The Peace Country is a vital part of the Oil Country community and has been a stellar host of the Alberta Pond Hockey Championship for four years. This event is an amazing opportunity for teams from all over our great province to join in on some good ol’ fashioned shinny and celebrate all that hockey is truly about – sport, community, teamwork and dedication. Hockey has the ability to bring together old friends, build new friendships and create an unparalleled bond between people all in the name of fun and wellness. The Oilers look forward to once again participating in this year’s festivities.
Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club.

“The Alberta Pond Hockey experience ranks as memorable as any tournament I’ve ever been to… from the games to the off ice events, Peace River community and its sponsors do a terrific job. My time was sharing stories with eager hocky fans and enjoying the uniqueness of a northern Alberta city who threw out the welcome mat for all who yearned for the environment of an outdoor hockey game, some hospitable friendly northern Alberta people or just plain old fashion, healthy family fun entertainment. I left with a wonderful memory and wish the town of Peace River continued success with the Alberta Pond Hockey. A great reflection on hockey and an even better reflection on Peace River, Alberta, Canada.”
Bryan Trottier, Former New York Islander, Hockey Hall of Fame 1997.

I had to pleasure of being invited to the Alberta Pond Hockey Championships in the Peace Region last February and I will never forget the experience. I did not know what to expect never having been to an outdoor tournament like this, I was so impressed with the amount of rinks and the quality of ice surface they were able to attain, growing up in Saskatchewan I played plenty of hockey outdoors but this was something very special. I recommend the tournament to any group that has the opportunity to participate.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Clark Gillies, Former New York Islander, Hockey Hall of Fame 2002. 

“As a kid, skating on the pond in winter was the greatest. I always scored the overtime winner in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Thanks to the Alberta Pond Hockey tourney, I’m able to relive some of my favourite childhood memories. And that includes the frozen toes!”
Rob Williams, Senior News Producer, CTV Edmonton.

“In my 20 years of covering sporting events, the Alberta Pond Hockey Championships is at the top of the list. It is one of the premier events in all of Canada. The organization of the championship, from everything to the actual hockey to entertainment, is exceptional. It’s a can’t miss event that is Smokin hot, in the cold of winter.”
Kevin Karius, Global Sports, Edmonton.

“There are many obvious challenges living in the north with a smaller population base, but the organizers do a commendable job compiling resources and volunteers from all neighbouring municipalities in order to make things work. In fact, the tournament has become the largest winter event in the territory with economic impact on participating communities exceeding $300,000.  The event has undoubtedly put our region on the map by attracting many out of town teams and spectators, and, through media coverage on a provincial and national level.”
Chris Black, General Manager, YL Country/ KIX FM, Peace River.

“Their Board of Directors (APHA) has worked diligently to organize volunteers and assistance from six neighbouring municipalities to synchronize the largest winter event in northern Alberta. The event hosts 88 teams and visitors from as far away as the North West Territories and Ontario. Hotels, restaurants and the retail sector have felt the economic benefits of the weekend event which creates some excitement in the middle of our long winter. The event raises the awareness of our region and encourages visitors to return for a summer vacation, creating a two-fold benefit.”
Dorothy Malone, Secretary, Grimshaw and District Chamber of Commerce.

“Over the years their event has contributed to the local economy, strengthened community spirit and assembled a network of devoted volunteers. This particular event has given us a substantial amount of exposure and brought the Peace Region into the national spotlight.”
Shelly Shannon, President, Peace River & District Chamber of Commerce.

“This event has contributed to the rise of pond hockey tournaments across Alberta and has formal relations with Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise which hosts an affiliate tournament. The Alberta Pond Hockey Association is a major player in Alberta Tourism especially for Northern Alberta.”
Brian Allen, Mayor, Town of Grimshaw.

Hockey is Canada’s national sport. In northern Alberta, with our long winters, hockey is not only a sport but a way of life that encompasses physical activity, enjoyment of the outdoors, social engagement for the entire family with friends, opportunities to become involved and meet people through volunteerism and host of other elements that make for a very vibrant community. The Alberta Pond Hockey tournament on Lac Cardinal has become the embodiment of all of these attributes.”
Iris Callioux, Mayor, Town of Peace River.

“The Alberta Pond Hockey’s Lac Cardinal Tournament is a celebration of Canadians’ famed love of hockey and rekindles in us a time past when players used Eaton’s catalogues for shin pads and played on outdoor rinks that needed to be shovelled before the game could start.  Aside from being a fun-filled family celebration of the spirit of the game, this event has grown to where it is having an economic impact on area communities. While drawing together 6 municipal partners, hundreds of volunteers, and attracting national media attention, the event remains as a pure celebration of Canadian winter and the game of hockey. Congratulations to all involved.”
Frank Oberle, MLA Peace River Constituency, Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security.

“The annual pond hockey tournament is the largest winter event in Northern Alberta. It incorporates six local municipalities as partners, depicting close community relations and efforts to promote our region. The event also partners with local, provincial and national media in print, radio and television. It is largely supported by individuals throughout the region, with approximately $350,000 given to the event each year as Gift in Kind.

As an event of such large magnitude would, this event has a large economic impact on the entire region. Our hotels, restaurants, and stores benefit each year from this event. This impact is made clearly by visitors from throughout Alberta, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, and Ontario who attend the event each year. Approximately 50 per cent of the teams travel a distance in excess of 200 km to attend the tournament. This is obviously a significant tourism event for Northern Alberta.”
Hector Goudreau, MLA Dunvegan Central-Peace, Minister of Municipal Affairs.

