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Home Ice Feature

A Dream Come True

Lacey Senuk’s goal of working as an on-ice official at the Winter Olympics seemed like a pipe dream - until she got the call.

The Level 5 official from St. Albert will be skating the XXIV Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, China as a referee in the Women’s Hockey competition.

“It’s the pinnacle of officiating for myself. It’s an unbelievable honour to be selected as part of the group that’s going. It’s been a unique couple years and to finally reach that goal is pretty surreal,” said Senuk.

Senuk is no stranger to the international stage. Her experience working IIHF tournaments, including the 2021 Women’s World Championships, placed her on a preliminary list of officials being considered for the Olympics. After traveling to Denmark for fitness testing and classroom work in November, Senuk was designated to Czechia to work an Olympic qualifier tournament before the IIHF officially named her as a referee on January 7.

“It’s always been a pipe dream just because it’s every four years, it’s a very small group of officials going. But now that dream has come true,” said Senuk. “You don’t have the words, it’s pretty indescribable. The pipe dream has come alive and it’s come to fruition.”

With less than a month until the tournament begins, Senuk’s preparation is unusual compared to her normal routine. Under normal circumstances, Senuk would work games right up to when she leaves. Due to the COVID-19 environment, she is instead turning her focus to her off-ice fitness, studying the rulebook, limiting her interactions to just her “bubble”, and hitting the ice when it is convenient for her.

“I owe a lot of gratitude to Hockey Alberta and Hockey Canada for where I am and the association that I started with in St. Albert,” said Senuk. “If it wasn’t for the individuals involved there that saw potential and helped me, it’s hard to say, would I be where I am today? You don’t know but I am very thankful for the part that every single person has played in my development as an official.”

In total, 21 females will skate the women’s tournament, making it the second Olympics that will be entirely officiated by female officials. Women’s hockey action begins on February 3, and continues through until the gold medal game on February 17.

Home Ice Feature

Coach education keeping former players in the game

RED DEER – Hockey Alberta’s mission statement reads: to create positive opportunities and experiences for all players.

Coaches play a significant role in ensuring that.

Team Alberta alumni and NHL prospect, Morgan Klimchuk, made the transition to coaching during the COVID-19 lockdown. Following back surgery, Klimchuk was unsure if he would ever play hockey at a competitive level again, but he knew he wanted to stay involved in the game.

“I love it. It’s a new challenge every day,” said Klimchuk. “It’s one thing to know certain aspects of the game, it’s a completely different thing to be able to communicate and teach those things.”

Having played for numerous coaches with a variety of styles over the years, Klimchuk was asked if there was anyone he looked up to as a coach.

“The last coach that I played for professionally with the Belleville Senators, his name is Troy Mann. He’s not necessarily a household name,” said Klimchuk. “He’s a coach and a person who is going to get an opportunity at the highest level just because of how he treats people, how he communicates with his players aside from his knowledge of the game … (T)he way he communicates his messages, the amount that he cares about every single member of his team really resonated with me and it’s something that I try to emulate as I get started in my coaching career.”

Duncan Milroy played professional hockey for 12 seasons, including five games with the Montreal Canadiens. When he retired from playing, he had lost his passion for hockey – until he made the decision to get into coaching.

“(Through coaching) I absolutely fell in love with being on the ice again,” said Milroy. “Being a mentor for kids and the competition that comes with it … so it’s been a lot of fun coming back and it’s a newfound passion for me.”

After years of playing, it was his novice coach who left a lasting impression on him.

“I had a gentleman by the name of Dan Auchenburg, who used to be my novice coach a long time ago. Just the way he conducted himself with us as kids, I remember those things,” said Milroy.

As a former player Milroy thought he knew everything when he began coaching. His mentality was less than realistic.

“Sometimes my expectations of what players were actually able to do at that age level and their skill level might not have been there because of my lack of experience as a coach,” said Milroy. “After my first couple years and spending time with Hockey Alberta, it’s really opened my eyes up to the coaching philosophies and what you have to be looking for. It has made me a better coach … it’s given me a more realistic approach and a better teaching philosophy in order to help my kids out.”

For Stephen Pattison, Hockey Alberta’s Manager of Hockey Development, coach education programs have enabled him to provide better experiences for his players.

“The longer I’ve coached and the more education courses I’ve taken, the more I have been able to impact the players in a positive way,” said Pattison. “I have players who I coached nearly 10 years ago who I still have a relationship with, because coaching is about building relationships. Coach education programs help coaches learn ways to communicate with their players and build those relationships.”

Certain coach education programs are required to be completed each season by November 15 to be eligible to coach. Courses include information on team building, player experience, how to communicate with parents, how to organize a season and tactics/drills. Programs are available to anyone who is looking to better understand the game or may be considering coaching.

REGISTER FOR A CLINIC

For more information on coach education or how you can make a positive impact on the players experience, visit hockeyalberta.ca.

Home Ice Feature

In a League of Her Own

RED DEER – Rachel Wiebe turned heads last year when she was named an assistant coach with the University of Alberta Golden Bears hockey team.

In her new role, the 23-year-old became the first female coach to join the program, continuing her progression in a coaching career that started when concussions ended her playing career as a teenager.

“I still wanted to be a part of the game,” said Rachel. “It’s a big part of who you are and I didn’t want to lose that, so I got into coaching. I started coaching on a women’s team in Grande Prairie and once I transferred to the University of Alberta for school I started coaching with the Pandas and then the Bears.”

As a player, Rachel’s goal was to play for the Pandas. When she realized she couldn’t participate as a player, she still wanted to achieve that goal in some capacity – even if that meant filling water bottles. She reached out to Howie Draper, Head Coach of the Pandas, who took her on as an assistant coach.

Ian Herbers, Head Coach of the Golden Bears, laughs as he recalls poaching Rachel from the Pandas.

“Rachel once a week, maybe every other week, would pop her head in and come say hi. We had a chance to talk and she always came in with a ton of energy, very positive, very passionate about the game and very passionate about the Bears’ program,” said Herbers. “In the summertime, we were looking and wanted to add one more person (to the coaching staff). I thought of Rachel right away just because of the passion she had.”

As the possibility of coaching with the Golden Bears began to become a reality, Rachel needed one more nod from a crucial group - the players.

“I wanted to make sure it was good with the guys first before I said yes,” said Rachel. “I wanted to make sure they were comfortable first and foremost (with a woman joining the coaching staff) because if they aren’t comfortable, I’m not going to serve a beneficial purpose.”

Herbers was confident it wouldn’t be an issue.

“I knew we had a great group of guys with the Bears and the leadership we had on the ice and in the dressing room that it wouldn’t be an issue,” said Herbers. “(T)hey were excited…. I don’t think many of them have had a female coach so it’s something different for them.”

With 11 of her 14 playing years spent as one of a few females on male teams, Rachel’s transition to the Golden Bears was seamless.

“The coaching staff has been really supportive, the players are really receptive to feedback, they’re very respectful,” said Rachel. “People always ask how the year’s gone, what it’s been like and if there are any challenges with it and other than winning a national championship, it couldn’t have been better. It was phenomenal and a great first year.”

Rachel’s passion for the Golden Bears program doesn’t fall far from the tree. Her father, Dan Wiebe, played in the program for four seasons (1987-1991). After a coaching stint in the East Coast Hockey League, Dan returned to Alberta where he has given back to the game in a minor coach and mentor capacity.

“Having the opportunity to play and then get into coaching … at a semi-professional league, I learned a lot about the game and really my knowledge of the game would come from the Golden Bear program,” said Dan, who admits to fatherly pride in seeing Rachel’s achievements. “Having seen (Rachel) have the opportunity with that tradition and that history, I can’t say enough about it…. Hopefully down the road she will have the opportunity to share that with other coaches and players and develop her own style and grow her game as well.”

Growing up, Dan coached Rachel through the minor ranks. Now as she begins her own coaching career, although her style has some of Dan’s influence, she’s starting to create her own style too, including working to complete her High Performance 1 coach certification.

“This is such an ideal situation. It’s great to bounce ideas off each other because it’s not just me going to him and asking for advice, now he comes to me too,” said Rachel.

For Herbers, Rachel has emerged as a key part of his coaching staff because she looks at the game from a different perspective.

“She’s always looking for something different than I am,” said Herbers. “I liked the way she thought the game, what she saw development wise …. I’m always looking for ways to challenge our players and our team to keep getting better and she’s done that for us.”

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Hockey Alberta encourages everyone to take the time to recognize and thank a coach in their community this week for National Coaches Week. National Coaches Week runs from September 17-25, 2022.

Home Ice Feature

Passion for Para Ice Hockey

RED DEER – Para Ice Hockey in Canada got its start in Medicine Hat.

With that history, it is only natural that Medicine Hat native Tara Chisholm - who is the head coach of Canada’s Women’s National Para Ice Hockey Team - found her way to the sport.

“The original sled was brought over from Sweden. They asked a whole bunch of larger disability organizations … if they wanted to start sledge hockey,” said Chisholm, “Then a women called Jean Lane in Medicine Hat said, ‘I’ll start it if no one else wants to.’ So she worked with a local playground manufacturer and they built the first ever sleds in Canada.”

HISTORY OF PARA HOCKEY >

Chisholm’s passion for hockey began like most in Alberta – coming up through the minor ranks. When she moved on to university in Edmonton, she turned to coaching. Mentoring under Howie Draper, head coach for the University of Alberta Pandas, she couldn’t get enough of the game so she reached out to a number of organizations, including a Para program. The Para program was looking for on-ice support so Chisholm began volunteering after school and Panda practices.

That was in 2008.

“At the time I got into Para ice hockey, there was also a young guy named Matt Cook who was playing junior A hockey and had osteosarcoma. He ended up losing his leg to cancer. So him and I were both trying to figure out Para hockey at the same time,” said Chisholm. “To have somebody else to stumble through it with was really nice because we knew what we were supposed to do on the ice but to be able to actually skate and get there was a different story. You have a whole new set of skills you have to learn but the game itself is the same.”

When she returned to Medicine Hat in 2013, Chisholm revived the program that Lane had begun years prior. She worked with groups from Edmonton to help write grants, get sleds in the community and book ice times to grow the program to what is now one of the largest Para programs in the province.

In 2014, Chisholm added to her volunteer resume by starting her tenure in the role she still holds as head coach of national women’s Para team.

What began as a grassroots community program is now a high-performance program with elite standards that continues strive to get the female game into the Paralympics, similar to the men’s side.

“I’ve been really fortunate to work with a lot of people who just truly love the game of hockey and want women with disabilities to be able to showcase their skills in the game of hockey and are passionate about that. When you’re around passionate people the hard work doesn’t seem quite as hard or at least you’re lifted with other people,” said Chisholm.

The first Women’s World Para Hockey Challenge took place in Green Bay, Wisconsin in August. It featured teams from Great Britain, Canada, the United States and “the World”. Team Canada earned the silver medal, losing to the USA in the final.

But Chisholm considers the event a win for the Canadian players because of the hurdles they had to go through just to get on the ice.

Players and staff paid their own way to the Challenge, supplementing some money from fundraisers with their own cash. The team wears Hockey Canada jerseys, but is not associated with the organization, nor is it funded by Sport Canada. The staff is composed of passionate volunteers, while the players pay to play. Personal holidays/ time off are used so staff and players can participate in the team’s events.

“Our immediate goal is to become funded, similar to our USA Hockey counterparts,” said Chisholm. “Right now, USA Hockey has decided to fund the women’s national program, even though they are not in a World Championship or Paralympic Games. They decided that it’s a priority for them to give equitable access to their women the same that they do as their men’s team. So that’s what we’ll be looking for in the short term.”

For the World Challenge, Chisholm worked to keep costs as low as possible for the players. Tryouts were hosted in April, but some players were unable to attend. So Chisholm and her assistant coach Derek Whitson (who is also her husband and a former Para ice hockey player) travelled across the country to host regional camps. With players spread coast to coast and one in England, Chisholm created an online course on terminology and systems, and scheduled team workouts over Zoom a few times a week. With the leadership of veteran players, many felt it was the closest team they had ever been on – even though most didn’t meet in person until day one of the Challenge.

As performances on the international stage become more consistent, Chisholm’s long-term goal for Women’s Para Ice Hockey is to see it in the Paralympics and a World Championship.

“Our amazing group of volunteers hope that if we can take some of the pressure of raising money for Canada off our plate, we’re able to help other countries more. Which is what we need internationally for this sport,” said Chisholm. “My husband and I have been very fortunate to travel to a few different countries to help jumpstart their programs. The less work I have to do here in Canada with other Canadians supporting our women, then the more work I can do internationally.”

In addition to her work locally, nationally and internationally, Chisholm also sits on Hockey Alberta’s Para Hockey Committee, which meets monthly to discuss the growth of the program in the province.

“We’ve seen more growth and are starting to become a leader in the sport. (W)hen I first started it was Ontario and Quebec that were leading the way,” said Chisholm. “Now people are looking to Alberta for ideas for how to get the sport growing in their own province or even in their own country. We get asks from all over the world about what we’re doing here.”

Hockey Alberta is hosting a Para Kick-Off Weekend September 10-11 in Red Deer at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre. On Saturday, para players, or those interested in trying para, are welcome to participate in a one-day camp. Then, on Sunday, Chisholm will be hosting a para coaching clinic. Those interested can still register online.

For more information on Para ice hockey in Alberta, check out the Hockey Alberta website for a list of clubs throughout the province.

Home Ice Feature

Continuing to be better

Trina Radcliffe’s life has come full circle as the manager of athletics at Olds College.

The positive impact she’s making on students goes beyond athletics, as she works with the college to make it an inclusive and safe space for all.

When you arrive on campus at Olds College, you are welcomed by three flags flying proudly across the Alberta skies. Throughout the month of June, the red and white of the Canadian flag is anchored by the blue of the Alberta flag on one side, and the rainbow colours of the Pride flag on the other. It signifies the welcome, inclusive and safe space the institution is working to provide its staff, students and community.

Over the last decade, Olds College has worked to develop its Broncos athletics program, expanding to include basketball, volleyball, futsal, rodeo and women’s hockey. The growth that Broncos Athletics has seen over the last five years can be credited to Radcliffe and the team she has built.

Radcliffe, originally from Oyen, Alta., is a product of her small-town roots. She grew up playing baseball and school sports, not because she was a standout on the court with her 5-foot-2 frame, but because the school needed her to have a team. In the winter, she could be found on the backyard rink built by her dad where she learned to play hockey with her three brothers. It wasn’t until she was 13 that she finally got to lace up for organized hockey. An hour away in Hanna they were starting a girls’ program. And as the story goes in small-town Alberta – they needed everyone to have a team.

“There was everything from nine-year-olds to 18-year-olds on that team. I was in the middle at 13 years old and loved the experience of playing hockey with girls,” says Radcliffe. “I’d always played hockey, but never got to play organized, just on the pond, so getting to play organized hockey for the first time was such an incredible experience.”

It was a twist of fate that led to a goaltending career. Radcliffe, who had played defence until then, was first in line to strap on the pads when the team’s goaltender got hurt. She was a natural between the posts and made the transition to goalie. It was a decision that paid off when she became the first goaltender for the women’s hockey team at Mount Royal College (now Mount Royal University) in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC).

