Bears to host 2020 Esso Cup

Herald File Photo Prince Albert Northern Bears teammates Rhea Peterson and Kailey Ledoux speak during the announcement that the team would host the 2020 Esso Cup at a press conference in September 2018. Hockey Canada announced on Wednesday that the Bears will still have the chance to serve as the host team next year after April's tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the first time in their history, the Prince Albert Northern Bears will welcome the top female midget AAA teams in Canada to the Art Hauser Centre.

The team announced Friday that they will serve as the hosts for the 2020 Esso Cup tournament, which will be held from April 19-25.

“It’s kind of surreal when you think about it,” Bears right winger Rhea Peterson said. “It’s going to be a great experience for our team and I know it’s going to be something that the girls who are joining us for tryouts next year are going to be excited about as they’ll have a chance to play for a national championship.”

“This is an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often,” Bears centre Kailey Ledoux added. “It’s going to be a lot of fun for us and I think it’ll be a great event for Prince Albert to be a part of.”

The process to host the tournament got underway in March of this year as a committee was put in place to submit a bid to Hockey Canada.

“It’s a national bid process so you don’t know what other cities are interested in hosting the event until you submit your entry,” host committee co-chair Darren Fidler said.

“As we put things together with a number of volunteers, we found that there was a great amount of support throughout the community for what we have put together and they were a key help with our bid.”

The Bears have competed at the Esso Cup once before, as they finished in fifth place at the 2016 tournament in Morden, Man.

This marks the third time that the event has been held in Saskatchewan, as the Regina Rebels were the host team in 2010 and the Weyburn Gold Wings held that honour in 2016.

“What sets this event apart from other tournaments is how highly competitive the hockey is,” Prince Albert Minor Hockey technical director James Mays said.

“All of the regional champions come here with a chance to win and every game means something. You won’t see a lot of blowouts in this tournament.”

Going into next year’s event, which will be held in Sudbury, Ont., two Saskatchewan teams have won the national title.

The Notre Dame Hounds took home the gold in 2011 and the Gold Wings matched that feat three years later.

The St. Albert Steel, who play in the Alberta Midget AAA Female Hockey League, have won the last two titles.

Information on volunteering for the event and on ticket packages will be announced in the coming weeks.