June is not only Pride Month, but also National Indigenous History Month, and Hockey Alberta has been celebrating both throughout the month.
Episode Thirteen of the Centre Ice Podcast features Glenn Witman, the Co-Founder of the You Can Play Project, and 2003 Canada Winter Games gold medalist and 2007 Memorial Cup Champion Wacey Rabbit, a proud member of the Kainai Nation.
Exactly one year ago Hockey Alberta released the initial version of our Return to Hockey Plan.
In the ensuing 12 months, the Return to Hockey Plan has been updated several times, and renamed Hockey’s Path Forward, and now Ready For Hockey!
Each change in requirements and guidelines by the Government of Alberta led to changes in the Return to Hockey plan. And that resulted in the ongoing need by our Member organizations and Leagues to create new plans, procedures and programming.
Thank you for your hard work over the past year despite being faced with constantly changing circumstances in our province and our sport. Everyone did a remarkable job in working on behalf of players, parents, coaches, trainers, board members, officials and volunteers across Alberta.
Tomorrow, Stage 3 of the Government of Alberta’s Open for Summer Plan opens.
With Stage 3 expected to contain few (if any) restrictions, Hockey Alberta is planning that 2021-22 will be a full hockey season.
This is exciting for everyone involved in our sport.
Many of our Minor Hockey Associations are already well into registration and planning for the 2021-22 season.
And Hockey Alberta is READY, as we continue to work with the Government and our member organizations to focus on health and safety, and ensuring our participants have the best hockey experience possible.
As new information becomes available, we will make sure our Members and the hockey community are informed. And you can always check our Return to Hockey page for current requirements and guidelines.
Yours in hockey,
Rob Litwinski, CEO Hockey Alberta
If you have questions throughout the summer as your organization is preparing for the upcoming season, please reach out to your contacts in Member Development at Hockey Alberta, or email us and we will connect with you:
RED DEER – Hockey Alberta has selected Ashley Shrode (Barrhead) to lead Team Alberta as the head coach of the 2021 U18 Female team.
Joining Shrode on the bench as assistant coaches are Shanya Shwetz (Edmonton) and Chris Leeming (Olds). Rounding out the coaching staff are Annette Jensen (Lloydminster) as video coach and Marlène Boissonnault (Calgary) as goaltending coach.
“It is an exciting time for Team Alberta as we get to resume our selection process for the 2021 U18 Women’s National Championships,” said Kendall Newell, Manager, Female Hockey for Hockey Alberta. “We are extremely pleased to announce this staff group and to get the process started as we look forward to summer camp."
Director of Hockey Operations
Team Alberta will hold summer camp in August in Red Deer to select the U18 Female team that will represent the province at the 2021 Women’s National Championships slated for later this fall in Dawson Creek, BC.
Shrode was named the 2021 BFL Female Community Coach of the Year for Alberta, and has spent her most recent years coaching in the Barrhead and Whitecourt Minor Hockey Associations. She has also spent time within the Team Alberta program as a Head Coach at the 2018 Alberta Winter Games and 2019 Alberta Challenge, before moving on to become a Coach Mentor at the 2020 Alberta Winter Games.
Shwetz has spent the past three years with the Edmonton Female Athletic Club (EFAC) as a head and assistant coach with the U15 AA Pandas. With Team Alberta, her experience has been vast, as she has coached at the U16 Female Summer Camp twice, was an assistant coach at the 2019 Alberta Challenge, and head coach at the 2020 Alberta Winter Games. At the U18 level, Shwetz was named as the video coach for the 2019 Women’s National Championships in Morden & Winkler, MB. She was also named as the Alberta’s BFL Female High Performance Coach of the Year in 2019.
Leeming is the heading into his fourth season as head coach of the ACAC’s Olds College Broncos, where he was named the 2019-20 ACAC Women’s Hockey Coach of the Year. He has been a head coach at both the 2019 Alberta Challenge and 2020 Alberta Winter Games.
Jensen is the head coach of the Lloydminster U18AAA PWM Steelers, with ten years of coaching experience, and Boissonnault is currently a goaltender with Team Scotiabank of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association and goaltender coach with Top Prospects Goaltending.