Taking the lessons she learned as part of a start-up team in small-town Alberta, Radcliffe applied the same techniques to starting the team at Mount Royal.

“You just go and talk to as many people as you can and convince them that it might be scary, but come out and give it a try,” offers Radcliffe. “Myself and my coach, Chris Dawe, were putting up posters saying, ‘Come try out,’ We had ringette players, we had people who had never played hockey before, who had only public skated before, could barely skate when they came to try out. We played in the intramural league, wearing the men’s old jerseys. We played until midnight some nights and then we played in exhibition tournaments with Augustana, Red Deer and Grant MacEwan, so that was kind of the start of women’s ACAC hockey back in 1998.”

Her role in starting the Mount Royal women’s team led Radcliffe to her next transition – from player to administration. During her last season with Mount Royal, she was coached by Shelly Coolidge, who was also the female development manager at Hockey Canada. Whenever Coolidge needed volunteers, Radcliffe was there. Because of the network she had built, Radcliffe eventually earned a full-time position with Hockey Canada as the female development coordinator before moving into the manager position.

In 2015, Radcliffe made the move to Olds College. She saw the move as a return to her small-town roots, but with the opportunity to stay connected to the network she had built over years of volunteering.

“I got to know people,” says Radcliffe. “Just building that network and volunteering. That’s still what I tell everyone. Just build your network, don’t worry about getting paid for everything that you do and volunteer. That’s basically how I got every job in sport since then.”

Radcliffe grew up in a family that gave back to the community thugh volunteering. Reaping the rewards of her own experiences, Radcliffe has asked the Broncos to give back and be involved in their community.

“We’ve seen our Broncos women’s hockey team coaching minor hockey teams, going out to schools and skating with the physical education programs and we’re seeing them in all of the Hockey Alberta camps as team leaders and assistant coaches. So that’s one of the things I’m most proud of,” Radcliffe says.

Broncos athletes spent over 3,700 hours in the last year volunteering in the community. Radcliffe has recognized that it’s a struggle for most organizations to find volunteers right now, but that struggle creates opportunity for student-athletes in Olds.

“It honestly is such an important part of who we are. It’s engrained in our student-athletes. They’ll come to me now and [ask] who needs help. Who needs help in the community? Pretty much anything, we want them out there. My number-one goal is to help our student-athletes grow as people and to provide them opportunity. [Volunteering] was the best way for me and I want to instill that in them.”

Radcliffe’s work at Olds College has not gone unnoticed. In April, she received the Colleges & institutes Canada Leadership Excellence Award for Managerial Staff. The award acknowledges her work to create a collaborative, welcoming team that makes a positive impact on students, while doing it under the strategic plan of the institution. The support Radcliffe feels from her team, leadership and the community is what encourages her to be creative and collaborative.

The support from the community is what has encouraged Olds College to establish the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) in 2019 and an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee. The GSA is composed of faculty, staff and representatives from Olds High School, with Radcliffe playing an instrumental role in their development.

“Olds High School is actually the ones who taught us how to implement a GSA at the college because they have such a strong GSA group at their high school,” says Radcliffe. “It just started as staff as allies. It has taken us four years for students to feel comfortable to say ‘Yeah, I’m an ally. I’ll come and be a part of the GSA.’ So, it’s been huge steps and that’s the goal, is that the GSA should be student-led.”

Radcliffe is a member of the LGTBQ+ community and the EDI Committee. Currently, the college is working on safe-space signage for offices. In addition, there are 27 gender-inclusive washrooms available on campus, two Pride flags flying high and an EDI webpage complete with resources and directories for Indigenous students, people of colour and the GSA.

“I think everyone is trying to achieve the same thing,” Radcliffe says, reflecting on the progress she has led. “Whether it’s in sport, EDI, the registrar’s office and recruitment of student-athletes, everyone is trying to be better and do better.

“Being able to represent the LGBTQ+ community here, we’re working on painting a crosswalk on campus as well. The town has supported us. The town has gotten behind and sat on our EDI Committee as well. And I think that’s all important.”

Although June marks Pride Month across the country, the efforts to be better do not end on June 30.

“You have to be repetitive with it,” Radcliffe says. “So every year when we start our registration process for our minor sports leagues, every year when we do the initial team meetings, we talk about how we are going to be kind, how we are going to treat each other with respect, how we will not tolerate bullying on the basis of the colour of the skin or gender or sexual identity or any of those things and it has to be on the forefront all the time. But we have to be repetitive about it. We have to always talk about it.”

Home Ice Feature

Officiating a family affair for the Woods’

LETHBRIDGE – For Brent, Ryan, and Levi Woods, a life in the game of hockey has come in the form of officiating.

Growing up in small town British Columbia, Brent Woods was recruited to become an official from a family friend around the age of 14 or 15. When he moved to Alberta for university, he debated whether to continue with officiating, and ultimately opted to stick with it as it was a good way to make some extra money and spend his spare time.

He would eventually begin a role with the South Region Officials Committee as the lead of the mentoring and supervision program, which would continue with for many years. Along with that role, Brent also took on a role as an assigner. After taking a break from the Board, he is now back on as the Vice-Chair and lead of their grassroots program, which is aimed at recruiting more officials, particularly in rural areas.

With such a prominent role on the officials committee, it was only natural that his two sons, Ryan and Levi, would step in and join their father. Ryan has now been an official for six seasons, claiming that his love for the game was the reason for getting into it. When he stopped playing hockey, it was a great way for him to still be involved.

Levi just completed his first season as an official, which he says had some bumps in the road, but he continued to progress and get more comfortable with every game that he was a part of. He says that he would lean on his Father and Brother for advice throughout the year.

The trio were able to work a few games as crew, something that they said was a fun and unique experience.

“It makes it easier when we’re out there,” said Ryan. “When I’m refereeing a game and I know that my two linesmen are my dad and my brother, it’s easier for me because I know them personally, and I know I can have good communication between them.”

As a mentor, Brent’s best advice to a young official is to just go out and try it, and if you see a penalty, call it. Whether it’s the right or wrong call, if you saw it, trust your judgement, and make the call. That advice is something that both of his sons echo as younger officials.

“This is something I’ve wanted for a long time,” said Brent. “It gives me comfortability and confidence when I can be out there with them, and make sure they are getting respect from the coaches, fans, and players.”

Home Ice Feature

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force Listening to Understand

RED DEER – Recognizing the need for change in sport culture, Hockey Alberta set out to understand the extent to which racism and lack of inclusion impacts hockey across the province. The organization formed the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Task Force in October 2021. Over the last seven months, the task force has been working to change the narrative.

June marks the celebration of Pride Month and National Indigenous History Month. Members of the task force include Justin Connelly, who identifies as a gay male, and Devin Buffalo, a member of the Samson Cree Nation.

Connelly sits on the Board of Directors of the Calgary Inclusive Hockey Association (CIHA). Pioneers of LGBTQ+ hockey awareness in Alberta, the CIHA has a spot on the roster for everyone of all skill levels. Connelly’s own hockey experience has allowed him to bring a unique perspective to the EDI Task Force.

“The reason why I joined Hockey Alberta’s EDI Task Force is because I want to be able to give back to the game and sport that have meant so much to me. I have played, volunteered and worked in hockey the majority of my life,” said Connelly. “But at the age of 17, I stopped playing, I felt different. I didn’t feel included in the sport, in the game that I love. At the age of 23, I came out and realized it was okay to be myself. My true and genuine self, be confident, and still play the sport I love. I want to be able to give back and for other people like me to feel the exact same way. I want to make sure that hockey is an inclusive, open and a safe place for them so they can play the sport they love and be who they are without anyone standing in their way.”

Buffalo is a member of the Samson Cree Nation and grew up in Wetaskiwin. Over the course of his minor hockey career, he faced racism. He chose to overcome the remarks by showing what he was capable of on the ice. His goaltending career led him to the Alberta Junior Hockey League, Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and his performances earned him a scholarship to Dartmouth College. In his third season, he was nominated for the prestigious Hobey Baker Memorial award for the top men’s hockey player in the NCAA.

“As an indigenous player playing hockey in Alberta, I faced racism and stereotypes. In particular, during a racial incident in hockey there was a feeling of fear, confusion, I really had no idea what to do in the moment. No one to turn to,” said Buffalo. “Like many players who have faced racism in hockey there was no outlet, or I didn’t feel safe sharing what happened to me at the time. Threatened that my position might get taken away from me, etc.”

After five seasons playing professionally in the East Coast Hockey League, Buffalo returned to Alberta to set his sights on new goals. In 2020, he began Waniska Athletics, named for a Cree word that means “wake up and rise,” Buffalo has delivered hockey camps and virtual school tours to Indigenous youth. He is currently attending law school at the University of Alberta.

“I really do think that this committee is headed in the right direction in Hockey Alberta and it’s very exciting to be a part of that,” said Buffalo. “When I had this opportunity to join this task force I thought maybe it was a good opportunity to have my voice heard and to have an influence in policy making and to make a difference so that no other indigenous hockey player had to deal with that and they had avenues and they had ways and people to support them.”

During the month of June, celebrate Pride and National Indigenous History Month while taking the time to listen to the stories. The EDI Task Force is listening to the experiences to improve the game of hockey for the better. Hockey Alberta encourages everyone to step up and make the game more inclusive for every individual because hockey is for everyone.

Home Ice Feature

Asian Heritage Month - Celebrating the Legacies of Greatness

Each May, we celebrate Asian Heritage Month. Throughout the month, Hockey Alberta reflects on the many achievements and contributions of Albertans of Asian heritage who, throughout our history, have done so much to make hockey the game we know and love.

To celebrate this year’s theme, “Continuing a legacy of greatness,” we first must look back at the legacies of those before us, including Larry Kwong. Born in Vernon, B.C., Kwong quickly became an offensive phenom for the Vernon Hyrdophones at 16 years old. As his skills heightened, so did the impact of World War II. Kwong put his dreams on hold to enlist in the army. His basic training stationed him in Red Deer, where he played for the army’s Red Deer Wheelers. As his comrades were sent overseas, Kwong was instructed to stay in Red Deer to play hockey to entertain the troops. During this time, he found himself facing off against NHL’ers and holding his own. Little did he know, his dreams were in motion. Kwong, a trailblazer for Chinese-Canadian players became the first player of Asian heritage and the first person of colour to play in the NHL. Kwong played his first and last shift in the league on March 13, 1948, but he opened the gate for many to follow, like Steve Tsujiura of Coaldale.

Though he never played in the NHL, Tsujiura put up impressive numbers and received several WHL awards to catch the eyes of the professional scouts. In 1981, he was chosen in the 10th round of the 1981 NHL draft by the Philadelphia Flyers. Tsujiura’s professional career spanned over 14 seasons in the AHL and in leagues overseas in Switzerland and Italy. Prior to the 1998 Winter Olympic Games, he was extended an invitation to represent Japan on the national stage. Following the Games, Tsujiura retired from playing to take on the role of head coach of the Japanese National Team. Tsujiura saw the coaching position as an opportunity to stay in the game, something he took advantage of for four seasons before retiring from the game completely.

Similar to Tsujiura, Kassy Betinol’s Olympic debut came in 2022 with the Chinese Women’s National Team. The Okotoks native received an invitation to centralize with Team China because of her Chinese heritage. Betinol became a fixture on Team Alberta growing up and played in the Okanagan in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League before earning a scholarship to Minnesota-Duluth University. After a rookie NCAA season cut short due to COVID-19, Betinol received an invitation to Canada’s National Women’s Development Team 2020 Summer Camp. After spending her 2021-22 season with the Chinese National Team, Betinol will return for another season at Minnesota-Duluth before looking for professional opportunities. She credits her Team Alberta experience for aiding in her development in a organized and professional environment to set her up in the success she has achieved thus far in her career.

The Team Alberta program is constructed to develop not only the players, but support staff as well, which is what trainer Alex Le was looking for when he volunteered. Le, of Calgary, has volunteered with Hockey Alberta on several occasions, including as the U16 Equipment Manager and Trainer in 2015 and 2016. Joining the Northwest Calgary Athletics Association as the trainer for the Midget A Bruins in 2007, Le was looking to learn and grow when he began volunteering with Hockey Alberta. Also an employee of Hockey Alberta’s long-time partner and supporter, ATB Financial, Le concludes that ATB is here to support Albertans through everything, just like Hockey Alberta.

Kwong, Tsujiura, Betinol and Le have stamped their mark on the game in their own way. Reflecting on their legacies, we will look to the next generations of Asian-Canadians to continue the legacy of greatness on the sport of hockey.

Home Ice Feature

Carving the Path for Next Generation

Today (March 8) is International Women’s Day – a day to celebrate women and their achievements. On this day, and throughout the year, Hockey Alberta celebrates women at all levels of the game.

To commemorate the day, Hockey Alberta spoke with two noteworthy Team Alberta alumnae - 2022 Olympic Gold Medalist Emerance Maschmeyer and three-time Olympic medalist, Meaghan Mikkelson.

Mikkelson, from St. Albert, is a two-time Gold-medal Olympian (2010, 2014) and won silver in 2018. She is one of the greatest players to hit the ice with a national career that spanned over 15 years. She looks back to the importance of being exposed to female role models in hockey that pushed her to be the player she is today.

“I look back and think about camps that I went to. There was one at the University of Calgary and I remember Hayley Wickenheiser was there and Danielle Goyette. That was huge for me,” said Mikkelson. “Back then there was no social media, you couldn’t follow these players and see what they were up to or be inspired by what they were doing on a daily basis to become better.”

“Now I think it’s great for young females because they have more access to female hockey players. There’s a lot more visibility in terms of marketing and advertising, companies have made it a priority to put these females out there because they understand the value in how they serve as role models for young hockey players everywhere and not just females, but males as well.”

Maschmeyer, from Bruderheim, is fresh off a Gold Medal performance at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, and is no stranger to the international stage. But she points to her Alberta roots as a key to her success to date.

“I’ve met some incredible people along the way through my journey in Alberta. Growing up in minor hockey, playing in Alberta,” said Maschmeyer. “I’ve had so much support, and this is where my game really grew. As I got older, obviously the small details of my game got better, but where I really became a hockey player was in Alberta.”

Maschmeyer made her debut with Canada’s U18 Women’s Team in 2012. Since then, her journey is similar to other women’s professional hockey players.

After honing her skills in the NCAA with Harvard, Maschmeyer found success in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL), where she won a Clarkson Cup before the league folded in 2019. As a member of the Professional Women’s Hockey Player Association (PWHPA), Maschmeyer has joined forces with the top females in the game to advocate for a sustainable professional women’s hockey league for the next generation.

“The Olympics came at a great time for us, especially with the last couple years with our professional league folding and with COVID where there has been a little bit of a lull,” said Maschmeyer. “It’s been a tough world for women’s hockey. Seeing the viewership for the games and the amount of support that we had, it really reassures that what we’re doing is great for the game and that we do have that support. It’s awesome to see.”

For Mikkelson, a decorated veteran of the game, the time is now for a professional league.

“To build off of that momentum from the Olympics, we say that every four years, but I think right now we have the most momentum that we’ve ever had,” said Mikkelson. “For there to be a professional women’s league, there needs to be support, there needs to be belief. I really do believe that’s the only way that we’re going to keep that momentum and that we’re going to continue to grow the game. We’re at a pivotal point where the game has grown so much.”

