Category: Local Sports

Lacombe’s senior hockey fans get their beloved moniker back

We can once again call Lacombe’s senior hockey team the Generals.

Formerly the North Central Hockey League’s Eckville Eagles, the franchise relocated to Lacombe over the summer. However, there was still a Hockey Alberta process to undergo before being allowed to use the name or even wear the jerseys of the 2019 Allan Cup champions.

Now approved by Hockey Alberta — a Senior AA squad as opposed to AAA — the Generals are led by GM Reed Watts, who ran and played for the Eagles the last three years. He previously played for Blackfalds in the HJHL, and Big Valley in the defunct Battle River Hockey League.

“The name means a lot within Lacombe and there’s a lot to live up to using it; it carries weight,” says Watts. “There are very passionate fans, lots of carry-overs we’re seeing, and they’re true fans of this team. They know the players and want to stay up to date.”

The Generals’ previous iteration was a multiple time Allan Cup champion and had made the final five years straight. Thus, getting to this point hasn’t been easy, according to Watts, who admits it was his own fault when given an indefinite suspension by the NCHL.

“We’d applied and it was taking so long, so we proceeded with the name of Lacombe Hockey because we didn’t want to be called Eckville. It was confusing, and the sponsors weren’t responding,” he says.

“We were growing impatient, which was bred by myself, so we went ahead and started wearing the jerseys. We weren’t aware that wasn’t allowed, and that led to the suspension, which has since been rescinded.”

Now that politics are out of the way, the Generals can start putting more energy into an exciting on-ice product. Despite getting off to a 2-5-0-0 start, Watts notes that the team has plenty of talent, including returning players from last year’s AAA championship squad like Kyle Sheen and Collin Valcourt. The Gens also have the Mulder bros, Blair and Tyler, who played for the 2019 Allan Cup runners-up from Innisfail.

“The commitment to detail hasn’t been there. It’s not Jekyll and Hyde, but it isn’t far off. We shoot ourselves in the foot. We’ll cycle for 30 to 40 seconds and everyone’s brain goes from where to shoot and score to a loose puck squirting behind the D, and then it’s good night,” says Watts.

“If you look at the underlying numbers, we’ve got a strong powerplay and a really strong penalty kill. It’s just 5-on-5 we struggle with.”

Watts would love to see the NCHL expand from nine to 10 teams, making it easier to become a two division league. But, he says the league is better now than perhaps it’s ever been.

“Since year one when I was in the league, it has improved immensely. As far as the parity of the league, I truly feel this is one of the best seasons for a competitive balance,” he says. “No one’s running away with it, teams are keeping pace and the league is strong.”

The Lacombe Generals currently sit eighth out of nine teams in the NCHL standings with four points, the same amount as rival Blackfalds Wranglers, and four behind the third place Red Deer Rustlers. On offense, they’re led by Kyle Maas (4G,6A), Jagger Bowles (3G, 4A) and Lacombe native Jared Williams (3G,3A), who helped Watts spearhead Eckville’s move to Lacombe.

The team also has former Red Deer Rebels forward Arseni Oursov on the roster.

Next up for the Generals is a home and home versus Red Deer Nov. 29 and 30, the first night (8:45 p.m.) in Lacombe, and the next night (8:15 p.m) at Red Deer’s Servus Arena.

Locals honoured with Baseball Alberta year-end awards

Red Deer Minor Baseball has been honoured as the ‘Large Association of the Year’ for 2019 by Baseball Alberta, who announced its year-end award recipients this week.

Dari Rodriguez of the Red Deer Braves was named Player of the Year in the 11U AA division.

Two players with the Innisfail Hawks were honoured with Player of the Year Awards, Ethan Savage in the 13U A division and Nathan Flewelling in the 13U AA division.

Desmond Boutellier of Innisfail was honoured with the Wally A. Footz Builders Award.

Sarah Masse with the Bashaw Bandits was named Off-field Manager of the Year.

Rogers Hometown Hockey less than two weeks away

Only a week and a half remains until Rogers Hometown Hockey rolls into Red Deer on Nov. 30 – Dec. 1.

To kick off the celebrations, The City of Red Deer is hosting a free community skate this Saturday, November 23 at the Collicutt Centre from 12:30 to 2 p.m.

Citizens of all ages are invited to enjoy some free skating and learn more about Rogers Hometown Hockey. Please note, skate rentals are not available at the Collicutt Centre.

Rogers has announced that NHL alumni Glenn Anderson, Shane Doan and Red Deer native Glen Wesley are coming will be part of the festival. The free hockey-themed weekend also features games, prize giveaways, fun activities, and live local entertainment for the whole family. A full schedule of events will be announced next week.

“We are thrilled to welcome Rogers Hometown Hockey to Red Deer for the second time,” said Mayor Tara Veer. “Events like this are an opportunity for us to build community life through celebration with our friends, family and neighbours, and to celebrate our shared passion for hockey and sport.”

A Local Organizing Committee, made up of community partners including: Tourism Red Deer, the Downtown Business Association, Red Deer and District Community Foundation, Red Deer Minor Hockey, the Red Deer Rebels, Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce and Alberta Sports Hall of Fame have come together to bring local flavour to the festival and build community excitement.

