The Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League and the Spruce Grove Saints of the Alberta Junior Hockey League are playing at a very elite level, but is the Edmonton sports fan taking significant notice.
Alberta Junior Hockey League on Any Sport Any Time
The Spruce Grove Saints have been ranked as the top team in Canada for a vast majority of this hockey season yet no one in their community seems to be aware of how good this team is. (more…)
According to most of the mass-circulation media coverage of Alberta’s premier these days, not much good can be said about the way he and his party are running the business of the province.
Obviously, it’s a stretch to talk politics in a sports blog, but the subject of a new downtown Edmonton arena caught everybody’s attention this week.
Stelmach, to his credit, said there would be no (repeat no) provincial funding for new NHL arenas. (more…)
Steve Hamilton was born with the Edmonton Oilers and Oil Kings in his blood, so it’s only fitting he is now an official member of the hockey club.
Hamilton has been hired as an assistant coach for the Oil Kings major junior hockey team that competes in the Western Hockey League (WHL). The Oil Kings made the official announcement on Tuesday at Rexall Place.
But this is new media. Now, when we ask what you think, we’re asking for a sort of partnership. We really want you to help us spark conversation on the website.
With that in mind, please consider these issues and answer as many of them as you want. (more…)
Mike Schreiber’s hockey career started in Sherwood Park, took him up north to Fort McMurray, and then across the continent to New York. But next year he will embark on a whole new chapter of his life, as he crosses the Atlantic Ocean to further his career.
Schreiber, a 24-year-old defenceman from the Park, recently signed a one-year professional contract to play for Hannover of the 2nd Bundesliga League in Germany, starting with the 2010-2011 season. He spent the last four years playing NCAA Division I hockey for Union College in Schenectady, N.Y.
Schreiber, who served as an assistant captain last season for Union, was an all-East Coast Athletic Conference hockey first team selection after leading all conference defencemen in points with 29 — a Union College record for points by a blue-liner.
He also finished atop the conference with a plus-25 rating. Schreiber scored eight goals and added 21 assists during the 2009-2010, which also led to a nomination for the Hobey Baker Trophy, which is awarded annually to the top men’s college hockey player in the entire United States. For his Union career, he produced 78 points with 17 goals and 61 assists in four seasons.
Schreiber earned a scholarship to Union following a highly-successful junior A career with the Fort McMurray Oil Barons of the Alberta Junior Hockey League under head coach Gord Thibodeau. He put up 80 points on eight goals and 72 assists in 101 games.
He was named the Oil Barons’ top rookie in the 2003-2004 season, and he helped Fort McMurray capture the AJHL championship in 2005-2006. Prior to joining the Oil Barons, Schreiber was the top scorer for the J. Ennis Kings midget triple-A squad in the Park in 2002-03 and was selected as the top defenceman in the Alberta Midget Hockey League.
The most exciting play in the sport will be incorporated into the Alberta Junior Hockey League next season, as shootouts will now be used to determine winning teams following one overtime period.
The provincial junior A hockey league held its annual general meeting last weekend in Red Deer, as governors from all 16 teams converged to discuss the state of the league and implement changes.
The Sherwood Park Crusaders believe they have found the bench boss that’s going to take them to the elite ranks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, as they’ve hired Tim Fragle as their new head coach and general manager.
Two weeks ago, the junior A squad put the call out that they were looking for someone new to guide their hockey operations, after their board of directors decided not to renew the contract of Ross Kenny, who had been head coach and GM the last four seasons.
Over the past two weeks, the Cru received more than 30 applications from prospective coaches from across North America. But after several interviews and some final decision-making, the team decided to promote from within and hire Fragle, 30, who was Kenny’s assistant during the 2009-2010 season.
The new head coach grew up in Edmonton and played his bantam and midget triple-A rep hockey for the Canadian Athletic Club. He moved on to play two seasons of junior A with the (more…)
For hockey players to advance in their careers all the way up to the NCAA Division I level, they have to treat their sport like a science, knowing all its intricacies and minute details in order to succeed.
But for Sherwood Park native Dylan Wiwchar, who recently completed his senior season playing for the Northeastern University Huskies (Boston, Mass.) in the NCAA, hockey has literally become a science.
Wiwchar, a 25-year-old forward whose college hockey career is now over, was named a 2010 Outstanding Student Research Award winner back in April at the Northeastern Research & Scholarship Expo. (more…)
The Sherwood Park Crusaders will have a for sale sign attached to them in a few years if the community doesn’t start supporting the team more, their governor Kyle Chase says.
The Alberta Junior Hockey League squad announced on May 18 that Ross Kenny will no longer be the head coach and general manager of the team, as his contract was not renewed by the board of directors. Kenny had fulfilled the role of bench boss and GM of the Cru for the past four seasons.
Chase said the decision to not renew Kenny’s contract was made to take the junior A team in a new direction, but he added that direction will be the last one the current ownership group plans to take unless attendance at Cru games increases significantly.
