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Home Ice Feature

Photos provided by the Ikebuchi family

Hockey community rallies around Springbank family

In the wake of the sudden and tragic loss of a long time Springbank coach and volunteer, the hockey community is once again proving just how powerful the game can be.

On October 13, Justin Ikebuchi was involved in a fatal car crash. In the days and weeks following, his wife, Jamie, and children Sydney, Raiden, Calder and Devin have seen the entire hockey community rally around them and show their support

“They check in on us, constantly check in on us,” said Jamie. “They’ve supported us with meals, with texts and emails, and small things, like the doorbell will ring and there will be a latte there for me. We’ve had little gifts and quite large gifts given to us. It’s pretty overwhelming overall, but in a good way; all of these gestures of kindness have really helped give us strength as we move through these last few weeks.”

Hockey Alberta NewsCoaching and volunteering was a huge part of Justin’s life. With Raiden (13), Calder (11) and Devin (9) all playing minor hockey, Justin was heavily involved as a coach, and as a member of the the Springbank Minor Hockey Association (SMHA) Board of Directors. He was the SMHA Timbits (U7) Coordinator for five years, and was the VP of Hockey for the last two.

“I know that he gave back because he truly enjoyed his experience as a child growing up getting to play sports, and he wanted to make sure he gave back like people did for him,” Jamie said.

Justin’s influence on the game is unmistakable, as seen by the lasting impression he left as a coach.

“He was definitely known as the coach with the red helmet and the red gloves, and he was the one who told (the players) all of the time to play hard and have fun,” Jamie said. “He wanted them to love the game as much as he loved the game, and he wanted them to not just love the game, but he wanted them to love being part of a team, because he felt like being part of a team and being a good teammate was a life skill.”

“Dad was the best coach,” said Raiden, Justin’s eldest son. “He was always very positive. The game wasn’t always about being the best to him, but working towards being the best. He wanted me to play hockey because I loved it, not because he wanted me to love it. That’s just kind of who he was.”

Raiden’s teammate, Jack McHarg, echoed that sentiment, and said Justin’s number-one goal was to make sure hockey was fun for everyone.

“He always came to practice with a smile,” he said. “With four kids, he always made our practices, he was very committed to the game, and he always made sure, even if we lost a game, he made us hold our heads up high, and he always made us feel good at the end of the day.”

Justin’s impact as a coach reached far beyond just the players, as the coaches he’s shared the ice with over the years speak very fondly of his coaching style and personality.

"Justin was a fantastic coach; he was always there for the boys and always there for the right reasons,” said Jack’s father, David McHarg, Justin’s co-coach and a family friend. “I think just because he loved the game so much, he wanted to add to it. Whether it was at an administration level within the Springbank Minor Hockey Association, or as a coach, or even just as a helper on the ice, a parent in the box, or doing anything, he was always there supporting everyone along the way - parents, players, coaches. It was all for the game.”

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Cory Larson, another of Justin’s co-coaches and a family friend, said Justin’s personality was infectious.

“I felt like he was the guy that was on the ice in practice, wherever he was, the kids sort of gravitated towards him” he said. “If they weren’t in a drill, they’d be over talking to him, and he was that guy that could be that supportive, fun-loving guy that was out there making sure everybody had a good time, all the time.”

Jonathan Black, also a co-coach and family friend, said Justin’s coaching style was a lot more than just drawing up plays on a clipboard.

“What he did better than most people was the relationship piece,” he said. “I would be at a tournament getting medals ready and handing things out, and he’s the guy who’s talking to each individual kid as they’re waiting, where typically coaches might just stand around. He coupled the idea of a real coach trying to improve the kids and teach them how to play a team sport, but also that relationship piece, which was so important with kids understanding and believing what he had to say.”

Brent Merchant, who coached alongside Justin for over six years and also became a family friend, said his commitment as a volunteer was something to behold.

“For most parents, it’s maybe a little intimidating just to jump in with both feet and commit to being a huge volunteer,” he said. “I think for Justin, it just came naturally; he was just was part of that Springbank hockey community from day one. Whether it was in a coaching role, or as part of the board of directors, he just seemed to kind of jump in with both feet, which you can appreciate - that’s not easy to do with the amount of energy and time it takes.”