Soon residents will be “seeing red” through the Paint the Town Red contest for local businesses, and local schools are raising donations for the Red Deer Food Bank for a chance to win a preview visit by Rogers Hometown Hockey. And Red Deer Minor Hockey will be running a charity BBQ during the festival weekend.

The Festival takes place at Gary W. Harris Celebration Plaza (48 Avenue, downtown Red Deer) from noon – 6 p.m. on Saturday, November 30 and noon – 8 p.m. on Sunday, December 1.

The weekend culminates in a live broadcast, hosted by Ron MacLean and Tara Slone on Sportsnet at 4:30 p.m. as the Boston Bruins take on the Montreal Canadiens.

For more information, including volunteer opportunities, visit reddeer.ca/hometownhockey.

(City of Red Deer)

Hockey Canada dropping ‘midget,’ other traditional minor age group names

CALGARY – Hockey Canada is changing its traditional age group names, including “midget,” a year after some other sports organizations stopped using the term.

The governing body of hockey in Canada announced Monday that the age categories, that also included novice, peewee, atom and bantam, would be replaced by names descriptive of the ages of the players, from under-7 up to U21. The change, approved at Hockey Canada’s winter congress in Montreal, will impact all minor and female hockey programs under the Hockey Canada umbrella.

Some other organizations, including BC Hockey and Athletics Canada, changed their classification names in November, 2018. The changes started when Regina Scott, who has a young son with dwarfism, reached out to the local youth basketball association in Guelph, Ont., after noticing the term “midget” on a banner at a mall.

The term has long been used as youth age category title across several sports. However, the word is considered a derogatory slur.

“We believe everyone should feel welcome in the game and in our on-going effort to make hockey more inclusive, the members at the Hockey Canada annual meeting determined that the names of our age Divisions will change,” Michael Brind’Amour, chair of the Hockey Canada board of directors, said in a statement. “Following a comprehensive review, we believe this change will simplify the system for families who may be new to the game. The new age Division names will be implemented for next season.”

Hockey Canada said the change will be implemented nationally by the national governing body and its 13 provincial and territorial members for the 2020-21 season.

Champions crowned at the Red Deer Curling Classic

A pair of late comebacks Monday made for an exciting end to the 2019 edition of the Red Deer Curling Classic at the Pidherney Centre.

Skip James Pahl and his Edmonton team of third Glen Kennedy, second Roland Robinson and lead Craig MacAlpine claimed the men’s title with a thrilling 6-5 win over Tyler Tardi’s team from Surrey, BC (skip Tardi, third Sterling Middleton, second Jordan Tardi and lead Alex Horvath).

Team Pahl opened the game with the hammer and opened the scoring with a first end deuce.

Tardi scored one in the second and stole another point in the third before Pahl scored twice in the fourth for a 4-2 lead.

Tardi kept chipping away with a single in the fifth and steals in the sixth and seventh for a 5-4 lead.

But Pahl scored two in the eighth and final end to snatch the victory.

On the women’s side it was Team Sinclair from Charlotte, North Carolina who claimed the title.

Sinclair, third Cory Christensen, second Vicky Persinger and lead Taylor Anderson outduelled the Kelowna, BC team of Brette Ricahards, Blaine DeJager, Steph Jackson-Baier and Rachelle Kallechy by a score of 8-6 in Monday’s final.

Team Sinclair trailed 6-3 through six ends before scoring one in the seventh and stealing two in the eighth to sneak away with the title.

Both of the championship teams earned a cool $10,000 for winning the World Curling Tour event.

Thurber football star to hit the field Grey Cup

Lindsay Thurber Raiders football star Will Moir is headed to the 107th Grey Cup in Calgary.

The Nissan Kickoff Project brings together 70 high school football players from across the country for the CFL’s biggest game. It also pits them against one another in an exhibition game. The players chosen demonstrate the “Titan values of being tough, innovative, tenacious, ambitious and notable.”

Moit, a grade 12 receiver, says he’s honoured.

“If you really want it, work as hard as you possibly can every day and eventually you’ll achieve any success that you want. Stay positive, and don’t get down,” he says is his advice for younger players working their way up the chain.

“We have four principles at Thurber that really help keep that in our mind. The first one is commit, the second is don’t quit, the third is never turn your back on your teammates, and the last one is don’t hurt the family, so don’t do anything stupid on and off the field, and do your job.”

Moir began playing in grade eight, he notes, after a friend pushed him to get involved.

“At first it was pretty nerve-racking and kind of scary, but as i figured out what it was all about, and the kind of family it is, I got addicted to it, I guess.”

A Calgary Stampeders fan, Moir was in the stands in Edmonton last year to watch his team win the Grey Cup over Ottawa.

Players he looks up to include Stamps QB Bo Levi Mitchell, and Adam Thielen of the Minnesota Vikings.

The exhibition game goes Nov. 23 (the day before Grey Cup) at Shouldice Athletic Park in Calgary.

High school volleyball zone finals set for Thursday

The zone champions in high school volleyball will be crowned Thursday night at Lindsay Thurber.