Other members of the staff for Team Alberta U18 Female include: Barry Medori (Spruce Grove), coach mentor; and Kendall Newell (Red Deer), director of operations.
Registration for Team Alberta’s U18 Female Summer Camp, Fuelled by Gatorade, which will take place on August 10-15 (dates determined by region), is now open.
Nearly 20 years ago, Kyle Dodginghorse stepped behind the bench for the first time to coach at the Alberta Treaty Hockey Games and Native Provincials.
He now sits on Hockey Alberta’s Indigenous Hockey Committee and is the Hockey Coordinator for Tsuut’ina Nation.
The position with Tsuut’ina Nation came about through a side project, Dodginghorse Development, that he and his wife founded when they noticed that Indigenous children often missed out on opportunities to participate. They hosted hockey camps that incorporated hockey, yoga and personal fitness on holidays and over the course of the summer.
“We wanted to do our own little hockey camps to get kids on the ice for a low cost to get them on the ice and give them the extra development,” said Dodginghorse. “There was an opportunity on the reserve with this building (7 Chiefs Sportplex) opening, that they wanted someone to run the hockey program. It was everything I wanted to do, and now I take care of everything hockey for our kids.”
Though his title has changed, the passion for providing opportunities to Indigenous youth and getting more kids into the game is still prominent for Dodginghorse.
“I run an afterschool hockey program for kids to get extra ice time. Every day there’s a different age group from U7-U18 and it gives them time to work on skills they can’t work on in practice. During the summer we transition to a daily drop-in with their designated age groups,” said Dodginghorse. “We started the Little 7 Chiefs Hockey Program two years ago. It’s for anyone who hasn’t played hockey before but it’s geared toward the 4-7 year-olds who aren’t ready to play hockey in an association. It’s a chance to get comfortable on the ice and see if it’s for them. In the two years we’ve ran it, we’ve had a lot of success, with about 30 new kids each year. So that’s 30 new kids ready to go to the association the next year.”
Dodginghorse has worked to develop a partnership with Hockey Calgary, one that he said was instrumental in bringing the First Shift Program to Tsuut’ina Nation.
Committed to delivering programs that eliminate barriers, Dodginghorse has also created an equipment exchange program at the 7 Chiefs Sportplex. Through his efforts of giving youth an opportunity to play hockey, Tsuut’ina Nation is also a recipient of an Every Kid Every Community grant from Hockey Alberta.
“(Every Kid Every Community) helped us huge. I’m kind of a one-man army so that will allow me to bring in extra instruction for our youth. Maybe it’s someone that will focus on stickhandling, shooting, powerskating, but just to give them another voice and another point of view as well. There’s a lot of wear and tear on our stuff so to be able to get new equipment is nice. We’re excited to have that grant,” said Dodginghorse.
As Dodginghorse continues to grow the sport in his community, he is disheartened that racism is still happening in today’s game.
“Sometimes you deal with the racism. Unfortunately I don’t think it’s going to go away in the near future. It’s not just in sports, it’s everywhere,” said Dodginghorse. “With Ethan Bear, I obviously commend him for standing up and saying what he said because it’s not easy to do that. That’s the hardest thing because you don’t know how to stand up to it. You don’t know how it’s going to be dealt with or if it’s going to be swept under the rug.”
Dodginghorse has experienced racism at all levels and believes the first step to treating everyone equal, is to make people aware that the discrimination is happening, which is something that social media is doing.
“I’m so proud to be Native. We have a beautiful culture. We’re so family oriented and always cheering for each other,” Dodginghorse said. “Every time I see someone else succeed it brings me so much joy. I hope to see some of our kids at that (professional) level in the future.”
Yet Dodginghorse does not measure success of Tsuut’ina Nation’s hockey program through level of play. He determines it by the life-long relationships players develop through their time in the game and the life skills they learn. And he’s adamant that hockey is the best game that you can play.
The You Can Play Project began as an effort to continue the work done by Brendan Burke, son of Brian Burke, the president of hockey operations with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Brendan Burke, who came out as an openly gay man in 2009, died in an automobile crash in 2010. Brendan’s brother Patrick, along with Brian Kitts and Glenn Witman began the You Can Play Project to continue Brendan’s work to eradicate homophobia in the National Hockey League (NHL) and beyond.
