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Catch You On The Rebound - How Long Can Local Hockey Last? A Lifetime!

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During the 1980s’ there was plenty of high-calibre hockey to keep local fans entertained. Fort McMurray Oil Barons’ AJHL brand, Suncor Blades senior hockey and three Junior B teams. Talented players, young-and-old.

Talent like Blades’ Barry Gibbs,  the No. 1 pick in the 1966 NHL Amateur Draft by the Boston Bruins, later representing the Minnesota North Stars in the 1973 NHL All Star game.

Fast forward to 2019-2010 and only the Oil Barons remain.

For a brief period tough, we did have the Keyano Huskies playing out of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (2012-2016).

 A swift and merciless college budget cut in 2016 was their demise.

Huskies by far were the highest caliber of hockey we have ever enjoyed on a regular basis.

For example, when the Huskies played an exhibition game against the Oil Barons in 2015, the final score was 7-1 for the post-secondary crowd.  If hitting had been allowed, the winning score would have been in double digits.

“I think it give them (Junior A players) a better understanding that the ACAC is a pretty good league,” said then Huskies coach Nate Bedford.

The Huskies were also building a stable fan base playing mainly at Frank Lacroix Minor Hockey Arena.

Take a look at any ACAC school roster and you will discover former AJHL, WHL and semi-pro stars.

A few have even played in the NHL: Mount Royal Cougars Peter “Silky” Sullivan for the Winnipeg Jets (1975-1981) and Mike Hedit swearing Los Angeles Kings colours (1983-84) while University of Alberta Augustana Vikings’ Ken Lovsin had a cup of coffee with the Washington Capitals (1990).

Former Huskies playing professional hockey at the start of the 2019-2020 season included Michael Desjarlais, Dave Nippard, Dylan Seymour, Owen Sobchak and Brendan Wright.

With that in mind, stars in- the- making may be coming our way in 2020...the Huskies making a bid to return to the ACAC men’s hockey ranks.

A comeback year that will also possibly add women’s hockey along with curling and golf for the local post-secondary institution.

First off it has to get the approval of the ACAC. It should be a no brainer.

”The athletics department feels that they have very strong bids as they have letter of support not only from the college but different parts of the city which includes venues and different organizations as well as mayor and council,” said Jon Lambert, Director of Athletics, Sport and Student Wellness.

With the hiring of former Oil Barons coach/general manager Tom Keca, Huskies men’s hockey have an individual who already knows the Xs and Os and most importantly, the world of recruiting.

Of the proposed  women’s hockey program Lambert said: “Jim Knight (Huskies Athletic Manager) will be filling the role of women’s coach until we can hire someone.”

Huskies already showcase strong fan support for their men’s and women’s basketball, futsal, soccer and volleyball programs.

Returning to curling, golf and hockey would give student/athletes the opportunity to participate in seven of the 10 available ACAC sports with only badminton, cross-country and indoor track remaining.

“I think we also have a good shot at curling and golf as the ACAC will see the value of adding to the league and the student/athlete experience.”

Keyano, having added non-ACAC sanctioned  cheerleading and cricket to its  program this past fall, could see several local graduating high school student/athletes staying home with a bevy of opportunities.

“Local student/athletes are always a priority for every team we have at Keyano.”

Catch you on the rebound!


Photos supplied by Keyano College Athletics


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.