Esso Cup slated for Prince Albert next April

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Sophia Zuck celebrates with her Prince Albert Northern Bears teammates after scoring in the second period against the Battlefords Sharks in November.

Those involved with the Prince Albert Northern Bears and the Esso Cup host committee are hoping that the third time is the charm when it comes to hosting Canada’s national Under-18 female hockey tournament.

After the last two attempts to hold the event at the Art Hauser Center came to a halt as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hockey Canada announced on Tuesday morning that Prince Albert will be the hosts for the 2022 event, which will run from April 17-23.

“Today’s announcement was a great one for everyone involved and we’re thankful for Hockey Canada to allow us the chance to get this thing rolling,” event chair Robin Wildey said. “We have a dedicated group of people in place and we’re ready to put on an amazing event here in Prince Albert.”

Unlike last year’s tournament, where the dates were never announced publicly, Hockey Canada revealed the schedules for the 2022 Esso Cup and many of their other major tournaments on Tuesday.

Those dates are similar to the ones that were planned for the 2020 event, which was cancelled almost a month before it started.

“That’s a nice target for us to hit,” Wildey said. “Everything seems to be trending the right way in Saskatchewan at the moment (with COVID-19 numbers and vaccinations), which is awesome to see.”

Following a Feb. 5 announcement that all 2021 national tournaments would be cancelled, the Prince Albert host committee and Hockey Canada began discussions on hosting the event in 2022.

“The constant communication that we’ve had with everyone in Hockey Canada has been huge over the last few months,” Wildey said. “We also need to thank the group in Lloydminster (who are slated to host the tournament after Prince Albert) for allowing us to continue on our path and we know that everyone there will do a great job when they get to host the tournament.

“It’s been a team-oriented effort with everyone, including the Saskatchewan Hockey Association, to get to the point where we could make the announcement.”

Now that a tournament date is set, those involved with the host committee will work on their plans for next year during a series of Zoom meetings in the coming weeks.

“We’re going to look at what we had set up originally and make any tweaks and improvements that we need to do, in addition to getting all of the current COVID-19 information to determine what regulations and guidelines we need to have,” Wildey said.

“We’re also going to be announcing more information on tickets and having a volunteer drive later in the summer after we have everything in place.”

The Esso Cup will be one of two major tournaments held in Saskatchewan next year, as the Estevan Bruins will play host to the Centennial Cup national Junior A championship from May 20-29.

Hockey Canada also announced on Tuesday that the Telus Cup male Under-18 national championship will take place in Sydney, N.S. from April 18-24.