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Catch you on the Rebound - The Future of Sport in YMM

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It wasn’t a death blow, but a bump in the road this past September when students returned to local schools. It was during this time period that we discovered what effect, if any, the forest fires had on the cycle of life for local sports.

In normal circumstances, attrition will hit every so often with a key member of a chosen sport leaving town or losing interest. With their departure, the sport lays dormant waiting for new people with new ideas and new legs to get the sport back on its feet.

Sometimes the sport will simply disappear from the local scene as did baton twirling, Kendo, Kung Fu, netball, orienteering, parachuting, sail boating, speed skating, stock cars, synchronized swimming, Wally ball, and windsurfing to name a few.

We caught up to a few local organizations to see what their outlook is.

“We were fortunate that the fire did no damage to the Casman Centre. It has undergone an extensive cleaning process to ensure there is no lingering smoke damage,” said Tom Keca, Head Coach/General Manager of the Fort McMurray Oil Barons of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

“Jason Hamilton, who is a player and his family, lost their home. Mike Brodeur, our Assistant Coach lost his home as well. It’s devastating to have people in our organization who have experienced any lost. We are prepared to help out in any way that we can. Both individuals are huge components of our “family” and we are there to assist however we are able to.”

Frank Lacroix Minor Hockey Arena (FLMHA), home of the Fort McMurray Minor Hockey Association (FMMHA), is located in Beacon Hill where 399 houses were destroyed.

One of four arenas in Fort McMurray, FLMHA was relatively unaffected but its status for usage is not known at this time due to restricted access to the area.

“Presently the fire damages have us working remotely as our home arena (FLMHA),  is in a zone that is sealed from public use at this time,” reiterated FMMHA president Travis Galenzoski.

“The fires in May have caused our (FMMHA) to experience hardship by way of several ways. Members have been off work and some have even lost jobs during the fire.  Some have little to no insurance.  Some have experienced living out expenses they didn’t plan for.

“Some members are not back into their homes as of yet, those who have returned home are still battling with insurance companies cleaning their homes and are stretched on time available for other interests.

“Future financial risks in that this community supported (FMMHA) in many different sponsorship facets, and now with the fires these sponsorship could be in jeopardy.”

In regards to upcoming registration: “With the loses we have witnessed this year, coupled with the newcomers to town, we are netting out in a positive growth position for our number of players.”

Jackie Morisette, Game Day Organizer for the Fort McMurray Monarchs said the Alberta Football League squad was faced with some major decisions due to the forest fire. “During the evacuation we had to decide if we folded the team or try to make a go of it. All our equipment, swag, and sponsors were in Fort McMurray our players spread out across the country. We asked the players if we got what we needed, would they want to play and the all said, “Yes.”

“So calls were put out to the CFL, CIS, CFJL, AFL and minor football programs in the province, our sports equipment vendors, city of Edmonton and Spruce Grove and the Edmonton refs association.

“The response was overwhelming. Between all these groups we were geared from head-to- toe in the equipment we needed. Provided fields to practice and host our games, Places for players to stay, staff and volunteers to be able to host our games.

“The fire has made funding the rest of our season very tight. All our sponsors are local and affected themselves by the fire. They have given where they can and that has been greatly appreciated. Our home game numbers are down from around 500-600 tickets sales to around 300. That affects sales of merchandise and food. This in turn though has made the team stronger, has given us a bigger sense of community and determination to preserve.”

Frisbees continued to stay aloft: “Our group has not been majorly affected by the fires,” said Richard Clark of Fort McMurray Ultimate Frisbee. “We lost a month of playing time and our turnout was low for the first two or three weeks once we got back as some were slower to come back to town than others. Beyond that things are back to normal as we are a pick up group.”

Catch you on the rebound. 


Curtis J. Phillips has been a sports journalist in print/electronic mediums since 1976. A strong advocate of volunteerism, he is a founding father of numerous local events and organizations including the Challenge Cup and Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. Phillips is also recognized internationally as a sports historian.