Cross country journey

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald A member of the MNP Canada Games Torch Relay committee receives the Roly McLenahan Canada Games Torch from MP Randy Hoback and MLA Nicole Rancourt during a celebration stop at the Art Hauser Centre Thursday.

When plans were being made to hold a cross country torch relay for the first time in Canada Games history ahead of next year’s Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta., board member Al Ferchuk wanted to make sure that his hometown would be part of the event.

“There was no doubt in my mind that Prince Albert need to be part of the tour,” Ferchuk said. “Growing up here, sports were a huge part of the community and the places just outside of here like Shellbrook and Birch Hills, and it still is to this day.

“My wife Barbara and I made sure we came out here from Red Deer for this event. The winter weather has seemed to beat us here with the relay today, but it really gets us in the spirit for the games in February.”

The Roly McLenahan Canada Games Torch made a visit to the Art Hauser Centre Thursday afternoon for a celebration stop on the tour, which will conclude in Red Deer when the games begin on Feb. 15, 2019.

“Usually, it’s just the host province that the relay goes through,” said Canada Games coordinator of official languages and communications Mélanie Paré. “After the idea for a cross country tour came together, we were fortunate enough to get support from MNP to put the idea into place and be able to reach as many places as we could.”

After a stop in Regina Tuesday, the torch made an appearance in Humboldt Wednesday before coming to Prince Albert ahead of Saturday’s relay event in Saskatoon.

“The places that we’ve decided to go stood out for a number of reasons,” Paré said. “Some of them have hosted the Canada Winter or Summer Games in the past, or they are in the mix to be hosts in the future. However, the biggest thing they have in common is they all have a passion for sports.

“For those that haven’t a chance to experience the Canada Games, it really gives them a bit of taste of that unifying feeling that the host community has with everyone coming to town.”

Since finding out that they would be hosting the Winter Games four years ago, the host committee in Red Deer has been hard work to prepare to host 3,600 athletes, managers and coaches from across Canada that will be involved in 19 different sports.

“For us that are involved with the host committee, we really want to do everything we can to help support the games and raise the profile of the event, which is what this torch relay does,” Ferchuk said.

“It’s been really great to get what we’re doing across the country and we’re starting to see the momentum build a bit as each leg goes on. The excitement is really going to continue to pick up steam here as we arrived in Alberta in January and make our way to Red Deer on Feb. 15.”