Mikkelson has built her own presence on social media and strives to share the ups and downs of life as a mom, athlete and career-woman. Sharing her journey, she’s considered a role model of many.

“I try to have the most positive impact that I can because I know what a positive impact it had for me as a young player and honestly, it’s an honour to have someone come up to me and so you’re my role model,” said Mikkelson. “I’m lucky that I have two children that I have to serve as a positive role model for them every single day and I take a lot of time and pride in thinking about what do I want that to look like?”

Mikkelson takes the responsibility of being a role model seriously and encourages everyone to set the bar high. And she now takes inspiration from a new set of role models, who are trailblazing in the National Hockey League.

“Growing up, I always wanted to be the GM of an NHL team. That was something that I never vocalized, I never talked about it because I never thought that it was possible. But now recently you see women like Émilie Castonguay and Cammi Granato and what they’re doing as assistant general managers with the Vancouver Canucks, Hayley Wickenheiser with the Toronto Maple Leafs and there are these trailblazing women who are leaving their mark on the game at an extremely high level and it’s showing that they are great hockey minds first,” said Mikkelson. “For me, seeing those women doing what they’re doing, it’s extremely inspiring and it inspired me to be vocal about my passion and my aspirations and my goals.”

Maschmeyer and Mikkelson have become household names in the female hockey world and like all females, wear many hats and have a variety of roles. Mikkelson reminds everyone to take a moment each day and check in on themselves because self-care is important and you’re at your best when your glass is full.

Take the opportunity today to celebrate the women in your life and their achievements in all their roles.

Home Ice Feature

Black History Month - Tommy Hamilton

GRANDE PRAIRIE - Tommy Hamilton was an elite athlete who chose to dedicate his life giving back to his community and ensuring all youth had an opportunity to be involved in sport.

A Black man, born in Texas and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Hamilton’s athletic talent led him to the Peace Country in the 1950s – first in northwestern Alberta and eventually in northeastern British Columbia.

Hamilton’s athletic career started in boxing and baseball. In the ring, he was an amateur boxing welterweight champion, winning a Golden Gloves tournament in Kansas City. In 1940, Hamilton joined the army where he won the American Army Welterweight Championship in 1945.

As a baseball player, Hamilton was reportedly among the best catchers in the game. He suited up for teams across the continent, including the Los Angeles White Sox and the Oakland Beavers of the Pacific Coast Professional Loop. Stops on the playing schedule included Canadian cities from Ontario to B.C.

As Hamilton travelled across Canada, he began to take an interest in the country. While playing in an exhibition series with the Beavers against Alliance Southern Alberta, the manager of the Alliance team extended an invitation to him to play. Without hesitation, Hamilton accepted, and he and his family headed north.

Upon arriving in Alberta, Hamilton continued to play baseball and box. But his focus began to shift as he settled in High Prairie in 1952. There, his new passion flourished – coaching. He coached baseball, boxing and hockey.

Having never strapped on a pair of skates, Hamilton became a student of the game. During his two years in High Prairie, he coached two teams to the Provincial finals.

In 1957, Hamilton, his wife and six boys moved to Grande Prairie. The move came with changes. He chose to hang up his gloves and focus on training boxers. He played ball for the local men’s team but the time spent behind the plate had taken its toll and after a year, Hamilton turned to coaching.

Hamilton’s passion for giving back to the sports he loved was unmatched, and his character never wavered - always willing, always present, and always smiling. Training and coaching hockey and baseball, he ensured everyone had a spot in the game. Parents were tasked with roles and Hamilton would find a place for the kids who could not play due to health or disabilities.

In an effort to give back, Hamilton sponsored a new club in the Grande Prairie area – the House of Athletics. The club was organized for boys aged 14-20 intended to sponsor sporting activities, including hockey and baseball tournaments.

“I like kids,” Hamilton was quoted in a story in the Grande Prairie Herald Tribune. “Somebody has to help them and I like it, so why not me?”

When he wasn’t training or coaching, Hamilton could be found volunteering in the community, including constructing hockey rinks.

Using his experience as a boxer and baseball player, Hamilton became the trainer for the local senior hockey team, the Grande Prairie Athletics. He was a crowd favourite and he often delivered words of advice and encouragement when tending to an injured player.

Hamilton’s contributions to the community did not go unnoticed. In a profile on Hamilton published at Grande Prairie Hockey Legends, Dave Emerson – who knew Hamilton while Emerson was a high school student - talked about Hamilton’s impact.

“Tommy’s activities and the example he set kept us off the streets,” recalled Emerson. “He was one of those few community-minded people who gave freely of his time on evenings and weekends coaching, caring for and organizing sports for kids. Tommy Hamilton was that person. He was all heart and he gave so much for so many of us young kids in that era.”

Some questioned why Hamilton never received much formal recognition. When the position of Athletic Director became available, it was thought that Hamilton would be a sure fit. But he ended up being passed over for the position.

After 12 years in Grande Prairie, Hamilton’s contributions to recreation and the community were known throughout the Peace Country, and he accepted the Athletic Director position in Dawson Creek. The Hamilton family moved to Pouce Coupe, and Hamilton continued to give back to the community in Dawson Creek.

In 1973, Hamilton was presented the Earl Johnson Memorial Award as Dawson Creek’s sportsman of the year.

Hamilton passed away suddenly in 1980, at the age of 66. The legacy that he left behind has made a lasting impact on recreation in the Peace River country.

For more information on Tommy Hamilton, and the significant impact he had on sports in northwestern Alberta, check out his profile at Grande Prairie Hockey Legends.

Home Ice Feature

First Annual Peace Country Female Jamboree a Success

BEAVERLODGE – The inaugural Peace Country Jamboree was a huge success in providing a unique opportunity for young female hockey players in northern Alberta.

The Jamboree was co-hosted by the Peace Country Female Hockey Club, and Beaverlodge and Sexsmith Minor Hockey Associations, October 29-30. The event was open to registered U7-U13 female hockey players, who spent the weekend honing their skills on the ice and showcasing their skills among their female peers.

The Jamboree featured players learning from female coaches like Tanya Chomyc, who led various drills and exercises to help the young players develop their skills.

Christy Martin, the Jamboree’s organizer, believes these types of events are very important for young female players, especially those in the north where the opportunity to play on an all-female team can be limited due to numbers.

“I’ve noticed, seeing my sons play and then my daughter who was in her first year of U13, we could see their drive was a little bit different. Once we moved her into girl’s hockey, her drive has immensely increased. She’s not just the girl sitting on the blue line,” said Martin. “So, I think the girls really realized that when they had a scrimmage for their last session [at the Jamboree]. They all got to participate. So, I think it really opened their eyes, especially the younger girls, just to see that there’s a team out there for them.”

In accordance with COVID-19 restrictions, attendance was capped at 60 (30 for U7/U9 players, and 30 for U11/ U13 players), with the focus on on-ice activities. Parents and family members also had the opportunity to watch the players as they learned and interacted.

Martin hopes that the Jamboree inspires other small hockey associations to establish all female hockey programs to help encourage young women to play.

And there are plans to expand the Jamboree in the future. Martin said the Jamboree hopes to increase the number of players who can participate, especially at the U7 and U9 levels, and to include off-ice activities, such as seminars led by women who played hockey beyond the minor level to inspire younger players who might feel like they do not have a place in hockey. Other plans include a luncheon for the players, and other interactive activities to allow the players time to get to know each other.

For more information on Female Hockey programs existing all-female Minor Hockey leagues and grassroots Female Hockey programs can be found on the Hockey Alberta website.


Have you been inspired by someone in Alberta’s hockey community? Hockey Alberta is interested in highlighting individuals and groups who make a difference or have a unique story to tell. Submit your story idea by email to: [email protected].

Home Ice Feature

Sixteen Albertans listed in NHL Central Scouting’s Midterm Rankings

RED DEER - NHL Central Scouting has released its midterm rankings for the 2022 NHL draft with 16 Albertans making an appearance.

Two Albertan skaters landed in the top 32 of the North American skater rankings: Matt Savoie and Rieger Lorenz.

Ty Young is the lone goaltender to crack the top North American goaltenders.

The full list of Albertans appearing in the NHL Central Scouting midterm rankings can be found below:

Midterm Rank Player Position Team League
3 Matt Savoie Forward Winnipeg Ice WHL
24 Rieger Lorenz Forward Okotoks Oilers AJHL
33 Jagger Firkus Forward Moose Jaw Warriors WHL
43 Jordan Gustafson Forward Seattle Thunderbirds WHL
67 Dylan James Forward Sioux City USHL
70 Kent Anderson Defence Green Bay Gamblers USHL
85 Reid Schaefer Forward Seattle Thunderbirds WHL
95 Kai Uchacz Forward Red Deer Rebels WHL
97 Jake Sloan Forward Tri-City Americans WHL
99 Rylen Roersma Forward Brandon Wheat Kings WHL
127 Josh Davies Forward Swift Current Broncos WHL
136 Keaton Dowhaniuk Defence Prince George Cougars WHL
140 Charlie Wright Defence Saskatoon Blades WHL
154 Ben Hemmerling Forward Everett Silvertips WHL
192 Bowden Singleton Forward Okotoks Oilers AJHL
21 Ty Young Goaltender Prince George Cougars WHL

Home Ice Feature

Hockey Gives Back Across Alberta

Throughout 2021, the hockey community has rallied together. This holiday season, teams from across the province have committed good deeds in their communities. Hockey Alberta is featuring some of those teams who have given back this season.


Girls Hockey Calgary

Girls Hockey Calgary collaborated as an association to complete a food drive in November for the Veterans Association Food Bank. Fifty teams dropped off donations in one day. In total, the association filled 26 skids of food and more of toilet paper, paper towel, Kleenex, cleaning and hygiene products.

Hockey Alberta NewsHockey Alberta NewsHockey Alberta News


Fort Saskatchewan U16 AAA

On December 19, the U16 AAA TC Infrastructure Rangers of Fort Saskatchewan played their home game versus the St. Albert Tetz Powell CPAs Flyers in support of Ty’s Toy Drive. For every goal scored, TC Infrastructure donated $100 per goal and $50 per assist. Via cash donations and 50/50 sales, a total of $2,469 was raised for the cause. Five full boxes of toys were collected upon admission. Ty’s Toy Drive is organized by seven-year-old Tyler to donate toys to kids at the Stollery Children’s Hospital.

Hockey Alberta NewsHockey Alberta News


PAC Saints U15 AA Green - Parkland County

The U15 AA PAC Saints Green are embodying the giving season. The team participated in the Kinettes Christmas Hamper Program. The team collected donations of food and money at their local “No Frills”, a 50/50 draw as well as a “fill the net” event. Through their efforts, the PAC Saints Green raised over $1,000 in cash, gift cards and toys to help families in need this holiday season.

Hockey Alberta News


Barrhead Bucks U11

The U11 Barrhead Bucks delivered the holiday spirit to their local continuing care centre this season. The team provided gift baskets filled with necessities to each resident and spread cheer through singing Christmas songs.

Hockey Alberta News


Wainwright U18 and U15 AA

At the December 11 home games, Wainwright’s U18 and U15 AA Polar Kings collected food donations to donate to the local food bank.

Hockey Alberta News


Camrose U13 AA

On their Saturday off, the U13 AA Camrose Vikings traversed the streets of Camrose collecting cash and food bank items. The donation were the finishing touches to the local Christmas hampers that were distributed to 300 families in need in Camrose.

Hockey Alberta News


Grande Prairie Minor Hockey Association

Grande Prairie Minor Hockey Association rallied together to generate over 800 lbs of food for the Golden Arrow U15 AAA Storm Christmas Food Drive. The association donated approximately 40 boxes of food that will help many people within the community!

Hockey Alberta News


Delburne U15 Tournament

Delburne’s U15 division added a twist to their tournament activities - a food bank challenge. The Delburne Food Bank received a truck load of goods and cash donations while the winning team enjoyed pizza for their efforts.

Hockey Alberta News


Coaldale Minor Hockey Association

Beginning on December 1, the Coaldale Minor Hockey Association began collecting donations for the local food bank. With a goal to fill "the box", the association amassed a truck load that was delivered to help those in the community in need.

Hockey Alberta NewsHockey Alberta NewsHockey Alberta News


Smoky River Minor Hockey Association

The Smoky River Minor Hockey Association’s U7, U9 and U11 teams displayed their skills in a minor hockey showcase earlier this season. They showcased more than their on-ice skills as the teams channelled their community spirit and competed to fill a hockey bag with the most donations to the local FCSS. Each team was a winner as they combined for over 482 lbs of food to be donated to fill the Christmas food hampers to help those in the community this holiday season!

Hockey Alberta News


Coaldale U18 Cobras

Coaldale’s U18 Cobras are giving back all season long. The team has volunteered to participate in the Town of Coaldale’s Snow Angels program. After each snowfall this winter, the team will remove snow for those who are unable to do it themselves.

Hockey Alberta News


Drumheller U15 and U18 Raptors

In support of the Salvation Army’s Tree of Hope, the Drumheller U15 and U18’s held a toy drive at their home games on November 20. The toy drive was a huge success, with the proceeds from the 50/50 going towards the initiative. The teams are already planning for bigger and better in 2022!

Hockey Alberta NewsHockey Alberta News


Calgary Knights Hockey Club U11-3 and U9-2 Grey

Hockey Calgary’s U11-3 and U9-2 Grey teamed up to adopt a family through the North East Calgary Adopt-A-Family Society (NECAAFS). Through the generosity by the two teams, they were able to provide clothes, toys, essentials and grocery gift certificates totalling in excess of $1000 for their "adopted family".

Hockey Alberta NewsHockey Alberta News


Has your team or association committed a good deed in the community this holiday season? Hockey Alberta wants to hear about it! Submit the way your team is giving back this holiday season by clicking this link:

Hockey Gives Back

Home Ice Feature

Honouring the Human Behind the Uniform

In 2021, November has notably marked the return of hockey. Life has returned to the busy routine of moving from one activity from the next.

But today, November 11, Hockey Alberta encourages everyone to take a moment to remember those who have fought for our freedoms and honour those who continue to serve.

One of those current officers is also a member of Alberta hockey community - Canadian Armed Forces Commanding Officer, Major Leona Ahn.

Having served for more than 16 years, Leona is currently stationed in Edmonton. As a 23-year-old, she deployed to Afghanistan. Since returning to home soil, she has worked in international events such as the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, relief efforts after natural disasters such as the 2013 floods in Southern Alberta, and 2016 wildfires in Northern Alberta. Most recently, she has aided in the fight against COVID-19.

Though Leona didn’t grow up playing hockey, she fell in love because of the sport. Leona met her spouse, Angie, during a ball hockey tournament. An ice hockey player herself including a stint with the University of Alberta Pandas, Angie enrolled Leona in hockey lessons and Leona was hooked. Sealing their fate of being hockey Moms, their five-year-old daughter began playing Timbits this season.

With a family at home, Leona credits Angie and their two kids for her success and drive.

