For the last two decades, the first weekend of January has been a big one for female hockey in Prince Albert as the city plays host to a tournament for novice, atom, peewee, bantam and midget programs from Western Canada.
“Other than the World Juniors, there’s typically not much going on when it comes to events for the minor hockey teams,” Prince Albert Northern Bears head coach Jeff Willoughby said.
“It’s a chance for them to play those out of province teams and other teams that they wouldn’t see on a regular basis. Our girls went out to cheer on the Foxes teams this weekend and it’s also a big weekend for us when it comes to scouting purposes for our Midget AAA team for the future.”
Jim Flynn, who has been involved with the tournament for the last decade and has served as it’s chairman for six years, has seen firsthand the increase in numbers for the tournament over the last few seasons.
“There’s not a lot of tournament for the teams to go to and it also gives them something to do during the first part of a new year,” Flynn said. “They are typically on their Christmas break and things are pretty quiet right in early January before the second half of their league seasons begin, along with their provincial playoffs.
“It’s been nice to see how much the game is growing here in Saskatchewan. We had around 35 to 38 teams come in over the last couple of years and we were up to 41 teams this year.”
It’s not just teams from Saskatchewan that come to Prince Albert as programs from Alberta and Manitoba made their way to the Gateway to the North.
“One of the Alberta teams have already told us that they’ll be back next year so it’s nice to have that commitment from them already,” Flynn said.
“The feedback that we get from teams is always appreciated. We got an e-mail from one of the teams that came from La Ronge on Monday and they really enjoyed being here as they are starting to build up their girls’ program again.”
It was a successful weekend for the host Prince Albert Beachcomber Foxes as four of the teams made it to the finals.
The Bantam AA squad won a 4-3 overtime thriller over the Southern Express from Lethbridge, the Novice B team picked up a 6-4 triumph over the Warman Bengals and the Atom B girls’ prevailed in a 5-1 contest with the Lloydminster Blazers.
The Peewee B team finished in the runner-up spot after a 3-2 affair with the Warman Bengals.
The other event winners were the Saskatoon Comet Chargers (Bantam A), Lloydminster Steelers (Midget AA), North East White Aces (Novice C), East Central Fillies (Atom C) and North East Aces (Peewee C).