The traffic on the roads had begun to feel a bit more hectic than usual as nine out-of-town teams descended upon Stettler to play in the Midget A provincial championship from Thursday to Sunday, March 24-27.
Divided into two pools with five teams each, the tournament was structured for the top two teams in each pool to play the semi-finals, winners of which would play the final for championship title.
“Being a Midget A provincial tournament the whole weekend was a highlight of fast-paced hockey, said Apryl Cassidy, Stettler host chairperson for Hockey Alberta Midget A Provincial Championships. “Every game was a highlight for the 10 teams. The opening ceremony was our biggest highlight with a parade of the teams, guest speakers, and a little bit of entertainment.”
According to Cassidy, Stettler Minor Hockey was asked by the Zone 7 Representatives from Hockey Alberta to put in a bid for provincials due to the fact that the Stettler Recreation Centre is perfect for a 10-team tournament.
“Our community is awesome for getting behind us, so when it was brought up we as a group weren’t sure we wanted to take it on again,” explained Cassidy. “A core group of this team had already done this a few years ago when this same core group had hosted Bantam A provincials in 2013. The boys had won gold that year, but the more we thought about it the more excited we got to plan for it.”
Cassidy said that since there was a method in place all they had to do was to “pull out all our info from 2013 and use some new ideas from 2015 and start planning.”
“First and foremost was sponsorship, and with the economy we knew that it would be tougher to do it this year,” Cassidy said. “We dropped all our costs as much as possible, but still enough to make this event a Stettler showcase, as it always is. Our biggest concern was of course it being the easter weekend and businesses being closed on Friday, but we were hoping people would be able to find the time to do some local shopping, with 10 teams, nine of which were staying in local hotels.”
Each team paid for a community pass, which enabled anyone from their community to come and watch. According to Cassidy, the idea was hatched a few years ago and is now becoming quite common at provincials as it saves time at the gate and expenses of printing weekend and day passes. It also alleviates the pressure on volunteers.
“There were of course donations of sponsorship from our local businesses, with many donating supplies, printers, ink gifts for the players, raffle silent auction items, and the list goes on,” Cassidy noted. “I am always proud of my home town, as once again Stettler has showed its true spirit of getting behind an event in any way they can.”
There was a raffle table that was filled with donations from the community, with a progressive 50/50 that ran from Friday morning till Sunday during final game, with the winner taking home a little more than $2,600.
“One thing we will say is a plug for minor hockey overall that we are dealing with 15-18 in this age group, so for people who wonder what the youth is up to, they are at the rink under supervision of caring parents, coaches and volunteers who drive them all over the country to play the sport they love,” said Cassidy. “As I hear so often, ‘Do you know where your teen is on Saturday night’ — YES we do! They are right there in front of us learning life lessons of team spirit, how to work together, and win or lose, learning good lessons from that.”
Cassidy said that that’s what minor sports does for kids.
“It brings them together, and we would all do it over given the chance.”