“I would be nothing without Angie and our family and I know that a lot of military members would say the same thing,” said Leona. “We cannot do what we do, we cannot do what we love, without our families and the incredible sacrifices of parenting alone. The postings, the instability for families sometimes and putting them through that and still having a smile and supporting, that means the world to us.”

For Angie, who is a teacher, being part of a military family means that schedules can change quite quickly, depending on Leona’s role at the time. But it is worth it.

“It’s a real honour to be a spouse to someone in uniform, that’s representing our country,” said Angie. “I always look at it as a really great opportunity for our kids to see somebody who’s not just looking out for family, but looking out for our community and our country.”

For the Ahn family, Remembrance Day is a time to set aside political affiliation or thoughts on foreign policy, and “support the human behind the uniform.”

“Remembrance Day is a great week to be in reflection and full of gratitude for the abundance of what we have as Canadians and to reflect on all the veterans that are no longer with us today and to the soldiers that are currently serving right now,” said Leona. “Because we’re mothers and fathers, we’re sisters and brothers, we’re your friends, we’re your neighbours.”

And the last 18 months have provided a new, contemporary context for the role of the military in Canada.

“Never did we think that the Canadian Armed Forces would be in long-term care facilities during a global pandemic. Never did we think that we’d be sending military nurses to be at the Royal Alex supporting ICU capacity, or did we think that we were going to do vaccine distribution in Indigenous communities up north,” Leona said. “These are your everyday soldiers. It’s not all about the bloodshed and combat, we’re a pretty holistic force as we’ve proven this year. We’re fighting fires, we’re doing flood relief operations, we’re up north, as well as trying to build relations, diplomatic ties, securities in other regions outside Canada where they don’t have the same privileges as us.”

This Remembrance Day take a moment. Reflect on those who have served, honour those who continue to serve and respect the thousands of military families who have sacrificed for our freedom and our country. Lest we forget.

Home Ice Feature

Calgary Buffalo Trainers Called to Action

The evening of Oct. 7, Calgary Buffalo Hockey Association trainers, Haley Patyna, Shyin Dixon and Blair Olsen, were wrapping up U21 baseline concussion testing at Cardel Rec South in Calgary, when they were called to action.

Out of the rink where a 55-plus recreational league game was being played, two guys came out saying they needed an AED (automated external defibrillator), there was a guy on the ice having a heart attack.

Through quick thinking and teamwork, the trainers jumped to action. Together, they saved a life that night.

Read the full story on hockeycanada.ca.

Home Ice Feature

15 Albertans Crack the NHL Central Scouting "Players to Watch" List

RED DEER - NHL Central Scouting has released its October "Players to Watch" list, with 15 Albertans making an appearance.

One Albertan skater is listed an "A" prospect; forward Matt Savoie.

Albertan forwards, Josh Davies and Rieger Lorenz and one defenceman, Kent Anderson crack the list in the "B" prospect category, with 11 more listed as "C" prospects.

The "A" rating indicates a first round candidate, a "B" rating indicates a second or third round candidate, and a "C" rating indicates a fourth, fifth, or sixth round candidate.

The full list of Albertans named to the Players to Watch list can be found below:

Name Position Team League
A Prospects
Matt Savoie Forward Winnipeg Ice WHL
B Prospects
Kent Anderson Defence Green Bay Gamblers USHL
Josh Davies Forward Swift Current Broncos WHL
Rieger Lorenz Forward Okotoks Oilers AJHL
C Prospects
Cale Ashcroft Defence Sherwood Park Crusaders AJHL
Keaton Dowhaniuk Defence Prince George Cougars WHL
Jagger Firkus Forward Moose Jaw Warriors WHL
Jordan Gustafson Forward Seattle Thunderbirds WHL
Ben Hemmerling Forward Everett Silvertips WHL
Dylan James Forward Sioux City USHL
Marcus Nguyen Forward Portland Winterhawks WHL
Reid Schaefer Forward Seattle Thunderbirds WHL
Bowden Singleton Forward Okotoks Oilers AJHL
Kai Uchacz Forward Red Deer Rebels WHL
Charlie Wright Defence Saskatoon Blades WHL

Home Ice Feature

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Today marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, as declared in June by the Government of Canada.

According to the Government of Canada website, the day honours the lost children and Survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process.

“For me, the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, it’s important for Indigenous people as it honours the stolen children that never came home and survivors of residential schools,” said Jordan Courtepatte, President of Enoch Cree Hockey Association. “It also uncovers the dark history of the Canadian government’s treatment of Indigenous people and the atrocities the kids faced while attending the residential schools.”

In May, 215 unmarked graves of Indigenous children were recovered in Kamloops, BC, at the site of a residential school. Since then, hundreds more have been uncovered across Canada. The National Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimates there are thousands yet to be found.

According to a CBC article more than 150,000 First Nation, Metis and Inuit children were forced to attend church-run, government-funded schools between the 1870s and 1997. Children were removed from their families and culture and forced to learn English, embrace Christianity and adopt the customs of the country’s white majority. Survivors often do not talk about their experience at the residential schools due to the physical, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse they suffered during their time at the schools.

“My Kookum, which is my grandmother, she was in residential school and that had a negative impact on my family. My Dad and all my uncles and aunties, they grew up in day school, foster care and eventually a lot of them were incarcerated, and that played a big impact in my life,” said Courtepatte. “We struggled coming up, but luckily my mother is a great mother and she helped break the cycle for my brother and I. Now we’ve broken the cycle for our kids and we hope to continue that and try to help build a better place for our kids to live in.”

First Nations Elders call September “the crying month” as that was when children would be taken from their homes. Orange Shirt Day – recognized on September 30 each year - is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission Residential School (1891-1981) Commemoration Project and Reunion events that took place in Williams Lake, BC in May 2013. As part of the event, Phyllis Webstad told her story about being given a beautiful orange shirt by her grandmother for her first day of residential school. That shirt was taken away from her on her first day and never returned.

Through the power of social media, Orange Shirt Day has grown to be a national movement. This year, it will coincide with National Truth and Reconciliation Day.

“The National Truth and Reconciliation Day is important for everyone. It shows that action is taking place, the building of trust between Indigenous people. It also helps build the relationship between Indigenous people by bringing the dark history to light and creating an open dialogue of conversations that need to happen,” said Courtepatte. “I feel I have an obligation to my kids, and one day their kids, to help create a positive environment for them to live in. We all live in this country together and it’s going to take a collective effort to help make this place better for the present and future for all of us.”

Many members of the Alberta hockey community have their own residential school experience and orange shirt story to tell.

Today, we wear orange to remember the lost children and recognize the survivors of residential schools, their families and communities, acknowledge the truth of the dark history associated with residential schools, and begin conversations of reconciliation.

Home Ice Feature

Hockey Alberta Announces 2021 Life Members

RED DEER – Hockey Alberta is proud to announce that three long-time volunteers have been recognized with Life Membership status for their decades of service to minor hockey.

George Kallay, Terry Ledingham and Annie Orton are the new Life Members.

Life Membership is the highest honour which may be bestowed by Hockey Alberta, recognizing individuals who have dedicated their time and support to making the game of hockey better in Alberta.

"Our three new Life Members are exceptional individuals who have contributed so much to amateur hockey in their communities and across the province,” said Francois Gagnon, a member of the Hockey Alberta Board of Directors, and chair of the Life Member Selection committee. “It is a great honour to recognize their accomplishments and see Annie, Terry and George join such a distinguished group of people who have dedicated their lives to the game of hockey in Alberta and beyond."

George Kallay, of Drumheller, experienced the game of hockey from every level – as a player, parent, referee, volunteer and executive member with Hockey Alberta, the Hockey Alberta Foundation and Hockey Canada. George was inducted into the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame twice - in 2015 as a Builder and again in 2018 as Director of Operations of the 1999 Canada Games gold-medal winning Team Alberta U16 Male squad. George passed away in 2020 at the age of 74.

Terry Ledingham, of Bon Accord, has been involved in hockey at the minor hockey, Hockey Alberta and Hockey Canada levels. Terry volunteered with Hockey Alberta in a variety of roles including as President of Hockey Alberta. During his term as President, minor hockey coaches were directed to wear helmets during all on-ice practices and the first Regional Development Centre in Grande Prairie was opened. Terry also served for five years as a Vice Chair at Large for Hockey Canada and was inducted to the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame in 2016.

Annie Orton, of Blairmore, dedicated more than 30 years to the sport of hockey beginning with Crowsnest Pass Minor Hockey Association before volunteering with Hockey Alberta and eventually becoming President of Hockey Alberta. Within her two-year term, Hockey Alberta partnered with Respect Group to provide access to the Respect in Sport Parent program and examined non-body contact options for players. Annie was the recipient of Hockey Canada’s Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award in 2013.

The new Life Members bring the list of Hockey Alberta’s Life Members to 25.

To learn more about Hockey Alberta, visit hockeyalberta.ca or follow on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Home Ice Feature

Hockey Alberta’s Pathway to Coach Development

Hockey Alberta is celebrating coaches at every level of the sport during National Coaches Week.

As associations and teams across the province prepare for the 2021-22 season, one thing is certain - a coach’s development is never finished. In fact, coaches are the lifeblood of the hockey system. A good coach generally equals a great experience for the players.

In Alberta, development opportunities for hockey coaches are coordinated through Hockey Alberta’s Coaching Pathway, which focuses on philosophies appropriate for every level of player - from grassroots through to the elite level.

“Creating a really comprehensive coach development plan is really important. We have focused on a coaching pathway, and within that pathway, first and foremost, coach development does start at the local level,” said Justin Fesyk, Senior Manager of Hockey Development. “So, we want to create an environment where our associations put the amount of emphasis needed and support mechanisms in place to develop their coaches.”

Hockey Alberta’s Regional Managers – who are located around the province - can aid in the creation of an association’s Coach Development Plan. The Regional Managers also lead the implementation of National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) for hockey in Alberta, which is a requirement for all coaches. A full list of coaching requirements is available on the Hockey Alberta website.

Coach certification clinics are ongoing now across the province. For a current list of clinic dates and locations, go to the Hockey Alberta website.

Registration must be done online through HCR, with one of the requirements being that each coach must have an account in the new HCR 3.0 platform.

CREATE AN HCR 3.0 ACCOUNT >

For more information on coach development opportunities available to associations, or for individual coaches, contact a Hockey Alberta Regional Manager.

For more information about Hockey Alberta’s coaching pathway and the opportunities within the province, check out an interview with Justin Fesyk (below), or tune into Episode 14 of the Centre Ice Podcast, which airs on Thursday, Sept. 22.

Home Ice Feature

Hockey Canada Unveils Online 50/50 Draw, Presented by DynaLIFE Medical Labs, for 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship

CALGARY, Alta. – With five pre-tournament games set to face off today ahead of the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship, plans have been unveiled for fans in Alberta and across Canada to be part of the event.

Hockey Canada, in partnership with the Hockey Alberta Foundation, is encouraging fans to win big, give big with the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship online 50/50 draw, presented by DynaLIFE Medical Labs, during every Team Canada game day starting August 20 and including the quarterfinals, semifinals and medal-round games. Fans in Alberta can purchase tickets for a 48-hour period starting at 9 a.m. MT the day before a Team Canada game for as low as $5 by visiting HockeyCanada.ca/5050. On August 20 and 31, tickets can be purchased from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. MT only.

“Following the success of the online 50/50 draw during the IIHF World Junior Championship in December and January, Hockey Canada is once again excited to offer an online 50/50 draw during every Team Canada game day at the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship,” said Dean McIntosh, vice-president of events and properties with Hockey Canada. “As fans in Alberta tune in to watch Team Canada compete for a gold medal on home ice, they also have a chance to engage with the tournament and support the Hockey Canada Foundation and Hockey Alberta Foundation. When fans purchase 50/50 tickets, they are helping make hockey more by creating opportunities for girls and women to build more friendships, inspire more diversity and launch their hockey dreams.”

The winners of each 50/50 draw will take home half of the pot, while the other half will remain in the Province of Alberta and will be reinvested into grassroots hockey programs that enable more girls and women to get involved in the sport and help improve their quality of life through hockey.

In addition to the 50/50 draw, Hockey Canada also announced the Team Canada game-worn jersey auction will launch on August 26.

The online jersey auction, which runs from August 26-September 1, is an opportunity for fans across Canada to bid on game-worn jerseys of all 25 Canadian athletes wearing the Maple Leaf the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship. All game-worn jerseys can be viewed and bid on at Givergy.ca/WWCJerseyAuction, with proceeds from the auction going to the Hockey Canada Foundation to help grow the game through initiatives like Hockey is Hers, which helps provide more opportunities for girls and women in hockey.

“Young boys and girls across Canada will be inspired by the best players in the world competing for a gold medal in Calgary, and the Hockey Canada Foundation is able to help fuel that inspiration through initiatives like the game-worn jersey auction and Hockey is Hers,” said Donna Iampieri, executive director of the Hockey Canada Foundation. “The auction is not only a great way for fans to own a piece of hockey history and support their favourite National Women’s Team player, but it also helps the Hockey Canada Foundation provide more opportunities for young girls and women to get involved in the game at the grassroots level.”

The 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship begins August 20 with three games, including Team Canada’s tournament-opener against Finland at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT. TSN and RDS, the official broadcast partners of Hockey Canada, will have extensive game coverage and analysis throughout the tournament. TSN will broadcast all 31 games from WinSport Arena, as well as three pre-tournament games on August 18, while RDS will broadcast all Team Canada preliminary-round games, two quarterfinals, both semifinals and the bronze and gold medal games.

For more information on Hockey Canada and the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship, please visit HockeyCanada.ca or follow along through social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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National Indigenous Peoples Day & History Month - Kyle Dodginghorse

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.

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If you can play, you can play

RED DEER – If you can play, you can play.

It’s that simple for those involved with the You Can Play Project.

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.

To contact You Can Play, please click here.

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Asian Heritage Month - Alex Le

Alex Le was going to school to become an Emergency Medical Technician at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, when a classmate noticed his keen interest in hockey and suggested he get involved with a minor association.

Two weeks into his first trainer role, the Northwest Calgary team travelled to Chicago for a tournament. The camaraderie Le experienced between the staff and the team was enough to hook him for life.

“It hooked me. I wanted to be a part of that moving forward,” said Le. “I watched the Calgary Buffaloes win the Mac’s tournament in 2008 and I remember thinking, ‘that would be such a cool experience as a trainer - being down there, right in those benches in the Saddledome.’”

Le played minor hockey in Saskatoon until he was 13, before moving to Calgary in 1995. He joined the Northwest Calgary Athletics Association as the trainer for the Midget A Bruins in 2007. The following season he moved to the Calgary Buffaloes Hockey Association.

In 2019, life came full circle. Le celebrated in the benches of the Saddledome as the Buffaloes won the Mac’s Tournament.

Having worked with players of all ages between U14-U21 in the Buffaloes association, Le looked to the Team Alberta program to expand his trainer resume.

“Some of the trainers I had worked with said it was a great experience and I’m always looking to learn and grow. That year (2015), I decided to throw my hat into the ring and I was luckily accepted,” said Le. “The long days were worth every single second. Learning everything that Team Alberta puts into coaching and into developing players and setting them up for success. And not only that but it’s setting us trainers up for success as well. And I just loved that experience.”

