation.
“I’m still playing, but the girls are my purpose for playing. I get to do this for them, while I’m still opening those doors, that’s what I’m here to do,” said Tinker. “I’m happy that we were able to bring the Black Girl Hockey Club to Canada and be all over North America now.”
Though Tinker is based in Ontario, she has meetings with girls from across the continent via Zoom. When she’s able, she schedules in-person meet-ups with members of BGHC Canada.
“It’s so easy to connect with people now-a-days. It’s exciting to see that we’re all across Canada. When I’m in Alberta, I always want to make sure to meet the girls,” said Tinker. “I know I’ve met a few girls in Alberta, I have a few more to meet, but it’s really exciting when we get to meet each other in person and it make it that much more special.”
For now, BGHC Canada’s main source of communication is online. BGHC Canada is on Instagram, Twitter and has an option to contact the club on their website. Tinker encourages all Black women to connect with the club and become part of the community.
“We’re such a growing community. I see new Black girls in the arena every day. In that sense we’re ‘adding to the club,’” said Tinker. “These girls are creating friendships and networking connections that are going to last a lifetime.”
BGHC Canada is welcoming of all communities. Allies of BGHC Canada are invited to attend community events or to reach out to BGHC Canada to learn how to support the club.
The first of February is National Women and Girls in Sports Day and marks the beginning of Black History Month. Listen to the Centre Ice Podcast to hear the full conversation with Saroya Tinker, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Podbean.