“Every day we’re out there trying to make sure that all athletes are judged based on their heart, their talent, their character, not their sexual orientation, not their gender identity,” said Witman. “Just be a good teammate, and we want you on the team.”
In 2012, You Can Play officially launched their partnership with the NHL by releasing a video called “The Faceoff”, featuring numerous NHL players, with the goal of the video to “carry on Brendan’s legacy, and ensure that LGBTQ+ athletes around the world are afforded equal opportunity; judged only by their talent, character, and work ethic in their sport.”
Along with the NHL, You Can Play has partnered with numerous other leagues and corporations. The National Football League, Canadian Football League, National Women’s Hockey League, Major League Soccer, and others help make the You Can Play Project initiatives possible, such as Pride Night collaborations and the development of educational platforms.
“(These partners) are the bread and butter of You Can Play. You need to have ambassadors and people that understand our mission that are out there trying to spread the word,” said Witman.
You Can Play encourages everyone to get involved as an advocate, ambassador, or volunteer. They have an excellent collection of resources on their website that can help educate players, coaches, parents, and teams about the importance of safety and inclusion for all LGBTQ+ athletes.
RED DEER – Hockey Alberta has selected Serge Lajoie (St. Albert) to lead Team Alberta as the head coach of the 2021 U16 Male team.
Joining Lajoie on the bench as assistant coaches are Alex Mandolidis (Calgary) and Kyle Tapp (Lloydminster). Rounding out the coaching staff are James Poole (Calgary) as video coach and Derek Purfield (Calgary) as goaltending coach.
“We are extremely excited to not only resume the Team Alberta process, but to do so with such an exceptional staff,” said Michael Kraichy, Manager, Elite Male Hockey for Hockey Alberta. “The combined experience amongst these coaches is second-to-none, and we’re looking forward to seeing what this group can accomplish.”
Director of Hockey Operations
Team Alberta will hold summer and fall camps in August and September in Red Deer to select the U16 Male team that will represent the province at the 2021 WHL Cup slated for later this fall.
Lajoie – currently the Head Coach of the OHA Edmonton U18 Prep team – has a storied history in the Team Alberta program. In 2011, he won a bronze medal at the Canada Winter Games as an assistant coach. In 2013, he was the head coach of Team Alberta at the Western Canada Challenge Cup (now the WHL Cup), leading the team to the gold medal.
Mandolidis is entering his third season as an assistant coach with the Mount Royal University Cougars. He has also been a fixture within Hockey Alberta programming. As video coach with Team Alberta, he won a bronze medal at the 2019 Canada Winter Games and silver at the 2017 WHL Cup. He has also had various roles at the Alberta Cup.
Tapp is the head coach of the Lloydminster U18 AAA Bobcats of the Alberta Elite Hockey League. He brought home a silver medal as an assistant coach with Team Alberta from the 2012 Western Canada Challenge Cup. He has also volunteered as a coach and mentor in the Alberta Cup program.
Poole is a head coach at the Edge School for Athletes in Calgary and Purfield is the goalie coach for the Okotoks Oilers of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
Other members of the staff for Team Alberta U16 Male include: Bobby Fox (Calgary), head scout; Barry Medori (Spruce Grove), coach mentor; and Michael Kraichy (Red Deer), director of operations.
Registration for Team Alberta’s U16 Male Summer Camp, Fuelled by Gatorade, which will take place in August (dates determined by region), will open on Friday, June 11 at 10 am, on a first-come, first-served basis.
RED DEER – Hockey Alberta has announced details for the Team Alberta U16 Male and U18 Female Summer Camps, Fuelled by Gatorade.
Team Alberta U16 Male Summer Camp
Team Alberta U16 Male Summer Camp is open to 2006-born male athletes from Alberta who were registered with a Hockey Canada/Hockey Alberta sanctioned program in the 2020-21 season. The camp runs August 3-8 at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre in Red Deer.
The Camp will be broken into three two-day camps based on region:
Each player will participate in three on-ice sessions, with an additional session for goaltenders.
Registration for Team Alberta U16 Male Summer Camp will open on Friday, June 11 at 10am. Please note that space in the camp is limited, and registration is on a first come, first served basis.