Le has volunteered for Hockey Alberta on several occasions, including as the U16 Equipment Manager and Trainer in 2015 and 2016.

In his professional life, Le is employed by one of Hockey Alberta’s long-time partners and supporters, ATB Financial.

“What makes me proud about working with ATB Financial is that it’s purely Albertan. It’s a bank that’s here for Albertans, made for Albertans,” said Le. “We’re here to support Albertans through everything and I think that is the same as Hockey Alberta. We share the same core values, we share the same goals, just wanting to elevate Albertans in their journey.”

Part of Le’s journey includes growing up in Saskatchewan and Alberta as an Asian-Canadian.

“You face adversity here and there. Racial comments and racial slurs being thrown out whether it be by a parent or kid, it happens,” said Le. “Having to learn that and deal with that at such a young age. It was a good learning experience, it’s not the greatest learning experience, but it helps shape you as a person in terms of resiliency.”

Le believes there are kids out there that do experience the same adversity. His ability to relate to what they are going through and help navigate the situation establishes Le as a role model for the next generation. Through his trainer role, his hope is that he can help players be the best people they can be.

“I was listening to talk radio and they were talking about success in hockey and how it’s defined. The person who was talking about it said, ‘success doesn’t mean your child is playing in the NHL. Success is defined by is your child still using those skills in their life. If your child is 50 years old and still playing beer league hockey, that is success in hockey,’” said Le. “That really resonated with me because my Dad, who was an immigrant to Canada from Vietnam, turned on the TV one night and he saw the NHL and was captivated. He hoped that I could learn something from that and use it in my life. I didn’t make the NHL – I wasn’t even close. But those skills that I learned, like the cliché things about teamwork, have given me life skills.”

Le started in hockey at a young age and whether it be through playing, working as a trainer or the relationships he’s formed, he still finds joy in the game. Now married with a wife and two children, Le doesn’t see his life without hockey.

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Photo credit: LA Media


22 Albertans listed in NHL Central Scouting’s Final Rankings

RED DEER - NHL Central Scouting has released its final rankings for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, with 22 Albertans making an appearance - 17 skaters, and five goaltenders.

A pair of Team Alberta alumni and Edmonton Oil Kings teammates lead the way in their respective categories, as Sebastian Cossa was named the top North American goaltender, while Dylan Guenther was the highest ranked Albertan among North American Skaters, coming in at number five.

Two more team Alberta alumni are among the top 20 North American skaters: defenceman Corson Ceulemans, and forward Colton Dach.

The full list of Albertans named to NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings can be found below:

Final Rank Player Position Last Amateur Club League
NORTH AMERICAN SKATERS
5 Dylan Guenther Forward Edmonton Oil Kings WHL
14 Corson Ceulemans Defence Brooks Bandits AJHL
19 Colton Dach Forward Saskatoon Blades WHL
45 Olen Zellweger Defence Everett Silvertips WHL
59 Sean Tschigerl Forward Calgary Hitmen WHL
60 Zack Ostapchuk Forward Vancouver Giants WHL
63 Jayden Grubbe Forward Red Deer Rebels WHL
93 Kyle Masters Defence Red Deer Rebels WHL
105 Owen Pederson Forward Winnipeg Ice WHL
142 Dru Krebs Defence Medicine Hat Tigers WHL
145 Marc Lajoie Defence Tri-City Americans WHL
151 Lucas Ciona Forward Seattle Thunderbirds WHL
190 Zack Stringer Forward Lethbridge Hurricanes WHL
191 Riley Ginnell Forward Brandon Wheat Kings WHL
192 Ryker Evans Defence Regina Pats WHL
208 Noah Serdachny Forward Salmon Arm Silverbacks BCHL
219 Gannon Laroque Defence Victoria Royals WHL
NORTH AMERICAN GOALTENDERS
1 Sebastian Cossa Goaltender Edmonton Oil Kings WHL
12 Talyn Boyko Goaltender Tri-City Americans WHL
18 Taylor Gauthier Goaltender Prince George Cougars WHL
28 Gage Alexander Goaltender Winnipeg Ice WHL
32 Ethan Kruger Goaltender Brandon Wheat Kings WHL

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George McCorry receives 2021 Hockey Canada Officiating Award

Congratulations to George McCorry on receiving the 2021 Hockey Canada Officiating Award.

Over the last 55 years, McCorry’s name has become synonymous with officiating in Alberta.

Donning the black and white for the first time at 12 years old, McCorry achieved the top level of refereeing certification, Level VI, by the time he was 30. He took on national and international assignments for Hockey Canada, including three national university championship appearances and a role in the 1992 Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France. Two years later, McCorry refereed 10 games in the NHL.

While the list of on-ice accomplishments is lengthy, his continued work developing officials may be more meaningful to the long-term success of the game. For over 25 years, McCorry has been an instructor for the National Referee Certification Program, and he’s been supervising officials in Alberta for 38 years. He has served as referee-in-chief with Hockey Alberta and as chair of the Hockey Alberta Referees’ Council. Since 1999, McCorry has been the vice-president and supervisor of officials for the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

On and off the ice, McCorry has been keeping the game in check and teaching the next generation of officials how to do the same.

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Asian Heritage Month - Kassy Betinol

Kassy Betinol credits her brothers for getting her into the sport that has given her everything.

“My journey with hockey started when I was really young with my two older brothers,” said Betinol. “My brother was a goalie and I really wanted to be a goalie so I went to all of his goalie lessons and would watch all of his practices.”Her favourite memories growing up were the hours spent in the basement with the goalie pads strapped on as her brothers fired shots at her; but Betinol’s dreams of being a goalie were dashed as she became an offensive force on the ice.

Becoming a fixture with Team Alberta, Betinol’s hockey journey took her from her hometown in Okotoks to the Okanagan where she played in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) throughout her high school, before traveling across the border to University of Minnesota-Duluth to play NCAA Division I hockey.

“Being in the Team Alberta environment, a more organized and professional environment helped me develop,” said Betinol. “Growing up in Okotoks, it’s such a nice size small town and moving out in high school, being away from my parents and having to make decisions on my own made me less homesick when I got to Duluth. Coming to the (United) States has always been my dream. Playing in the NCAA, in front of all these crazy fans, has been unbelievable.”

After a rookie NCAA season cut short due to COVID-19, Betinol earned an invite to Canada’s National Women’s Development Team 2020 Summer Camp. Even though the camp – her first with Hockey Canada – was cancelled due to the pandemic, Betinol spent time on Zoom calls with the top players from across the nation.

“Moving forward, I want to work as hard as I can to get as far as I can within the (Hockey Canada) program,” said Betinol. “I want to have these experiences to use to give back to the game later and guide the younger players. The women’s game is growing and in the right strides.”

Betinol wants to utilize her experiences to give back to the game - including being an Asian-Canadian female hockey player.

“You don’t see a lot of players with Asian backgrounds, so it’s really cool to say that I have that. Being a little bit different means a lot to me,” said Betinol. “I’m in a pretty fortunate spot to say that I haven’t had to face many challenges. Every town that I’ve lived in and every program that I’ve played for have been super welcoming and I can’t see I’ve had any crazy problems with it.”

With two seasons under her belt with Minnesota-Duluth, Betinol is already eyeing professional opportunities for her post-university career. The opportunities hockey has continued to give Betinol are endless and she owes the game, and her brothers, everything.

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Asian Heritage Month - Steve Tsujiura

Born to Japanese-Canadian parents who were interned in British Columbia during World War II, Steve Tsujiura grew up skating the streets of Coaldale - literally.

“When I was a kid, the town made an outdoor rink, so I would get home from school put on my skates and skate down the road. We’d play on the rink and then I’d skate back home,” recalled Tsujiura. “My toes would be freezing so my mom would put me on a vent heater and bring me hot chocolate.”

As Tsujiura’s love for the game grew, he travelled to nearby Lethbridge and Taber to play competitive hockey before becoming a fixture with the Western Hockey League’s Medicine Hat Tigers in 1978.

For three consecutive seasons Tsujiura led the Tigers in points, capping his junior career with an impressive 389 points in 243 games. Along the way, he was named WHL Player of the Year (1981), Most Sportsmanlike Player (1980, 1981) and a WHL Second All-Star (1981). And in the 1981 National Hockey league draft, Tsujiura was chosen in the 10th round by the Philadelphia Flyers (205th overall).

Over the next eight seasons, Tsujiura found his stride in the American Hockey League (AHL) where he spent most of his career with the Maine Mariners. While his NHL dream may have dwindled, his hockey journey was far from over.

The Canadian love affair with the game that started with frozen toes and hot chocolate, took Tsujiura overseas where he played in leagues in Italy and Switzerland from 1989-1994.

Then, in preparation for hosting the 1998 Winter Olympic Games, Japan began developing its national hockey program. As part of an effort to ice a competitive team in Nagano, the Japanese Men’s National Team extended invitations to six North Americans, including Tsujiura.

“Marching into the stadium in the opening ceremonies and seeing all the different countries was an experience I won’t forget,” said Tsujiura. “It was a very cool experience. We played in the earlier pool with countries like France, Austria, Kazakhstan and they took the winner of each side to play against Canada, U.S, Czech Republic. That’s how Olympic hockey was set-up then.”

Following the 1998 Olympics, Tsujiura retired from his playing career to step behind the bench as head coach of the Japanese National Team. Having no experience in coaching prior to taking over as bench boss, Tsujiura saw it as an opportunity to stay in the game.

“It was my first foray into coaching, which was interesting. I didn’t get a team for a whole season so I coached different events. I would be in Japan and I was also a second assistant coach for a team in Portland, Maine, which was in the AHL, so I was also home a month,” said Tsujiura. “It was probably harder on my wife, but I was kind of an absentee Dad. I would be home for three weeks, drive the kids around or look after them. I wouldn’t call it the best situation, but it was a unique situation.”

After four years traveling between the Japan and the United States, Tsujiura returned to Maine to settle with his family.

Because of hockey, Tsujiura was able to call the country from which his ancestors had immigrated home for a short while.

“My parents were born in Canada, they were born on the west coast. They were uprooted when the war broke out and got interned in interior B.C., my Mom and Dad really never talked about anything,” recalled Tsujiura. “It’s very sad because it’s a part of our history, that’s just the way it was. But they set up a good life in Alberta.”

With resilient parents, who had everything taken away from them and were forced to start a new, Tsujiura took advantage of opportunities when they presented themselves throughout his hockey career. Never wavering from his Alberta roots, he credits hockey for teaching him some of the most valuable life lessons he has learned.

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Asian Heritage Month - Larry Kwong

Larry Kwong’s NHL career lasted all of a New York minute, though that minute changed the game forever.

Born in Vernon, B.C. in 1923, to a Chinese-Canadian mother and a Chinese immigrant father, Kwong was one of 15 children. Kwong’s family owned and operated a grocery store, though as a Chinese-Canadian family, the household faced segregation, including being banned from voting.

During the winter months, in skates a size too big and magazines taped to his shins for pads, Kwong would spend hours on frozen ponds playing shinny with his brothers. In the evenings, they would huddle around the radio listening to Foster Hewitt call the game from Toronto and as many Canadian kids, he dreamed of one day hearing his name. Having never played organized hockey and in the days of the “Original Six,” that dream seemed a world away.

At 16, Kwong joined the Vernon Hydrophones and quickly became an offensive phenom, helping the Hydrophones to a provincial championship in 1941. Though he excelled on the ice, Kwong felt the repercussions of being a Chinese-Canadian in the 40’s, facing discrimination on and off the ice.

But his love for the game kept him pushing boundaries.

“I was afraid to tell my family, because if I did tell them that, the first thing they would say is ‘You’re not going anymore.’ And that means I couldn’t play hockey or sports. I toughed it out, just toughed it out,” Kwong said in a 2013 CBC article.

The success Kwong found with the Hydrophones did not go unnoticed as he earned himself a tryout with the Trail Smoke Eaters, a semi-professional team. Players with the Smoke Eaters received a high-paying job at the local smelter. Being Chinese, Kwong was stripped of the job at the smelter, instead spending his days working as a bellhop at a hotel.

During this time, the impact of World War II was being felt across the world and Kwong moved to Nanaimo to build war materials by day and skate with the Nanaimo Clippers by night, still dreaming of one day playing in the NHL. As the war raged overseas, Kwong set his dreams aside for his country and enlisted in the army.

Kwong’s basic training stationed him in Red Deer, where he played for the army’s Red Deer Wheelers. NHL players returning home to enlist in the military were recruited by rival teams and Kwong soon found himself facing off against men living his dream - and holding his own against them. As his comrades were sent overseas, Kwong was instructed to stay in Red Deer to play hockey to entertain the troops. And this is where he began catching the eye of professional scouts.

After the war, Kwong returned to the Smoke Eaters, where he led the team in scoring and earned another championship. In 1946, the New York Rangers extended a try-out invitation.

Topping out at five feet, six inches, Kwong’s agile speed and smooth stick handling landed him an assignment to the Ranger’s farm team, the New York Rovers. A fan favourite, his nicknames, “King Kwong” and “Chinese Clipper” echoed Madison Square Gardens during Rovers games.

Nearing the end of Kwong’s second season with the Rovers, the New York Rangers were traveling to Montreal with a line-up riddled with injuries when Kwong got the call.

“When I had the chance to become a Ranger I was really excited. I said to myself: That’s what I wanted since I was a young boy. I wanted to play in the NHL,” Kwong said in an article in the New York Times.

On March 13, 1948, Kwong dressed in his first NHL game. On that night, he became the first player of Asian heritage and the first person of colour to play in the NHL. He found a spot on the bench and that’s where he stayed until he got the nod late in the third period.

Kwong did not score, he did not get an assist, he did not get a penalty, nor did he let Montreal score. He played his first and last shift in the NHL. Kwong’s NHL career was over in a New York minute. But he opened the gate for many to follow.

Over the next five years, Kwong played in the minors, demonstrating blistering speed and unmatched goal scoring abilities. He then moved overseas to play in British and Swiss leagues before transitioning to coaching.

Despite many efforts to derail his hockey career, Kwong accomplished his goal of playing in the NHL and is an honoured member in the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame (2016 Founder’s Award Recipient) and B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame (2013) as a pioneer of the game.

Kwong returned to Calgary where he opened a grocery store and was active in his community. He lost both of his legs due to poor circulation, yet his resilient spirit carried him to the gym into his 90’s.

Kwong passed away in 2018 at the age of 94.

Home Ice Feature

Breakfast with Beckett: The life of a U11 Goalie

STRATHCONA – As a goaltender, actor, and radio host, Beckett William is a young man of many talents.

Life as a 10-year-old goaltender can be busy navigating through school, hockey practices, and spending time with friends. For one hockey player in Strathcona, he has found the time to add in so much more.

It all started when Beckett was three years old and learned to skate thanks to the influence of his grandfather. As soon as he was able, Beckett began playing organized hockey with the Strathcona Warriors Minor Hockey Association. When he got to his second year of U9, the team was giving all the players a chance to try playing goalie, and it didn’t take long for Beckett to fall in love with the position.