Nicole Kraljic, the SMHA’s administrator, worked closely with Justin as a volunteer, and said the time and effort he put in to improving the game will have a positive effect on the association for years to come.

“He leaves behind the framework, of which we are working on still to this day at the board level, of our coaches, and doing our coach credentials, and keeping a legacy of information for our coaches and training them, and that’s something that his fingerprints will be all over when we’re done developing it,” she said. “Justin did everything with thought and purpose;. When he finalized a roster, he was always thinking about the player and their potential development, and that was every player.”

While the shockwave of Justin’s sudden passing hit Springbank hard, it was also felt around the entire hockey community. On October 20, in Raiden’s first game back with the NWCAA U15 AA Bronks, he scored a goal. In fitting fashion, it was the team’s eighth goal of the game - which just happens to be Justin’s favourite number.

“A very emotional night obviously for the boys, to have Raiden there and back with the group, and Jamie and her family in the stands,” said David McHarg. “It was emotional just being there, but also just to see him score that eighth goal, and with that being his dad’s favourite number, it was just extra special.”

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While Raiden’s entire team celebrated the emotional moment with him, the members of the CNHA Kings came together with the Bronks at the end of the game and raised their sticks in honour of Justin and his family.

“After we beat them, they still had the respect to do something like that,” Raiden said. “You battle it out on the ice, but after it’s all said and done, you’re all playing for the same reason, because you love what you do, and there’s a lot of respect there.”

In that game, the entire team also sported red tape on their sticks (Justin’s favourite colour), as well as Justin’s initials in red on their helmets - which Raiden said was done by all NWCAA U15 AA teams.

In the days following the game, Raiden’s touching story made its way around social media, and caught the attention of the entire hockey community, including the Calgary Flames. On October 28, two of the Flames - Milan Lucic and captain Mark Giordano - surprised Raiden and his teammates at practice.

Hockey Alberta News“Those guys are his heroes,” Jamie said. “What I thought was pretty awesome was that those men came to talk to my son, and they asked if it was okay if they spoke about their own personal loss, because both of them have lost loved ones tragically. They left their families for the day to come and speak to a boy, and it was a sad situation - it’s hard to talk to people who have lost someone, but they chose to do that.”

“That was very special,” said Raiden. “I was super surprised, I had no idea. I heard a couple of the boys saying that some of the Flames were being interviewed outside, but I didn’t think anything of it. Those guys have been my heroes; I’ve been a fan of Lucic since he won the (Stanley) Cup with Boston.”

Giordano and Lucic both said Raiden’s story hits very close to home for them, so they were more than happy to take the time to show their support. For Giordano, his sister died in a car crash at the age of 14. Lucic experienced the sudden death of his father.

“It’s never something that’s easy to deal with,” said Lucic. “Just to be here to support him is the least that I can do, and we can do as far as the Flames organization, happy to be here supporting him through a time like this.

Jamie added the gesture was especially touching because the impact went beyond the family.

“They got on the ice and practiced with the team. So the whole team got to have that experience, it was pretty awesome for them to have that bonding experience together, so I thought that was pretty great of those gentlemen,” she said.

As for the outpouring of support the Ikebuchi family has received, Giordano said he’s not surprised to see the hockey community come together in the face of tragedy.

“I’ve been playing hockey now for a long, long time, and the support we receive from family, friends, community - it’s second to none,” Giordano said. “When I was a young kid and had some tragedy in my life, one of the biggest things that helped me get through was coming to the rink and being with my buddies and teammates.”

And Jamie knows that hockey will be a key part of the recovery process for her three boys.

For Raiden, hockey has been his passion since he was three, and Jamie was concerned he would have a hard time going to hockey, because his dad was such a big part of the game for him.

Calder is a defenceman, whose love of hockey has developed over time, and it’s important to Jamie that he continues to enjoy the sport.

Hockey Alberta News

“Devin is the happiest little hockey player you have ever seen,” she said. “So, my hope for him, because he said this weekend that hockey is not fun without his dad, that dad is what makes hockey fun, my hope is that he’ll find joy with hockey again.”

