Prince Albert to host 2021 Esso Cup

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald The Prince Albert Northern Bears, seen here celebrating a win over the Battlefords Sharks at the Art Hauser Centre in November 2019.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the Prince Albert Northern Bears from taking part in the Esso Cup last month, the Saskatchewan Female Under-18 AAA Hockey League club will still have the chance to host the event.

Hockey Canada announced on Wednesday morning that Prince Albert will retain its hosting rights for the 2021 tournament, which will be held at a yet to be determined date at the Art Hauser Centre.

“Everyone on the host committee is excited to be getting back to work to get things going again,” tournament chair Robin Wildey said.

“Obviously, we were disappointed when things were shut down back in March, but we were fully supportive of Hockey Canada’s decision to put the safety of everyone involved in the tournament first and foremost. To have the chance to continue to plan to host the Esso Cup is something that we are all thrilled about.”

The 2021 Esso Cup was originally slated to be held in Lloydminster, Alta. and be hosted by the Lloydminster Steelers of the Alberta Female Hockey League.

Instead, Lloydminster will host the event in 2022 so that Prince Albert can still have the opportunity to welcome Canada’s top Under-18 female hockey teams to the city.

“The host committee in Lloydminster was very understanding of the unprecedented situation that we were in and they were fully supportive of us hosting the event in 2021,” Wildey said.

“We’ve also been in contact with Hockey Canada over the last couple of months and they’ve been awesome to work with. We all want to make sure that we get things done right.”

This year’s Esso Cup was to have taken place from April 19-25, but it was cancelled along with all other Hockey Canada related activities on March 12 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although there will be a little bit of a longer wait before the tournament starts for the host committee, the foundation of the event had already been put in place over the last couple of years.

“We were pretty much set up and ready to go when everything changed in March,” Wildey said. “From what we understand, all of our sponsors are all set to come back for next year and we really need to thank everyone in Prince Albert for stepping up and helping us out.

“It’s going to be a great tournament and we hope everyone can come out and support the girls, as they’ve been through quite a lot over the last while.”

The dates for the 2021 Esso Cup and details on ticket packages will be announced in the coming weeks as Hockey Canada continues to release details of their Return to Hockey plan.

Hockey Canada also announced on Wednesday that their 2020 summer camps for their national teams would not be taking place, but they will be holding virtual programming and training sessions for the women’s Under-18 team, women’s development team, the men’s national junior team and the men’s Under-17 program.

It was also announced that Saint-Hyacinthe, Que., who were set to host the Telus Cup this spring, has been offered the chance to host the national men’s Under-18 tournament in 2021 or 2023.

The 2022 tournament will be held in Cape Breton, N.S., where it was originally going to take place next year.

Meanwhile, the Portage Terriers have been offered the opportunity to host the Centennial Cup in 2023.

The Manitoba Junior Hockey League club was going to hold the national Junior A championship this month before the season was cut short as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The BCHL’s Penticton Vees and the SJHL’s Estevan Bruins will still be the hosts for the 2021 and 2022 tournaments respectively.