“I wanted to (play hockey) because my Grandpa was a hockey player, and I wanted to skate like him, so I started skating and we got me a stick and I just started playing hockey,” said Beckett. “I get to meet great people and friends on the team, and it’s fun getting pucks in my chest.”

What may be more impressive is how Beckett has filled his time away from the rink.

He auditioned for a role in an upcoming movie called Connecting Flights. Beckett landed the role due to his ability to do a British accent on top of using his regular voice. The movie began filming in March 2020 but was then postponed to July due to COVID-19 restrictions in Alberta. Once completed, the film was released in early 2021. Beckett attributes his years of playing hockey as something that helped with his teamwork during the film making process.

“I’ve seen myself on a screen before, but not in a movie – and I was just like this is really cool, I want to keep doing this,” said Beckett.

In February, Beckett was asked if he would like to expand his talents and begin hosting his own radio show on Sound Sugar Radio where he could discuss his three favourite things: film making, acting, and hockey.

It was shortly after that when Breakfast with Beckett was born. Since his first episode, Beckett has featured such guests as Andrew Ference, Tim Hunter, and Gene Principe. His favourite part about hosting a radio show is getting to know different kinds of people and hearing their experiences.

“I was on an interview on my Grandpa’s show (Bill & Paul Face the Music), and we went off air and he just asked me if I wanted to do my own radio show, and I was like definitely, then two weeks later we did the first episode,” said Beckett.

There has been a lot of excitement packed into Beckett’s first decade, but he says he hopes to continue with acting, radio hosting, and hockey for the foreseeable future.

Ideally, he will one day star in a big feature film such as Batman or Spiderman, or even take a role as the goalie in the Mighty Ducks series. Even if he becomes a movie star one day, Beckett says he will always make time to play hockey.

Home Ice Feature

Volunteer Spotlight - Karyn Fanstone & Tony Jacbosen

RED DEER - To celebrate National Volunteer Week, Hockey Alberta is shining the spotlight on a handful of volunteers who make a huge impact on the sport in Alberta.

More volunteer profiles can be found on Hockey Alberta’s Volunteer Appreciation page.

Karyn Fanstone - Brooks

Hockey Alberta NewsAlthough hockey is already a full-time job for Karyn Fanstone, she still takes the time to give back to the game any chance she can get.

Since moving to Alberta from Manitoba in 2015, Karyn has been heavily involved in hockey in the province as both an Athletic Therapist and Equipment Manager. She is currently the Athletic Therapist for the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, a position she’s held since 2017, and previously worked for the Drayton Valley Thunder and the Bonnyville Pontiacs.

Karyn has also been an avid volunteer with Hockey Alberta since 2015, having been a part of the Team Alberta program in just about every capacity. She’s served as an Athletic Therapist at all three Team Alberta events: the Alberta Cup, Alberta Challenge, and Prospects Cup, as well as with Team Alberta U16 Male on numerous occasions. Her work with the U16 program includes back-to-back WHL Cup Championships in 2015 and 2016, and a bronze medal the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer.

She has also volunteered at the Team Alberta U18 Female Summer Camp, leaving serving as Athletic Therapist for a competition on the female side as the only checkmark missing from Karyn’s Team Alberta bucket list.

“I thought it would be a good opportunity to kind of get my name out with hockey (in Alberta),” she said. “Ever since my first camp, my hockey family has grown exponentially, and getting to work with kids, and be a part of their process as they develop and accomplish their goals, as cheesy as it sounds, it’s an indescribable feeling.”

Karyn said even though her initial reason for volunteering was to network and get a feel for the game in Alberta, it’s become so much more than that for her.

“Volunteering is the opportunity to do what I absolutely love, and use that to help others reach their goals,” said Karyn. “I had lots people when I was up-and-coming and still in school who took that extra time to mentor me to make sure I felt comfortable with what I was doing and learning, and to be able to be that person for other people is my goal.”


Tony Jacobsen - Grande Prairie

Hockey Alberta NewsAnthony (Tony) Jacobsen has been a committed volunteer in Grande Prairie since 2011.

Tony has coached all levels of minor hockey over the last 10 years, from U7 to U15. The relationships and connections that Tony has built are what he enjoys most about coaching.

“It’s a pretty cool learning experience overall,” said Tony. “There are a lot of people that you’re dealing with like parents, other teams, coaches, and dealing with a lot of kids. I would say volunteering is a great learning experience for anybody.”

The Jacobsens are a big hockey family with three kids playing with Grande Prairie Minor Hockey and Deunne, Tony’s wife, coaching on the female side. During his time coaching, Tony is proud to have been able to see his players grow and develop.

“You know what’s really rewarding? Recently I was on the ice with the U15 group. These are kids that are my kid’s age and I coached them back in novice, and when I watch them skate around, all of them can skate better than I can and all of them are playing heads up high-level hockey. That’s really cool when you had a little tiny hand in that,” said Tony.

Tony won the Grande Prairie Minor Hockey Association (GPMHA) Recreation Coach of the Year in 2016 and continues to serve the community as a coach in Grande Prairie.

Home Ice Feature

Volunteer Spotlight - Tom O’Toole & Chris Williams

RED DEER - To celebrate National Volunteer Week, Hockey Alberta is shining the spotlight on a handful of volunteers who make a huge impact on the sport in Alberta.

More volunteer profiles can be found on Hockey Alberta’s Volunteer Appreciation page.


Tom O’Toole - Okotoks

Hockey Alberta NewsAs a former professional hockey player, Tom O’Toole knows the importance of giving back to the game, and has been doing just that for over 40 years.

Once his pro career ended, Tom wanted to stay connected to the game, and to give back and share his knowledge about the game.

“One of the (reasons) was to help kids understand the game,” he said. “And to me, it wasn’t about the game in itself, I just wanted to share some of my ideas, and I had a lot of people help me along the way so I figured I owed that to the kids to teach (them).”

Tom’s coaching career began by running goalie clinics in Okotoks on a volunteer basis. He also has served as an Assistant Coach at the Midget AA and AAA, and Bantam AA and AAA levels throughout Southern Alberta, along with Peewee and Bantam teams on the female side. He currently serves as the goalie coach for the U16 AAA team in Okotoks.

The passion for volunteering throughout the hockey community is common in the O’Toole family; two of Tom’s daughters have a key roles in Minor Hockey in Alberta, one is a coach and the other is a physical trainer.

“If anyone is looking to do it, any aspiration; if you want to coach try to coach, it’s really rewarding,” Tom said.


Chris Williams - Okotoks

Volunteer Appreciation - Chris WilliamsChris Williams has volunteered with Okotoks Minor Hockey Association as a coach for nearly a decade.

His coaching career began in 2004 as an assistant coach with the Timbits program. Chris then took a 10-year hiatus to establish his career and family, but his passion for the game brought him back to coaching in 2014.

Chris believes in giving back to the community.

“I’m a huge believer that young kids need guidance, not just from parents or teachers, but they need it from coaches and other mentors,” he said. “It’s kind of an honour to be one of those people who get to jump in.”

Between 2014 and 2018, Chris served as the Head Coach of the Midget AA team in Okotoks, as an assistant coach for the Midget AAA team in 2019, and currently serves as the Head Coach of the U16 AAA team.

Chris is also a high school teacher in Okotoks, and said while there are many similarities between coaching and teaching, they are definitely not the same.

“There’s Coach Chris at the rink and there is Mr. Williams at school. I have to act professionally in both settings but there’s a difference,” he said. “You’re a bit looser at the rink, you can be a bit more buddy-buddy, but while you’re at school, you’re a professional. It’s what you do, but it really helps you see the different sides of the kids.”

Home Ice Feature

Volunteer Spotlight - Lisa Davies & Tom West

RED DEER - To celebrate National Volunteer Week, Hockey Alberta is shining the spotlight on a handful of volunteers who make a huge impact on the sport in Alberta.

More volunteer profiles can be found on Hockey Alberta’s Volunteer Appreciation page.

Lisa Davies - St. Paul

Hockey Alberta NewsLisa Davies has done it all as a volunteer over the past 22 years.

Whether it’s being a billet mom, volunteering at the Canada Winter Games or at a provincial championship - both around St. Paul and with Hockey Alberta - Lisa is well-known around the community and the region.

At the provincial level with Hockey Alberta, Lisa serves as the Minor Administration committee member for the Northeast Region. In that role, she assists minor hockey associations with registration processes, completes team and player approvals, and player transfers in HCR.

She also has been involved with junior hockey. Previously, she served as president of the St. Paul Canadiens Junior B team for eight seasons, and now she is the vice president in charge of discipline the North Eastern Alberta Junior B Hockey League (NEAJBHL).

Lisa said the sense of community she gains, and shares through volunteering is what keeps her going.

"You get to meet new people, you get to network, and you get to learn new skills," she said. "It makes me happy.”

Although she couldn’t pin down just one, she said her favourite memories come from events like the Canada Winter Games, World Junior A Challenge, and Hockey Alberta Provincial Championships.

“You know they’re all having fun, they’re excited to be there, and they have reached their goal," she said. "So it always fun to see those happy faces.”

Lisa also volunteers outside of hockey, helping out with minor baseball, Skate Alberta and a variety of school programs.

It is the lifelong connection to the players in the game that keeps Lisa involved.

I was a billet mom for five years. They still call me mom, they still call if they need anything,” Lisa said.



Tom West - Grande Prairie

Hockey Alberta NewsA dedicated volunteer, Tom West has served the community of Grande Prairie for more than a decade.

Tom began coaching in Fort St. John in 1999, but, after three years, went on hiatus once he and his wife started a family.

He re-joined the coaching world in 2010 in Grande Prairie at just about every level, and also served as the Manager for the Midget U16 AAA team.

Tom has been on the Board of Directors for Grande Prairie Minor Hockey since 2015, and, on top of his coaching and board positions, Tom also gets some extra ice time in as an official.

He began officiating in 2014, and since then, has worked every level of hockey up to Junior A/B, and Senior in the Grande Prairie area.

Tom said no matter what role he is serving, he makes sure to bring a positive attitude, and dedicate as much of his time and possible to the organization.

"Whether it’s a development team where kids are just learning to skate, or a AA or AAA team that is well on their way, to have the right attitude and kind of re-focus and bring it down to their level whatever age or whatever level that is, and work with them,” he said.

For Tom, volunteering is his favourite way to give back to the community.

"I know a lot of people say that, but for me, I enjoy seeing the operation and opportunity to guide and grow," he said. "Whether it’s someone my own age or in hockey, usually someone younger, watching them grow and develop as a person and a player and expand their knowledge and improve their skill set."

Home Ice Feature

Black History Month - The Story of John Utendale

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.

Hockey Alberta News

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).

John Utendale

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.

Home Ice Feature

Hockey gives back across Alberta

RED DEER - The hockey community always shines brightest during the holiday season, and, despite many obstacles, 2020 is no different. Hockey Alberta is featuring the good deeds of teams from across the province this holiday season.


CAC United Sport and Cycle U16 AAA

Hockey Alberta News

For the holidays, the CAC United Sport and Cycle U16 AAA team sponsored a family through the Holiday Hamper Program. As it was a team effort, they chose to sponsor an extra large family which consisted of 4 adults and 6 youths between the ages of 2 and 15. The hamper was delivered on December 19. The first community service was "Arizona’s Goal Jar". This was a fundraiser for a young girl by the name of Arizona that was diagnosed with brain cancer and wanted to take one last trip with her family. (http://www.cac-hockey.com/article/62367). Along with the monetary donation, CAC was kind enough to donate a variety of apparel and other items Arizona could take on her trip. Although this was done before Christmas, it did help make Arizona’s holidays a bit brighter.


Calgary Northstars

Hockey Alberta News

The Calgary Northstars Hockey Association have launched their very own Northstars Cares program in support of HEROS Hockey, the Calgary Flames Sports Bank, and KidSport Calgary & Area. Together with the support of their players, coaches and families the Northstars teams will be working with these organizations to learn about their impact, understand who they are supporting and raise profile, awareness and dollars for the critical work being done by these great organizations.


Fort Saskatchewan U13 AA Rangers

Hockey Alberta News

At the start of the season, the U13 AA Rangers set a goal to support the communities that they live in, even with contending with the elements of COVID-19. The players from Fort Sask, Bruderheim, Lamont, Mundare, Josephburg, Hilliard, and Willingdon raised nearly $3000 in a bottle drive early in the hockey season. After receiving additional private donations, the team was able to help the following organizations this Holiday season: Vegreville Food Bank - 150 lbs of food Fort Saskatchewan Food Bank - 300 lbs of food Lamont Food Bank - 150 lbs of food Vegreville Christmas Bureau - Toy Drive and Coats for Families Fort Sask Families First Society - Santa Workshop Santa’s for Seniors Fort Sask - Senior Secret Santa program for 8 Fort Sask Seniors, 2 Lamont Seniors, and 2 Bruderheim Seniors Proud to do our part to give a helping hand at Christmas.


Fort Saskatchewan U13 Team 1 Rangers

Hockey Alberta News

The Fort Sask U13 Team 1 Rangers is part of snow angels shovelling for local seniors. They have also done a “jersey #” cash donation to their local food bank. The team also did 3-4 Christmas cards for a local housing corporation for seniors, plus a few extras totalling 79 cards. The team is working very hard to support the community and working together as a family despite the pandemic restrictions.


Fort Saskatchewan U13 Team 3 Rangers

Hockey Alberta News

With all the uncertainty of this hockey season, the Fort Saskatchewan U13 Team 3 Rangers focused on things they could do off the ice to help in the community. The team collected 500lbs worth of food donations on behalf of the local food bank. They also worked with a local group called Santa for Seniors, fulfilling Christmas wishes for five seniors. Lastly, they chose as a team to make a donation to a local family in need, with funds raised from their team raffle.


Girls Hockey Calgary

Hockey Alberta News

Six Girls Hockey Calgary teams joined together to brings stockings to isolated seniors this past Christmas. They partnered with Olnalife, a local social venture company, to get sponsorship and source gifts to fill stockings for seniors. Three moms from the teams sewed 100 fleece stockings from donated scrap fabric. The stockings were then decorated by 100 players from U7 - U11. The players made the seniors a Christmas ornament, wrote a letter or drew a picture, and added a small gift of their choosing. The stockings were then filled with socks, gloves, masks, and other items and delivered to seniors for Christmas day in the Calgary and Airdrie area. Some of the stockings were delivered to long term care facilities where quarantine lockdown had been going on for an extended period of time.


Hanna U9 and U18 Colts

Hockey Alberta News

The Hanna U9 Colts delivered Tim Hortons Gift Certificates to all of our local RCMP members and firefighters. They gave treat trays to the Arena staff Town Administration staff. They wanted to show some love to their local Seniors, so the team wrote Christmas cards to 22 residents of the Hanna Long Term Care. As well, the Hanna U18 Colts did a "Non Contact" Food Drive at the beginning of December where they collected non-perishable goodies to be delivered to the local food bank.


KC Centennials U16 AAA

Hockey Alberta News

The KC Centennials U16 AAA team had plans to hold a huge winter clothing drive for one of their December games in the AEHL to help support YESS (Youth Empowerment and Support Services) Edmonton. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions in Alberta, the game was temporarily put on pause. So quickly switching gears, the players and families decided to donate money to purchase the gift cards and items as needed and requested by YESS in Edmonton to youth in need. The gift cards were delivered on December 11. In addition, on our social media handles and at kccentennials.ca, they are encouraging others to do the same at https://yess.org/donate/. The donations given by the players and families of the KC Centennials U16 AAA will be presented to youth in need who use YESS in Edmonton at their annual YESS Christmas function.