“We want to give this one last kick at the cat,” the team governor said. “(The coaching change) is one of the steps we’re trying to make to get to another place with this team. People have got to start coming out to watch us play hockey. We’re not going to continue as an ownership group to lose money every year.”
The team has had one of the worst attendance averages in the 16-team provincial league. They’ve consistently drawn less than 500 fans per game, compared to teams like the Camrose Kodiaks and Grande Prairie Storm, who consistently draw more than 2,000.
Similar Edmonton-area markets like Spruce Grove and St. Albert also struggle with attendance, but the AJHL champion Spruce Grove Saints at least had four rounds of playoff games to add on to their regular season attendance revenue.
The Cru’s poor attendance totals would be somewhat acceptable if the team was playing badly, but that quite simply hasn’t been the case over the last three seasons, as they’ve had winning records all three years.
In 2008-2009, they were the top-ranked team in all of Canada for several weeks, but attendance didn’t change. And this past season, they had the most valuable player in all of Canada, Cody Kunyk, in their lineup, but only a few hundred routinely came to watch him.
“This is one last gasp for us,” said Chase, who is the spokesperson for the eight-member board. “People can figure out that they can come watch junior hockey in Sherwood Park, or they can drive somewhere else to go watch it. We can’t continue to lose money and not have people support what we’re doing.”
The 2010-2011 AJHL season will begin in September, and in addition to having a new coach, the Cru should have another highly-competitive squad. Their top statistical goalie, Patrick Terriss, is slated to return, as are high-scoring forwards Chris Kallal, Michael Small, Tanner Dion and Jessi Hilton, and second-top-scoring defenceman Josh Lee.
The Crusaders have called Sherwood Park home since the 1978-1979 season and have yet to capture an AJHL championship. They won the regular season title in 2002-2003, but the post-season crown has eluded them.
It will probably take at least one championship season, or some kind of marketing miracle, to prevent the Cru from being sold and likely moved elsewhere. For the sake of junior hockey in the Edmonton area, hopefully the team gets what it needs.
Not too many sports fans out there know this yet, but the top junior A hockey player in Canada this year is from right here in the Edmonton area.
Sherwood Park native and Sherwood Park Crusaders superstar forward Cody Kunyk was named the Canadian Junior A Hockey League’s player of the year on Friday, May 7, at the banquet for the 2010 Royal Bank Cup national championship tournament in Dauphin, Man.
Kunyk led the 2009-2010 Cru in regular season scoring with 87 points (44 goals, 43 assists) and finished fifth overall in the AJHL scoring race. At least a quarter of his 44 goals were simply dazzling, as he frequently made opposing defenders look like mere pylons. He was quite simply a pleasure to watch this season, often leaving me awestruck, and was well-deserving of both the Alberta Junior Hockey League MVP award, in addition to the national honour.
He scored a league-leading five short-handed goals, and recorded three or more points in 14 games during the 2009-2010 season. He was also selected as the Source for Sports AJHL player of the week on two occasions (September 2009 and November 2009). (more…)
In what came as a shock to absolutely nobody — except maybe the Fort McMurray Oil Barons — the Spruce Grove Saints captured the Enerflex Cup Alberta Junior Hockey League championship this week, adding yet another feather in their cap to one of the greatest seasons in junior A hockey history.
What was a bit shocking, though, was how much of a fight the Oil Barons put up in the championship series, which took a full seven games to decide. A big congratulations goes out to Fort McMurray head coach Gord Thibodeau and all his players for the uphill battle they waged against the powerhouse Saints.
Basically, there were two types of games that were played during the lengthy Enerflex Cup series. In the three games that the Oil Barons claimed victory, they put forth a grinding effort and managed to claw out 3-0, 4-1 and 4-2 wins. They got timely scoring and needed goalie Jesse Kallechy to be at the absolute top of his game. The other four games saw the Saints do exactly what they did best all year, which was pummel opponents into submission with unrelenting offence, while their goalies swept aside around 20 shots. In their four wins, the Saints tallied 24 goals for an average of six per game. For the league final, that’s mighty impressive.
The Saints’ depth and size this season was staggering. They had 14 players with more than 20 points during the regular season that saw them post a jaw-dropping 52-4-1-3 record — just four losses in regulation in 60 games … simply amazing. Oh, and they also have 10 players on their roster this season who have committed to play post-secondary hockey on scholarship at either the NCAA or CIS levels, which is the main focus of the league — moving these young men on to compete at the next level.
It all came together for head coach Steve Hamilton’s squad this year, and they’re going to be hard-pressed to get knocked off their league championship pedestal in years to come. In addition to their returning players, they have the upper hand in recruiting. I mean, how could they not? Who wouldn’t want to play for a team that plays with such dominance?
They’ve still got plenty of hockey ahead of them this year, though, as they now play the Vernon Vipers in the Doyle Cup Pacific Regional final. The Saints and Vipers are ranked one-two, respectively, in the national junior A rankings. It’s a smart bet that the winner of this series will also be hoisting the RBC Cup at the national championships in May.