by Stephen Dafoe
The bleachers will be full of parents and minor hockey fans this weekend when the Alberta Atom AA Provincials come to town.
Ten teams will take to the ice, including the host Sturgeon Hockey Club Mustangs. Joining Sturgeon in Pool A will be Cold Lake, Olds, Sylvan Lake, and SWZ. Pool B includes St. Albert, Chestermere, Strathcona, Okotoks, and Glen Lake.
Sturgeon Hockey Club President Wayne Gatza said the games would take place in Morinville and Legal.
It’s basically the Stanley Cup of minor hockey,” Gatza said. “Ten teams is roughly 200 kids plus siblings and parents. We expect that we’ll see over a thousand people go through the arena on that weekend.”
The first games take place in both communities at 4 p.m. on Thursday with Cold Lake Vs Sylvan Lake in Morinville and St. Albert Vs Strathcona in Legal.
Opening ceremonies are Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Morinville with Cold Lake taking on Sturgeon at 8:15 p.m.
Sunday will see the semi-finals in the morning in Morinville and the Championship final at 4 p.m. at the Ray McDonald Sports Center.
Gatza said bringing provincials to Morinville has a three-fold benefit. “It’s for players to experience a provincial Championship because some players will go through their whole minor career and never go,” he said. “Number two is it brings our Town into the public eye over that weekend. It’s great exposure for our community. Lastly, for our association in general, it helps promote our association.
A few years back, Gatza was involved in bringing the Senior AA Provincials to Morinville, a weekend that saw eight teams hit the ice and the newly-minted Morinville Kings hoisting the Cup and gold medals above their heads.
Scoring Provincials is something Gatza said involves some criteria and some leg work. But bringing provincials to town is worth the effort.
“There were a couple of provincial championships that were looking for a host, so we made an inquiry into it,” Gatza said. “We applied last year but didn’t get it. A big part of how they choose is they need an Association that has multiple rinks. They look at what you can offer. I think part of why we were fortunate is the last time I did Provincials; there was a lot of success. Hockey Alberta was pleased.”