KC Squires U15 AAA

Hockey Alberta News

The KC Squires joined St. Michael’s Health Group to partner their players with residents at their senior care facility to bring them some Christmas joy. Each team member wrote a letter to a resident, and sent along their player profile with a sweet treat. The team is looking forward to hearing back from their pen pals in the days before Christmas. They hope to keep the friendship going beyond the Christmas season.


Lethbridge Val Matteoti Golden Hawks

Hockey Alberta News

The Golden Hawks organized a social distanced drive-thru food drive to donate non-pershiables to the InterFaith food bank in Lethbridge.


Lloydminster NAI U11 Tier 1

Hockey Alberta News

With money raised from a bottle drive and the donations of families, the young men of U11 Northern Alberta Interlock Tier 1 spent their time off ice supporting the Catholic Social Service Angels of Hope Campaign. With the money raised, they spent an afternoon shopping and purchased gifts for 78 children in need. The shopping was done at local businesses, mainly the Lloydminster Home Hardware, to help these businesses stay afloat during a tough year.


Lloydminster U13 Blazers City 5

Hockey Alberta News

The Lloydminster U13 Blazers City 5 did a virtual food drive to fill up the shelves for the local food bank. They solicited donations and had a day for the team to pick up on doorsteps.


Maple Leaf Athletic Club

Hockey Alberta News

The Maple Leaf Athletic Club has nine hockey teams this year from U13 AA to U18 AAA. With the pandemic this year, they decided to give back to the community by each team having a Santa Toy Drive game to help Santa’s Anonymous. As an organization, they collected over 600 toys, $290.00 in cash and $1490.00 in gift cards.


Red Deer U11 RCM Transport Renegades

Hockey Alberta News

The Red Deer U11 RCM Transport Renegades started a kindness challenge at the beginning of December to spread some joy through the community. Players were asked to complete acts of kindness and then report back to the team during their weekly team zoom meeting. The team decided to make Christmas Cards for the residents of Westpark Lodge; an Assisted Living Centre located in Red Deer. There are 36 residents that live there and the team wanted to ensure each person received a card, so they placed a bin on their coach’s front step and collected the cards over the course of the past week, and delivered a total of 39 cards to the lodge.


Spruce Grove U7 Flying Unicorns

Hockey Alberta News

The Spruce Grove U7 Flying Unicorns collected items for the local food bank. This week, they dropped off 150 items and a $50 grocery store gift card to Parkland Food Bank.

Home Ice Feature

Moving mountains for Mighty Max

FAIRVIEW – A Fairview family is seeking help for their son, Max, who was recently diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 2.

Max Sych, known as ‘Mighty Max’ by those close to him, is no stranger to adversity. His mother Bryarly had complications during the pregnancy, which resulted in her spending over four weeks on bedrest and giving birth to Max at only 25 weeks. The hospital in Fairview did not have a delivery ward, so Max and his parents were immediately transferred via NICU air ambulance to Edmonton, where he would spend the next 91 days fighting for his life.

Born in January 2019, Max weighed only 1 lb 11 ounces. He had numerous blood transfusions, a bedside surgery, a brain bleed, required ongoing respiratory therapy and was discharged on oxygen. He would spend a total of six months attached to an oxygen tank night and day, and four additional months on nighttime oxygen requiring special care from his parents.

Max was developing at a normal rate and reaching all the appropriate developmental milestones. But in August, his parents noticed a change. He stopped bearing weight on his legs completely, collapsed when put at his table, and arched his back when family held his hands to walk.

In November, genetic test results returned a diagnosis of a rare neuromuscular disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).

SMA is a rare neuromuscular disease which leads to a progressive loss of muscle strength that affects the ability to walk, swallow and breathe. One in 10,000 children are born with the disease. In Type 2 SMA, children can sit but cannot walk on their own. Remarkably, this condition is separate from his prematurity.

In Canada, Max has access to Spinraza, a prescription drug that can increase survival and motor function. But Max’s best chance at being able to walk and live a long and healthy life is receiving a dose of Zolgensma, a one-time treatment that is not approved or funded by Health Canada. Zolgensma replaces the faulty gene at the root of the disease. At a reported $2.8 million (CAD), it is the most expensive one-time dose therapy in the world and must be given prior to Max turning two, a timeline that likely falls somewhere between his actual birthday in January 2021 and his due date at the beginning of May.

Max’s father Bowden, a former player and coach with Fairview Minor Hockey, says that his goal is to give Max a live a long and normal life.

“Playing hockey growing up and moving into coaching was so special for me, and I quickly realized how much I wanted to be able to coach my son once he is old enough to play,” said Bowden. “We are super grateful that a solution (Spinraza) exists in Canada, however we believe that Zolgensma will give Max the best quality of life moving forward.”

The family did not have a lot of time to absorb the information, but the community of Fairview was quick to act. They immediately set up a GoFundMe page and began soliciting donations for the medication.

“I cannot understate how amazing the community of Fairview has been since we heard the news,” said Bowden. “They have been incredibly helpful over the past few weeks, and I am realizing now that I live in the most supportive community in the world.”

Sheila Landry, a community member in Fairview, is quick to point out just how important Max, Bowden, and Bryarly are to Fairview.

“Bowden is a life-long hockey fan having played minor hockey in Fairview growing up. He continues to support Fairview Minor Hockey as a coach (stepping back from this when Max was born) and as a sponsor,” said Sheila. “Bryarly is also a huge supporter of our small town and sport programs. She has coached so many of our local youth in basketball. We as a community would like to show the same support that they have showed us.”

The GoFundMe currently sits at over $325,000 on the way to the $2.8 million goal.

You can follow along with Max’s journey on Instagram @movingmountainsformightymax.

GOFUNDME >

BATTLE OF ALBERTA DONATING >

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.”

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.”

Hockey Alberta News

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.”

Hockey Alberta News

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.”

Home Ice Feature

Photos courtesy Jake Neighbour’s Instagram page


Jake Neighbours and Ozzy Wiesblatt - A First Round Friendship

For a pair of best friends whose hockey journeys have been nearly identical, it’s only fitting they were both selected just five picks apart at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft in October.

When Jake Neighbours and Ozzy Wiesblatt were drafted 26th overall and 31st overall by the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks, respectively, it was not only a tremendous moment for each athlete, but a chance to celebrate each other’s accomplishments.

The two have been nearly inseparable since first hitting the ice together with the Calgary U18 AAA Buffaloes in 2017, and have been a big part of each other’s hockey experiences. Getting to share in each other’s big moment was a familiar, but welcome feeling.

"To go through all these experiences with your best friend is definitely something you cherish," Neighbours said during a recent interview where he and Wiesblatt joined the Centre Ice Podcast.

Whether it was suiting up together for Team Alberta at the 2017 WHL Cup in Calgary, for Team Canada at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, or for Team Red at the 2020 CHL/NHL Top Prospects game, Neighbours and Wiesblatt have spent plenty of time together on hockey’s biggest stages.

But, they’ve also been on opposing sides of centre ice a number of times, including at the 2017 Alberta Cup, the 2018 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, and for the last two seasons in the Western Hockey League, with Neighbours a member of the Edmonton Oil Kings, and Wiesblatt with the Prince Albert Raiders.

Although they both admitted there was a bit of a competition to see who would be selected first, the pair agree that it was just a minor detail.

"I was lucky enough to see Jake get picked ahead of me," Wiesblatt said. "I’m happy for him, and it just about brought a little tear to my eye seeing him get picked, it was a special moment for him and his family. We’re competitive, but also very supportive at the same time."

Neighbours echoed that sentiment, adding that he and his family were almost more excited to hear Wiesblatt’s named called by the San Jose Sharks a few picks later.

"I think both of us were kind of hoping we’d be the one to (be drafted) higher, but we knew going into it that we’d probably be pretty close in terms of numbers and where we were going, so we were happy for each other," Neighbours said. "I remember when I found out Ozzy was going, it was almost a bigger reaction from my family and I than when I went, so we have very supportive families, and obviously going in both directions we’re happy for each other."

Although the two have only been close friends since first playing together for the Calgary Buffaloes as 15 year-olds, they’ve leaned on each other heavily for support, a relationship they both point to as a major key to their success both on and off the ice.

"It’s special," said Wiesblatt. "We’ve been through basically everything together with hockey. If it’s Team Alberta events or Team Canada events, we’re going through it together, so it’s definitely made it easier to have someone to talk to and go through it with."

Neighbours said the two maintain a close relationship during the season, but there are times where their competitive nature outweighs their friendship.

"We lean on each other for support, but we are competitors," Neighbours said. "After every game, we’re always texting each other, seeing how each other did. But, I don’t think (Prince Albert) versus Edmonton’s been the friendliest of games over the past couple of years, it’s been two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference going at it, so it’s always a good game with a lot of intensity, and we tend to lean towards our intense and competitive sides more than our friendship during those games."

But, Wiesblatt adds that the competitiveness between the two is a welcome addition, and is a big reason for his success.

"Having a best friend and someone you train with every day that pushes you, I think we can both say we’re very lucky to have that," said Wiesblatt. "It’s been awesome. I haven’t really had a friend that is as competitive as Jake is, and that wants to beat me in every single thing, so it’s fun, and it’s definitely shaped me into the person I am today."

While the two have been through more together in the last few years than many friendships will see in a lifetime, Neighbours looks back fondly on when it all started, and said he can’t wait to see what the future holds.

"We started talking when we were about 13 or 14, I think, and we finally got to meet each other at the Calgary Buffaloes tryouts, and I guess the rest is history. We just kind of hit it off right away, and basically did everything together, and I became this guy’s Uber. Proud to be it though, and I’m looking forward to more Uber rides."

Home Ice Feature

Photo credit: LA Media


Alberta well-represented in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list

RED DEER - NHL Central Scouting has released its October ’Players to Watch’ list, with 18 Albertans making an appearance.

Two Albertan skaters are listed as ’A’ prospects; defenceman Corson Ceulemans and forward Dylan Guenther.

Goaltender Sebastian Cossa the lone Albertan in the ’B’ prospect category, with fifteen more listed as ’C’ prospects.

The ‘A’ rating indicates a first round candidate, a ‘B’ rating indicates a second or third round candidate, and a ‘C’ rating indicates a fourth, fifth, or sixth round candidate.

The full list of Albertans named to the Players to Watch list can be found below:

Name Position Team League
A Prospects
Corson Ceulemans Defence Brooks Bandits AJHL
Dylan Guenther Forward Edmonton Oil Kings WHL
B Prospects
Sebastian Cossa Goaltender Edmonton Oil Kings WHL
C Prospects
Talyn Boyko Goaltender Tri-City Americans WHL
Lucas Ciona Forward Seattle Thunderbirds WHL
Colton Dach Forward Saskatoon Blades WHL
Jayden Grubbe Forward Red Deer Rebels WHL
Dru Krebs Defence Medicine Hat Tigers WHL
Marc Lajoie Defence Tri-City Americans WHL
Kyle Masters Defence Red Deer Rebels WHL
Brett Moravec Forward Calgary Canucks AJHL
Ty Mueller Forward Sherwood Park Crusaders AJHL
Zack Ostapchuk Forward Vancouver Giants WHL
Zack Stringer Forward Lethbridge Hurricanes WHL
Scout Truman Forward Des Moines Buccaneers USHL
Sean Tschigerl Forward Calgary Hitmen WHL
Kai Uchacz Forward Seaatle Thunderbirds WHL
Olen Zellweger Defence Everett Silvertips WHL

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Photos: LA Media/WHL


Alberta’s Kaiden Guhle gearing up for 2020 NHL Draft

When NHL Central Scouting released its final rankings in April, 24 Albertans appeared on the list - 20 skaters, and four goaltenders.

Among those is Team Alberta alumnus and Prince Albert Raiders defenceman, Kaiden Guhle, who came in at number eight among North American skaters, and is projected by many to be drafted in the first round.

On the eve of the NHL draft, Guhle said the nerves hadn’t quite kicked in yet.

“I think I’m just a lot more excited, than anything," he said. "Waited a long time for this, got pushed back a bit, and I think I can speak for every kid in saying we’re just happy to finally have it here and to get things started.The nerves are there, but right now I’m not feeling them a whole lot. I bet (Tuesday) when I wake up, getting up early and waiting the whole day for it to happen, I’m sure the nerves will come pretty strong, but right now I think my mom’s a lot more nervous than me."

The 2020 NHL Draft will have a much different look than any other draft. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s draft will be done virtually, much like the 2020 NFL Draft.

Guhle said that although it’s disappointing not to be in Montreal as originally planned, he’s looking forward to sharing the experience at home with family and friends.

"I think in a way, it works out," he said. "I know if I was going to Montreal, you could only bring a handful of family members, you don’t want to pack the whole thing. I’m having 15 people coming to my house (on Tuesday), so I’ll have a lot of people there who have supported me through my whole hockey career."

Guhle adds that the pre-draft process has also been quite different than normal, but it’s still been a memorable experience for him.

"It was a lot of virtual meetings, a lot of Zoom calls," he said. "Obviously, you’d like to meet the teams in person, if we were in Montreal, I’d maybe meet a couple teams right before for one last chat. It’s been a big honour to talk to a lot of those teams, you never know who you’re going to go to, so I want to leave a good impression on all of them and show them my personality and what type of person I am."

The Guhle family is familiar with the NHL Draft process, as Kaiden’s older brother Brendan was drafted 51st overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2015.

Guhle said the influence of his brother, who now plays for the Anaheim Ducks, has been critical to his growth as a player.

"He’s been massive," he said. "I’d be lying if I said he wasn’t the biggest reason (I started playing), he’s the reason I picked up a hockey stick. Watching him growing up, I’ve always wanted to follow his footsteps in that way. He’s been huge for my hockey career, he’s talked to me a lot about this whole draft process – the ups and the downs, teams maybe getting under your skin to see how you react, just trying to keep me level-headed though the whole thing."

Guhle isn’t the only member of the Prince Albert Raiders hailing from Alberta waiting to hear their name called at the draft, as teammate Ozzy Wiesblatt is also expected to be drafted.

"I’ll definitely text him during the draft," Guhle said. "We’ve definitely talked about it and leaned on each other, we’ve been communicating a lot about this. I think there’s a bit of friendly competition, we’re both pretty competitive guys. We like to go at it at practice, and like to make each other mad – we both compete very hard, we both want to make each other better and that’s the only way you’re going to do it. I’ll definitely shoot him a text and see how he is on draft day, I’m sure he’ll be pretty nervous, just like me, so it’s good to get to go through that with him, and get to go through the whole experience with one of my best buddies."

Although it’s easy for a player to speculate as to which team they could end up on, Guhle said he’s not focused on that, and is going to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

"I’m happy with whatever team picks me, I have no preference to where I go," he said. "I think any team that picks me, I am very lucky to be that pick."