On the 4A men’s side it will be the Lindsay Thurber Raiders taking on the defending zone champion Hunting Hills Lightning.

The Raiders swept the Lacombe Rams in semifinals action while the Lightning pulled out a grueling five-set win over Notre Dame.

On the women’s side it’ll also be the Raiders and Lightning battling for a zone title. Both sides won their semifinals in straight sets over Lacombe and Notre Dame, respectively.

The zone championship matches go Thursday night at Thurber starting with the women’s match at 6 p.m. followed by the men’s final.

Team Alberta settles for 6th at U18 Nationals in Manitoba

Unfortunately for Team Alberta, the 2019 U18 National Hockey Championships in Winkler and Morden, MB did not go as planned.

Alberta went 1-2 in its three preliminary round games, losing 3-2 to Saskatchewan, then 4-1 to Ontario Red, before beating Atlantic 2-1.

On Friday, Alberta played Team BC for 5th place, and lost 4-1.

In the gold medal game, Ontario Red beat Saskatchewan 3-1. Quebec topped Ontario Blue 2-1 for bronze.

RELATED: Pair of central Albertans headed to U18 National Championships

Alberta forward Kylie Perry, who is from Ponoka, was held pointless in the tournament, while Red Deer blueliner Aryn Chambers had one assist. Both Perry and Chambers play for the Midget AAA Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs.

Dome Sports opens on east side of Gasoline Alley

Dome Sports opens on east side of Gasoline Alley

At 80 feet high, and 107,000 square feet, the new sports dome in Red Deer County is quite the sight to behold, both from the inside and outside.

Noah Welch, an American hockey Olympian turned Red Deer resident, is behind Dome Sports, which held an open house on Saturday at its 334 Energy Way location.

Welch praised the team behind getting the business up and running, and spoke about the bigger picture behind bringing such a facility to central Alberta.

“Our main goal is to level the playing field for athletes in cental Alberta to compete and to reach their max potential in field sports, whatever that may be,” Welch said. We have a holistic approach to that and with my background being an elite athlete, I’ve got an idea of what that takes. Everything is age appropriate, and we want to take athletes in, help them get better, and send them back out to their teams.”

Welch added that while there are other domes across Canada, including in Calgary and Edmonton, their business models aren’t quite the same in terms of having a focus on athlete development.

“We’re here for the community. This is truly a facility for them,” he said. “I talk a lot about devleoping athletes, but we have different programs and leagues for men’s and women’s rec, bocce days for older folks, and programs that start as early as six-months-old.”

Another building attached to the dome will soon house a cafe, and several multi-purpose rooms. Dome Sports received a development permit from Red Deer County last March.

Thus far, Red Deer City Soccer, St. Joseph Baseball Academy and Innisfail Baseball have all booked time inside the dome, and Welch hopes those partnerships will continue moving forward.

More information is at TheDomeRedDeer.com.

Hunting Hills fall to Bert Church in provincial football semi-final

It was snowy, icy and cold with a windchill of -14 on Saturday for the Football Alberta Tier 2 provincial semifinal at Setters Place in Red Deer.

Unfortunately for the Hunting Hills Lightning, it also wasn’t their day, as they lost 30-20 to Airdrie’s Bert Church Chargers.

It was an inauspicious start for the Lightning who received the ball, but fumbled it on the opening play. The D-line was able to stand up the Chargers offence, but ultimately gave up a safety on the ensuing drive.

With the Chargers up 2-0 in the 2nd quarter, Hunting Hills QB Lucas Fuerbringer ran the ball in to give the home team its first and only lead of the game.

Moments later, however, a huge reception by the Chargers allowed them to punch it in from the red zone, and go back up 9-7. Then, with just two seconds left in the half, the visitors extended their lead with yet another touchdown.

In the second half, the Lightning came out with a purpose, putting up a lengthy drive before facing a 3rd and 3 scenario just outside the red zone. A field goal from Daniel Bae cut the deficit to 16-10.

Moments later, the Lightning found themselves beneficiaries of a 15-yard pass interference call, and Joe Hunt followed that up with a 17-yard run to put Hunting Hills close to paydirt. They settled for another field goal from Bae, however, and it was 16-13.

A missed field goal for Hunting Hills, and another touchdown for Bert Church later, and it was 23-14 for the road team, but that’s when things got really exciting.

With 1:57 left and the Chargers looking like they’d just sealed the deal, Joe Hunt had a kick return for the ages running it all the way down the field to bring the hole back to just three points at 23-20.

Alas, it was too little, too late for the Lightning, who gave up one more touchdown, and Bert Church had secured their ticket to the provincial final.

“We had a really good week of practice … I don’t want to discredit what they did, but today just wasn’t our day. They made big plays, so credit to them,” said Head Coach Kyle Sedgwick post-game.

“”We’ve got a great group of leaders on our team that battled a tremendous amount of adversity. Four straight provincial semi-finals is a pretty amazing feat, and our grade 12s were a part of three of those, but it just wasn’t meant to be today.”

Sedgwick said after taking some time to lament the loss, the Lightning will celebrate their successes.

This is the first time since 1997 that Airdrie’s Bert Church played in the provincial round.