And Justin will not be forgotten within the local hockey community, as Springbank has named its yearly volunteer of the year award after him.

“Whether it was community members or friends, the outpouring of commitment from people was unreal. But what impresses me is that commitment that they have today, I think this is going to be for years down the road,” said Brent Merchant.

Jamie said the ongoing support their family has seen from the hockey community goes beyond what words can express.

“It’s very overwhelming, but in a good way. I love my husband, and I love him as a dad, and he touched so many people in our Springbank Minor Hockey community, and they are really helping us get through this very devastating and tragic time,” she said. ”There’s this life question Justin and I have talked about - in life, do you get what you get, or do you get what you give? He would say you get what you give, and I now know that to be true, and you get more.”

Hockey Alberta Foundation

Every Kid Every Community Program awards $34,000 in grants this quarter

RED DEER – Hockey Alberta and the Hockey Alberta Foundation are pleased to announce this quarter’s Every Kid Every Community grant recipients.

Over $34,000 is being distributed to communities around Alberta, helping more than 400 kids access the game.

Intro to Hockey and Learn to Skate programs have been implemented by Clive Minor Hockey Club, Sylvan Lake Minor Hockey Association and Thunderstars Minor Hockey Association. These programs help recruit new players to the game of hockey and encourage families to get involved with their local association.

A grant to Variety – the Children’s Charity of Alberta will support their new Volt Hockey program. The Volt Hockey program offers a unique adaptation to the sport so that almost anyone living with mobility limitations can utilize specialized wheelchairs and equipment to play hockey independently. Volt hockey wheelchairs are nearly impossible to tip, are fast and agile and all the player needs is to be able to operate a joystick. Alberta is the second province to host Volt and will be running in both Calgary and Edmonton.

Five MHAs received Player Assistance Grants to assist with fees, equipment costs and additional costs for kids within the community who may not otherwise have access to the financial needs required to play the game of hockey.

The Every Kid Every Community program was launched in 2011, to provide 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.

To see the application criteria, grant options and to apply, Click Here >The next application deadline for the Every Kid Every Community Grant is January 31.

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 >


Three Albertan Officials selected for World Junior Championship

RED DEER - Three Albertans are among the 26 Canadian Officials selected to work the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Referees Kyle Kowalski and Fraser Lawrence, and Linesperson Deion Foster will all take to the ice when the World Juniors comes to the Edmonton bubble in December.

Kowalski (Edmonton), the son of a Hockey Alberta official and former member of the AJHL’s Drumheller Dragons, has worked the 2018 World Junior A Challenge, 2018 Hlinka/Gretzky Cup and was selected to officiate the 2020 USports Cup that was cancelled due to COVID-19.

Foster (Edmonton) grew up playing in Lloydminster, and now calls Edmonton home. He has officiated the 2016 & 2019 National Jr A Championship, worked the 2019 WHL Championship Series between the Vancouver Giants and the Prince Albert Raiders.

Lawrence (Edmonton) officiated the 2020 World Juniors last January in the Czech Republic and also worked the WHL Final in 2019 and many other International assignments, Lawrence was named the Official of the Year for Hockey Alberta for the 2019-20 Hockey Season.

Due to the unique nature of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship, the IIHF Officiating Committee has selected an all-Canadian line-up of 26 officials – 14 referees and 12 linesmen - that represent seven Hockey Canada Members. The decision was made to ensure the health and safety of all participants due to COVID-19 and current travel restrictions.

“Hockey Canada is proud of the 26 Canadian officials that have been selected to work the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship this year. Although it is a unique year, we know these individuals will represent Canada with pride when they step on the ice in Edmonton,” said Todd Anderson, senior manager of officiating with Hockey Canada. “Our officials have worked tirelessly to get to this point in their careers, and to be considered among the top officials in Canada is an honour.”

All 26 officials are products of the Hockey Canada Officiating Program, which includes six levels of certification and is the foundation for the training and development of officials across Canada.