Round one of the 2020 NHL Draft kicks off Tuesday night at 5:00 p.m., with rounds two through seven to be held on Wednesday, starting at 9:30 a.m.

Home Ice Feature

Photo credit: LA Media


Ten Albertans to attend Canada’s National U17 Development Camp

CALGARY - Ten Albertans are among the 113 players invited to Canada’s National Under-17 Development Camp in July.

Defenceman Keaton Dowhaniuk, along with forwards Nate Danielson, Josh Davies, Jordan Gustafson, Reiger Lorenz, Rylen Roersma, Matthew Savoie, Bowden Singleton, Oasiz Wiesblatt and Koehn Ziemmer will all take part in the virtual camp.

The camp runs July 19-25, with a variety of sessions focusing on player development through online education.

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Seven Albertans invited to Canada’s National Women’s Program Summer Camps

CALGARY - Seven Albertans are among the 109 female athletes invited to the BFL Canada National Women’s Development Team and National Women’s Under-18 team summer camps.

Hockey Canada has announced a pool of 109 of the country’s top young players invited to participate in a pair of virtual camps with Canada’s National Women’s Program.

Goaltender Sophie Lajeunesse (Calgary), blueliner Dayle Ross (Spirit River), and forwards Kyle Perry (Ponoka) and Sarah Wozniewicz (Cochrane) will attend the BFL National Women’s Under-18 Team Summer Camp. Wozniewicz is one of three players who won a silver medal with Team Canada at the 2020 IIHF U18 Women’s Championship.

As for the BFL Canada National Women’s Development Team Summer Camp, defender Stephanie Markowski and forwards Kassy Betinol and Danielle Serdachny are among the 59 players invited.

Former Team Alberta coach Howie Draper (Edmonton) is on staff as Head Coach of the U18 team, while Mel Davidson (Oyen) returns as Head Scout for the program.

As the virtual meetings progress through the summer, the athletes will cover topics that include at-home strength and conditioning plans, mental performance plans and check-ins, nutrition, dry-land skills, skating simulations, team-building activities, short-term international competition preparation and meetings with coaches.

The online sessions will take place up to twice weekly, with critical information being communicated to athletes to allow them to continue to evolve as high-performance athletes in this new environment, and will utilize the strengths and experience of Canada’s National Women’s Program leadership to help connect one-on-one, athlete-to-athlete.

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Photo credit: LA Media


Eight Albertans invited to Canada’s National Junior Team Summer Development Camp

CALGARY - Eight Albertans are among the 41 players invited to Canada’s virtual National Junior Team Sport Chek Summer Development Camp.

Sebastian Cossa (Fort McMurray) and Taylor Gauthier (Calgary) are among the five goaltenders invited to the camp. Defencemen Bowen Byram (Lethbridge/Cranbrook), Kaiden Guhle (Sherwood Park) and Matthew Robertson received invites as well, along with forwards Ridly Greig (Lethbridge), Dylan Holloway (Bragg Creek) and Peyton Krebs (Okotoks).

The virtual summer camp runs July 27-31, where players will participate in a variety of sessions with a focus on player development through online education.

Home Ice Feature

Kodie Curran (second from left) with father, Jerome (far left), sister Jessica, and brother-in-law Joey. (Photo courtesy of Kodie Curran)


An unrelenting love of the game key in Curran’s journey to the NHL

Although ’follow your dreams’ is a common phrase, few people have taken that advice to heart quite like Kodie Curran.

At age 30, the Calgarian recently signed his first NHL deal with Anaheim Ducks - a two-year, one-way contract, the culmination of years of hard work, perseverance, and a seemingly unmatched love for the game.

After two productive seasons in the Swedish Hockey League, including a league MVP title this past season, the blueliner caught the eye of NHL scouts, and the Ducks announced the signing on June 1.

While Curran’s unorthodox pathway to the NHL isn’t completely unheard of, it’s certainly not the ’cookie cutter’ route that many take to hockey’s highest level.

"I think a lot adversity through my career that I’ve had to battle," said Curran of his journey so far. "Not saying that other guys don’t, but there’s late bloomers, and then there’s really late bloomers, and I was a really late bloomer. I didn’t start playing high-end hockey until maybe I was 20, and then I took a bit of a break, and really got into my element when I was about 25."

Hockey Alberta News
Kodie with his wife, Caitlin, and daughter Remi. (Photo courtesy of Kodie Curran)

Curran was certainly no stranger to adversity in his younger hockey days. After playing Bantam AAA with the Calgary Buffaloes organization, he was passed over in the WHL Bantam draft, and went on to play Midget AA (playing forward at the time), while many of his peers and former teammates were playing Midget AAA, and trending towards Major Junior hockey. Although somewhat disappointed at the time, he says it only helped push him harder.

"In Midget AA, you’re thinking ’why am I not on the AAA team, why am I not on the AAA team? Now what happens? Now I’m not going to get drafted," Curran said. "There’s so much doubt in your mind when you play in Midget AA at such a young age, but I think now kids are starting to be molded a little bit earlier to deal with that, which I think is great. I think it’s important just to remember that where ever you’re playing, you’re not the player you’re going to be in the future, down the road, so just really enjoy it, and that’s what I tried to do."

After graduating from minor hockey, Curran enjoyed a successful career in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Calgary Canucks and Spruce Grove Saints, winning an AJHL title with the latter in 2010. Following his junior career, Curran played five seasons for the University of Calgary Dinos, helping the team to the National Championship in 2001, and earning West First All-Star Team honours in 2014 and 2015.

Hockey Alberta NewsWhile the end of a post-secondary career could mark the last stop in a hockey player’s journey, Curran decided he wasn’t ready to give up on his dream. He signed a deal with the American Hockey League’s Hartford Wolf Pack, the New York Rangers’ top affiliate, and split time between the Wolf Pack and the Greenville Swamp Rabbits of the East Coast Hockey League. After making the difficult decision to play pro hockey in Europe, far away from his family and friends, he played in Denmark and Norway in 2016-17 and 2017-18, respectively, before landing with Rögle BK of the Swedish Hockey League.

Curran credits the overwhelming support from his family and friends as a key contributing factor to his success in Europe.

"My family has meant everything to me," he said. "When I think about this moment, and sharing it with them, words aren’t enough to explain what they mean to me. To be that far away from home over in Europe, and to constantly be on FaceTime or getting texts from your family saying ’you’re doing the right thing’, they really solidified for me that I was in the right place in my life, and what I was doing was right."

Curran certainly made the most of his time in Europe, especially his two seasons in Sweden. This past season, he put up staggering numbers for a defenceman (12 goals and 37 points in 48 games), finishing second in the league in scoring, earning the title of league MVP. Curran was the first foreign-born player to be named the SHL’s MVP since current Calgary Flame Derek Ryan, who took a similar path to the NHL, making his league debut at 29 years old.

"Last year was an amazing season," Curran said. "I ended up getting onto a team with young guys, great players, and we got hot, and it was an amazing year, one I’ll never forget."

Despite nothing ever coming easy for him, Curran says his love of the game always got him through, and kept him looking towards the future.

"As you go through your career, everyone puts a label on the teams that you should be playing for, and the things that you should be doing, and where you should be at a certain age. I think a lot of kids, and parents especially, get caught up in that, and can put a lot of pressure on their kids. I didn’t have any pressure from my parents, they really just wanted me to love the game of hockey, and I did that. And I think that’s what got me through those tough times, was just my passion for the game. I didn’t do anything that the hockey world says we ’should do’, and here I am. So I think there are other ways to do it, and I hope this shows that there are other ways to get to your dreams."

Although his hockey career has recently taken him all over the world, Curran says his time playing grassroots hockey in Alberta were vital to his development and success.

"I think what’s so great about (grassroots hockey in Alberta), is the development, and all the branch-offs that you can go into to play to have success. I always remember my roots and where I came from, I think Hockey Alberta’s done a great job in developing young kids and making sure there’s enough areas for all types of skills to play."

While he could have walked away from the game with his head held high at any point in his career, and a number of impressive accomplishments under his belt, Curran never gave up on his dream, and hopes his story can help inspire young athletes to chase theirs, and never let anyone, or anything, stop them.

"I didn’t make a single (division) one team, I think ever, I didn’t make AAA, and I was at a crossroads of whether to play forward or defence at 17 years old," he said. "For me, I always just tried to really fall in love with the game of hockey. If you don’t love it, and it’s not for you, then that’s great. But I know there’s a ton of kids out there that love the game of hockey, so let that be your inspiration, and let that be something that pushes you through these tough times, is that you love the game for its purity."

While the work isn’t quite done for Curran, as the task of earning an NHL roster spot with the Ducks still lies ahead, he says he’s looking forward to the challenge, and in the meantime, will enjoy some much-deserved rest and down time with his family.

(Third photo of Kodie with sister Jessica (left) and mom Deborah (right), courtesy of Kodie Curran)

Home Ice Feature

Stories from the Rink: Alix/Clive Minor Hockey Association highlights star volunteer

ALIX, AB - As parents arrive at the rink on frigid Saturday mornings throughout the winter, they joke to themselves about seeing Tyler Copland’s truck parked in "his spot", as he is always the first to arrive before a game. Whether it’s as a board member, coach, friend, mentor, parent, or sponsor, Tyler wears many hats in the town of Alix.

Since his boys began playing hockey with the Alix and Clive combined association, Tyler has been involved as a volunteer on different levels. He invests a great deal of time and energy into helping mentor the kids during every practice and game. When one game ends, he is typically gearing up to head to another arena to support his other son’s teams.

"Tyler has only missed a handful of practices and games over the years. His commitment is impressive, as is the message he has for the kids: just keep showing up, regardless of what struggle might be in front of you, just keep showing up," said Lori Gibson, who shared the story with Hockey Alberta. "He doesn’t tell the kids what dedication is, he lives it every day."

Tyler’s positive attitude is infectious throughout the teams he coaches. He is always quick to flash a smile and joke around with the kids, and holds nothing back when it comes to helping the players achieve their goals. Always keeping things light and fun, he loves nothing more than celebrating an accomplishment for anyone on his team whether it’s a goal, assist, win, or just a great shift.

As the first guy to the rink to open the rooms and set out the pucks, a supporter of the concessions and 50/50 draws, and yearly corporate sponsor, Tyler values the deep roots he has created in his community, and they would like to thank him for everything he has done.


If you have a great story or volunteer that you would like Hockey Alberta to highlight, please send the information to [email protected].

Home Ice Feature

2019 Alberta Cup Rewind: Championship Final - Alberta Black vs Alberta Red

RED DEER - Hockey Alberta takes a look back on the 2019 Alberta Cup, with a feature game each day from Thursday to Sunday.

Friday’s feature Alberta Cup Rewind game goes back to the B Final on Sunday, April 28, as Alberta Yellow went head-to-head with Alberta Green:

Championship Final

Alberta Red 3 - Alberta Black 1

Players of the Game: Alberta Red: #31 Ian Mills | Alberta Black: #2 Carson Brisson

Boxscore > | AB Cup Results > | AB Cup Stats >


Interview: Zach Hodder of the WHL

Home Ice Feature

2019 Alberta Cup Rewind: B Final - Alberta Yellow vs Alberta Green

RED DEER - Hockey Alberta takes a look back on the 2019 Alberta Cup, with a feature game each day from Thursday to Sunday.

Friday’s feature Alberta Cup Rewind game goes back to the B Final on Sunday, April 28, as Alberta Yellow went head-to-head with Alberta Green:

B Final

Alberta Green 10 - Alberta Yellow 2

Players of the Game: Alberta Green: #18 Bowden Singleton | Alberta Yellow: #20 Matt Savoie

Boxscore > | AB Cup Results > | AB Cup Stats >


Interview: Hockey Alberta Officials Development Coordinator Colin Watt

Home Ice Feature

2019 Alberta Cup Rewind: Game 7 - Alberta Yellow vs Alberta Blue

RED DEER - Hockey Alberta takes a look back on the 2019 Alberta Cup, with a feature game each day from Thursday to Sunday.

Friday’s feature Alberta Cup Rewind game goes back to Friday, April 26 with the Game 7 matchup between Alberta Yellow and Alberta Blue:

Game #7

Alberta Yellow 6 - Alberta Blue 4

Players of the Game: Alberta Yellow: #18 Billal Noori | Alberta Blue: #14 Ty Hurley

Boxscore > | AB Cup Results > | AB Cup Stats >


Interview: Hockey Alberta CEO Rob Litwinski

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2019 Alberta Cup Rewind: Game 4 - Alberta Black vs Alberta Grey

RED DEER - Hockey Alberta takes a look back on the 2019 Alberta Cup, with a feature game each day from Thursday to Sunday.

Thursday’s feature Alberta Cup Rewind game goes back to Thursday, April 25 with the Game 4 battle between Alberta Grey and Alberta Black:

Game #4

Alberta Black 4 - Alberta Grey 2

Players of the Game: Alberta Black: #16 Reid MacKay | Alberta Grey: #20 Koehn Ziemmer

Boxscore > | AB Cup Results > | AB Cup Stats >


Interview: Team Alberta Trainer Mentor Dave Campbell

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Photo credit: LA Media


Nine Albertans earn WHL Eastern and Western Conference honours

RED DEER/CALGARY - Alberta is once again very well-represented as the Western Hockey League (WHL) rolled out its 2019-20 Eastern and Western Conference award winners and All-Star teams.

Three WHL conference awards went to players hailing from Alberta:

Riley Fiddler-Schultz (Fort Saskatchewan), Calgary Hitmen - Eastern Conference Humanitarian of the Year
Dylan Guenther
(Edmonton), Edmonton Oil Kings - Eastern Conference Rookie of the Year
Ty Smith
(Lloydminster), Spokane Chiefs - Western Conference Top Defenceman

Riley Fiddler-Schultz is up for the Doug Wickenheiser Memorial Trophy against Western Conference winner Jake Gricius of the Portland Winterhawks. The winner will be announced Tuesday, May 12.

Dylan Guenther and Western Conference Rookie of the Year Logan Stankoven of the Kamloops Blazers go head-to-head for the Jim Piggot Memorial Trophy, which will be announced Friday, May 15.

Ty Smith goes up against Eastern Conference Top Defenceman Calen Addison of the Lethbridge Hurricanes for the Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy. The winner will be announced Tuesday, May 19.

The Lethbridge Hurricanes are up for the WHL’s Business Award, earning Eastern Conference honours, against the Western Conference Business of the Year in the Seattle Thunderbirds. The winner will be announced Wednesday, May 6.

Smith was also among the seven Albertans named to the WHL’s First and Second All-Star teams:

Eastern Conference First All-Star Team:
Forward - James Hamblin (Edmonton), Medicine Hat Tigers

Eastern Conference Second All-Star Team:
Defenceman - Matthew Robertson (Sherwod Park), Edmonton Oil Kings
Forward - Peyton Krebs (Okotoks), Winnipeg ICE

Western Conference First All-Star Team:
Defenceman - Ty Smith (Lloydminster), Spokane Chiefs

Western Conference Second All-Star Team:
Defenceman - Bowen Byram (Lethbridge/Cranbrook), Vancouver Giants
Forward - Zane Franklin (Marwayne), Kamloops Blazers
Forward - Bryce Kindopp (Lloydminster), Everett Silvertips