Team Alberta U16 Male Fall Camp will run September 17-19, with the 2021 WHL Cup tentatively set for October.
For any registration inquiries, please contact Mike Kraichy, Manager, Elite Male Hockey at [email protected]
Team Alberta U18 Female Summer Camp
Team Alberta U18 Female Summer Camp is open to 2004 and 2005-born female athletes from Alberta who were registered with a Hockey Canada/Hockey Alberta sanctioned program in the 2020-21 season. The camp runs August 10-15 at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre in Red Deer.
The Camp will be broken into two three-day camps based on region:
Each player will participate in three on-ice sessions, with an additional session for goaltenders.
Registration for Team Alberta U18 Female Summer Camp will open on Monday, June 14 at 10am. Please note that space in the camp is limited, and registration is on a first come, first served basis.
Team Alberta U18 Female Fall Camp will run September 24-26, with the 2021 National Women’s U18 Championship set for October 31 – November 6 in Dawson Creek, BC.
For any registration inquiries, please contact Kendall Newell, Manager, Female Hockey at [email protected]
Gatorade is a proud partner of Hockey Alberta and its Team Alberta athletes. Gatorade Sports Drink was created to fuel athletic performance. Over the last 50 years, countless hours in the lab and on the field enabled us to ensure that every single ingredient within it is a reflection of that mission. For more information on the science behind the fuel, or its products visit Gatorade’s website.
RED DEER – Hockey Alberta and the Hockey Alberta Foundation are thrilled to award over $40,000 to this quarter’s Every Kid Every Community (EKEC) grant recipients. This funding enables Hockey Alberta to support 13 programs across Alberta and help nearly 700 kids hit the ice this season.
Programs funded by EKEC make hockey accessible to all by introducing new participants to the game, furthering development and reducing cost. Programs and communities receiving funding for this quarter include:
Tsuut’ina Nation: 150 Indigenous children of Tsuut’ina Nation will enjoy the game free of cost with access to qualified instructors.
Calgary Lebanese Association community members who are under 18 years of age will be introduced to hockey.
Fort McMurray Minor Hockey Association has developed an inclusive hockey program for kids 5-17 years who may have mental or physical impairments. EKEC funding helps purchase equipment, sleds and skating aids.
Bow Valley Pond Hockey is once again able to offer programming targeting at-risk youth.
Lacombe Minor Hockey Association can supplement their female hockey program, making the program more affordable for perspective players.
As well, five associations are planning to implement “Introduction to Hockey” programs that will engage grassroots players in the sport.
The Every Kid Every Community program provides a pathway to play hockey for any child in Alberta who is interested in the sport. The goal is to provide every child in Alberta the opportunity to play hockey, have fun and, in many cases, experience the sport for the first time. Grants are awarded four times a year, with the next application deadline July 31.
To see the application criteria, grant options and to apply, Click Here >
The Hockey Alberta Foundation relies on the generosity of donors across the province to help ensure that any child who wants to participate in hockey has the opportunity. To donate please Click Here >
RED DEER – The Alberta Elite Hockey League (AEHL) celebrated the progress made by the league in its inaugural season and developed new initiatives for the 2021-22 season at its Annual General Meeting on May 27.
In preparation for the 2020-21 season, the AEHL launched new website platforms in partnership with HockeyTech, and offered fans a livestream service through HockeyTV. The league also partnered with InStat, a statistic and analytic platform, to ensure each team received accurate and consistent statistics throughout the season,
The AEHL undertook new initiatives to recognize current and past players through the “Rinkside” and “Alumni of the Month” features. With limited competition able to be played due to COVID-19 restrictions, the initiatives highlighted how players were staying motivated and continuing to make hockey a part of their lives.
Looking ahead to the 2021-22 season, players from across the AEHL’s three divisions (U15 AAA, U16 AAA and U18 AAA) will participate in a showcase weekend. The AEHL is also planning to implement the following:
U15 AAA and U16 AAA will play 34 regular season games with U18 AAA playing 38 games.
Regular season games that end in a tie after regulation will go to a five minute, 3-on-3, overtime period.
All three divisions will play an unbalanced regular season schedule with a focus on regional play.
Post-season play will consist of a new format in all three divisions.
Sixty-one teams participated in the virtual meeting that would normally be held in-person.