Vira, Zinger elected to Hockey Alberta Board

Hockey Alberta News

RED DEER - Two members were elected to the Hockey Alberta’s Board of Directors at the organization’s 113th Annual General Meeting held virtually on Saturday.

Al-Amin Vira of Heritage Pointe joins the Board of Directors for his initial three-year term as a Director at Large. Vira brings an extensive business background to the Board of Directors, including his current position executive director with Okotoks Honda.

Fran Zinger of Sherwood Park returns to the Board for her 15th year. She originally joined the Board in 2006, and has served in various capacities, including vice chair.

For more information on the new Board members, short videos and biography overviews can be found on the Hockey Alberta website.

Vira and Zinger join current members of the Board: Chair Len Samletzki (St. Albert); Vice Chair Allan Mowbray (Calgary); Finance Director Donna Gallant (Edmonton); Directors at Large Michael Bates (Cochrane), Francois Gagnon (Fort McMurray), and Wilson Gemmill (Grande Prairie); and Past Chair Terry Engen (Eckville).

Two individuals were also recognized with Life Membership status for their combined more than 90 years of service in the province of Alberta. Life Membership is the highest honour which may be bestowed by Hockey Alberta.

The new Life Members are Anne Hayden of Vauxhall (posthumous induction) and Bob Bartlett of Lethbridge. Bartlett has been involved in hockey in the province for more than five decades, while Hayden was involved for more than 40 years. For more on each new Life Member, click the images below to view a short biography video:

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During the business portion of the meeting, the membership of Hockey Alberta approved a Notice of Motion to change the definition of Regular Membership within Hockey Alberta. Based on the recommendations of an Ad Hoc Committee that sought input over the past couple of years, the changes recognize that all types of programs currently registered with Hockey Alberta and operating amateur hockey will have the opportunity to apply for full membership.


Engen joins Hockey Canada Board of Directors

CALGARY – Terry Engen, the past Chair of Hockey Alberta’s Board of Directors, was elected to the Hockey Canada Board of Directors on Saturday at Hockey Canada’s Winter Congress and Annual Meeting - held virtually for the first time due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The elections proved to be a significant step forward as Hockey Canada continues to address areas of diversity and inclusion throughout the organization. An important by-law change approved at the 2019 Annual Meeting requires the Board to include a minimum of two males and two females to better reflect Canadian society.

Engen, from Eckville, was one of five new directors elected to serve two-year terms.

The new board includes Michael Brind’Amour, returning as chair for the second consecutive term and three re-elected directors who will serve two-year terms; Kirk Lamb, Barry Reynard and Goops Wooldridge. Joining Engen as new directors are Bobby Sahni, Andrea Skinner, Leanne Standryk, and Mary Anne Veroba.

“We issued ourselves a directive to be more inclusive and this is an important step in that process,” said Tom Renney, chief executive officer of Hockey Canada. “Our entire organization is excited to welcome Andrea, Leanne, Mary Anne, Terry and Bobby to our board, joining Michael, Barry, Goops and Kirk as we continue the mandate that our organization and board members, past and present, have been working towards.”

Hockey Canada and its members extend their appreciation to the outgoing board members Al Hubbs (Indian Head, Sask.), Réal Langlais (Delson, Que.), Randy Pulsifer (Stillwater Lake, N.S.), Ed Pupich (Schumacher, Ont.) and Randy Henderson (Prince George, B.C.) - for their ongoing dedication and contributions to the game. In particular, the organization values their leadership in helping create a more inclusive and diverse board.

Hockey Canada’s Winter Congress and Annual Meeting brought together the governing body’s board of directors and partners, along with representation from all 13 Members.

Hockey Canada’s next Winter Congress and Annual Meeting will be held Nov. 18-20, 2021 in Toronto.

For board member bios and more information on Hockey Canada, please visit .

Home Ice Feature

Lest We Forget

COLD LAKE – At Remembrance Day ceremonies across the country today, Canadians pause to remember those who have served, and continue to serve, our country.

For Captain Daniel Deluce, a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force stationed at CFB Cold Lake, Remembrance Day takes on special meaning for himself and his family.