Edmonton Sun – SLAM!SPORTS

Pond Hockey Extraordinaire by Richard Wright

Returning to the roots of the game brings everyone together for a weekend celebration of hockey in its purest form.

George Mackenzie didn’t have any reason to be there other than the love of the game and to rekindle some terrific memories of frostbitten toes and banged-up knees.

The 78-year-old Peace Country resident wasn’t a participant, didn’t have a single relative out on the ice, but for a man who 70 years ago honed his skills on the area’s rickety outdoor rinks with barely a piece of legit equipment to call his own, the 2008 Alberta Pond Hockey Championships last weekend on Lac Cardinal just outside Peace River might as well have been the Stanley Cup finals.

“I can remember using Eaton’s catalogues for shin pads and outdoor rinks where you had to shovel the rink before you played games,” said Mackenzie from the warm confines of the event’s main tent, where the smell of boiling hot dogs and brewing hot chocolate permeated over an excited crowd of hundreds.

“The bank of snow would be so high that outside the fence all the people could stand up there and watch the game.”

Memory lane

Talk about a trip down memory lane. Mackenzie was one of close to 1,000 people who enjoyed the Family Day weekend playing, or simply watching, a form of hockey almost every Canadian can relate to. Well before indoor rinks with heated lobbies and concession stand rife with choices, pioneers of the game we have grown to worship toiled on ponds, lakes, rivers or crudely-crafted outdoor community rinks where ice-cleaning machines would have been a luxury saved for a futuristic Orson Welles novel.

Even today, those same rivers and ponds offer a new generation of hockey fans a place to play. Outdoor hockey will never go away as long as there is weather cold enough to freeze water.

On Lac Cardinal, organizers of the event did their best to keep with tradition. The 13 rinks carved out of the lake, in perfectly aligned blocks, were half the size of a regulation ice surface and had only two feet of snow piled along the sides and ends to stop pucks from flying into the next field of play. The only modern convenience, other than a giant tent, which wasn’t really needed thanks to unseasonably mild weather, were two local Zamboni crews that worked feverishly to clear the ice in time for the next game.

Everyone enjoyed themselves. That was clearly evident from quickly offered smiles that were flashed everywhere despite being slightly over shadowed by runny noses and pink cheeks.

“What a blast!” said Celine Doyle, a 53-year-old mother of four, who along with her brother Reale Sasseville, husband Ed, son David and daughter Joanne, made up the Pita Pit Puckheads, team based out of Grande Prairie.

“This has been the best weekend – great people, wonderful weather, a fantastic organization and everybody is so friendly. This is all about the spirit of the game.”

For the Doyles, the spirit of the game may be what attracted them to Lac Cardinal, but it was more about being able to spend time with family that brought them together again.

Celine and Ed, once longtime residents of the Peace Country, now live in Crowsnest Pass. Their grown children are spread out from Grande Prairie to Calgary.

“We have always been a hockey family,” said Celine. “So when David e-mailed us, what we first said was, ‘Are you crazy? We are too old. If you plan on winning any games you’ve got the wrong people.’ But then after a while my husband and I were sitting there and he looked over at me and asked, ‘What are you thinking?’ I said, ‘Pond hockey.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Pond hockey.’

“So we phoned David and said, ‘We’re in.'”

The Puck Heads did win a game. In fact, they won five, losing a tight contest in the first playoff round to go home with a 5-and-3 record.

“And we are happy with that,” said Celine. “David said he wanted to win at least two games.”

64 teams involved

In all, 64 teams from Okotoks to Hay River turned out for the championships, which, now in its second year, is purely a Peace River-area effort.

In the end, the hometown, and defending champions, Doug Marshall Chevies were ousted from their perch in the semifinals a new champion crowned when the Grimshaw Mullen Oilfield team took out Team Tylenol from Peace River 23-15.

John Haney, vice president of the Alberta Pond Hockey Championships, couldn’t have been more pleased with the way things unfolded and announced plans to make it even bigger next year.

“I think we are going to grow the event to 80 or 88 teams,” he said. “What we really want to do is increase the proportional representation from throughout the province. This year we had a new champion,” he added, noting that parity is a good thing. “That’s a part of what attracts people – to see change and also to be challenged.”

As a result of their win Team Mullen Oilfield now qualifies for the world pond hockey championships in Plaster Rock, N.B., next February.

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Peace River Record-Gazette

(Editorial Excerpt) Tuesday, February 20, 2007

We came out with some bumps, bruises and chipped teeth but it was all worth it. The Record-Gazette’s Hookers and Slashers were the only all-girl team to take the ice last weekend for the Alberta Pond Hockey Championships and we proved we could keep up with the guys.

Thanks to the Town of Peace River team, the Hookers and Slashers didn’t go winless.  In all, organizers deserve a big hand for pulling off a top-notch event. Kudos to John Haney, Gord Drummond, Jennifer Thietke and James Bazan-Lindsay and the countless volunteers that shoveled snow, cleared the ice, served coffee and other warming brews, sold 50/50 tickets and the many sponsors that made it all a reality.

Teams that travelled from far were impressed with the event and the hospitality of the Peace.  The Peace Region continutes to set the bar high and exceed expectations with regional events that draw crowds from across the province.

We have no doubt that Pond Hockey will continue to flourish in the Peace Region with double the teams flocking to beautiful Lac Cardinal next year…

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