2023 Esso Cup Host Committee named organization of the year by Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame

Herald File Photo. The Stoney Creek Sabres celebrate winning the 2023 Esso Cup at the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert.

Not even a global pandemic stopped Prince Albert from hosting the Esso Cup.

Prince Albert was originally slated to host the event in 2020, but the event was canceled just weeks ahead of the April 2020 date due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the bid was originally submitted in 2018, the host committee was together for nearly five years to see the event come to fruition.

The 2023 Esso Cup Host Committee will be honored as the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame organization of the year at the upcoming induction banquet on Saturday evening.

Robin Wildey says the event is something the entire committee will remember for a long time.

“It’s a huge honour. To be recognized for the achievements and the hard work and the success of running an Esso Cup in 2023 is going to be something that most of us will think about and remember for a long time.”

After several years of being in limbo and many reschedules, the event finally came to Hockeytown North in 2023, with the Stoney Creek Sabres capturing the title with a thrilling 5-4 win over the Fraser Valley Rush.

Wildey says there was a lot of uncertainty when the event was first canceled, but he was pleased to see how Hockey Canada stood by the event being held in Prince Albert.

“I don’t think anybody could have predicted how the world was, but then being told by Hockey Canada that they still support us and they still want the championship to come to Prince Albert was a huge feather in our cap and just showed that we had the right people in the right position.”

Over 140 people volunteered their time to make the Esso Cup a possibility with the host committee putting in several hours ahead of and during the event. The host committee consisted of Robin Wildey (chair), Al Dyer, Bruce Vance, Luc Robin, Jim Flynn, Kerry Vezeau, Laura Quesnel, Michelle Grimard, Taryn Svenson and Laurie Huet.

Not only did the committee oversee the organizing of the tournament, but there were several key items that occurred off the ice as well including the opening ceremony with live music from Donny Parenteau, an opening banquet, the Hockey House in the Ches Leach Lounge and visits to games from elementary schools within the city.

As a result of the tournament, a legacy fund of nearly $30,000 was raised to support female hockey within Prince Albert.

Wildey says the legacy fund will support many different initiatives for female hockey in the city.

“That was one of the main goals that we had put in force, striving to gain that momentum for female hockey in Prince Albert. We have a strong program with the Northern Bears here in PA. We do have a strong female program with the Foxes from U5 and U7 and moving up. With that legacy fund, it’s going to go and invest into dressing rooms for the Northern Bears in the new facility. It goes to promote grassroots hockey for coaches and players in Prince Albert. A cool aspect of it in the end is for players who are graduating out of minor hockey, we do have the ability to provide scholarships. Female hockey is always improving, it’s growing with the PWHL. We wanted to make sure that we were on the front lines and we wanted to make sure that we had the ability to promote that.”

At times, it felt the host committee was living through a real life version of the 1993 film Groundhog Day facing the same challenges in a seemingly never ending cycle.

“Bill Murray is a character in itself and it did feel like we’re going through this again.” Wildey says. “It didn’t feel like going through the motions because each year had its own different kind of challenges to get through. The fact that we were trying to keep things refreshed and updated, a new idea being brought in here and there was a cool way that we can not stay with the status quo, but change it and try to improve it and make it better.”

Wildey gave credit to the work ethic that the entire committee brought to the project.

“They put on a lot of work over the years to get this thing up and running. Being the chairman, it was a cool opportunity for me to see what it takes to run a national championship. I had a really solid crew working with me on the board that I don’t think we could have been as successful if we didn’t have the right people in the right positions. They were dedicated.”

The 32nd annual induction banquet for the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame will take place on Saturday, April 27 at the Ches Leach Lounge. The event begins at 6 p.m.