“My grandpa was in the Air Force as well, he was a fighter pilot in World War II,” said Capt. Deluce. “If I can get airborne and go for a flight (on Remembrance Day), I will try to do that. That’s the best way for me to kind of put myself in my grandpa’s shoes.”

In fact, Remembrance Day this year holds special significance for Capt. Deluce because he recently received his grandfather’s service records.

“This year’s pretty cool. I’ve spent the last two years applying to get my grandpa’s records, and they just came in yesterday (November 5), so I got a little piece of history there,” said Capt. Deluce. “And my mom, her uncle was in the Army, and she just sent me a letter he had written to his girlfriend at the time. So, just finding ways to learn a bit more about what people were going through back then, and it is pretty interesting, and something very unique to those time periods.”

In addition to serving as a pilot for approximately 10 years, Capt. Deluce is also a part of the hockey community in Cold Lake, where the sport is a big part of life for not only himself, but for many individuals stationed at the base.

“Flying and playing hockey, it’s the two things I really like to do, so it’s nice to have the opportunity to do both,” Capt. Deluce said. “Normally, we have intramurals on the base, so between the different units, we’ll have hockey teams playing each other. That’s a nice way to just let loose a bit, and de-stress. Our jobs can be a little stressful sometimes.”

For Capt. Deluce, he is actively involved in the sport in several capacities. He plays in the intramural league at the base. He regularly dons the stripes, officiating in the intramural leagues, as well as games in the community. And he coaches – the CFB Cold Lake women’s team that competes at the national championship, and helping out with his daughter’s U7 team in Cold Lake.

“It’s a little difficult sometimes with our jobs, we deploy or we go away quite a bit,” he said. “So, I may not be able to be a full-time coach, but maybe an assistant coach is something I’d like to get involved in.”

For Capt. Deluce, hockey is a great way to get to know people in the community, and to unwind – especially with the stress that comes with flying high-performance airplanes.

“As an Officer, I play with a lot of the mechanics, and different support trades,” he said. “We’ll play against the Fire Hall and others, so you get to know people around the base as well, so it’s a bit of a networking thing. You might walk to your plane, and the person who’s helping you start, it’s like ‘oh, he was your right D the other night’, so it makes the squadron a little more personal.”

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Capt. Deluce said the squadron won’t necessarily be observing Remembrance Day in its traditional fashion.

“Usually, we’re having some sort of parade, so this year it might be a little different.” He said. “It might be more of the command team in a smaller ceremony laying wreaths.”

For Capt. Deluce, the key on November 11 is honouring not only those individuals who served in World War I or World War, but anyone who has served, and continues to serve our country.

“It doesn’t have to be WWI or WWII. There’s lots of things in between, or people currently serving, as well as any kind of front-line people. Especially this year with the pandemic, some of those people in the hospitals, or the first responders, those are going to be people you keep in mind.”

Centre Ice Podcast

Centre Ice Podcast - Episode Three: For the Love of the Game

Episode Three of the Centre Ice Podcast explores the meaning of ’Hockey for Life’, with a focus grassroots hockey in Alberta, the Alberta Elite Hockey League and Alberta Female Hockey League, and the opportunities and experiences hockey can offer.

Hockey Alberta’s Coordinator of Female Hockey, Taryn Baumgardt and Coordinator of Male Hockey, Dustin Moore discuss their experiences growing up playing hockey in Alberta, and how it led to them working in the sport. We also re-visit an interview with Kodie Curran, who signed his first NHL deal with the Anaheim Ducks back in June.

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Episode Links: League Alumni Spotlight: Taryn Baumgardt > | League Alumni Spotlight: Dustin Moore > | Return to Hockey Participation Flow Chart Update > | Coach Clinics > | AEHL Schedule > | AFHL Schedule > | Hockey Canada Champion: Chantel Timmons > | An unrelenting love of the game key in Curran’s journey to the NHL >

More Episodes >

Centre Ice is the brand-new Hockey Alberta podcast, featuring the latest news and views on amateur hockey across the province, with new episodes on the first and third Thursday of the month. Subscribe now on your favourite podcast app!