The Fort McMurray Oil Barons have won their bid to host the third-ever Western Canada Cup junior A hockey tournament in 2015.
The AJHL Board of Governors voted to award Fort McMurray the tournament on Saturday afternoon, choosing it ahead of Brooks and Lloydminster, who had also submitted bids.
The tournament will take place in late April and early May of 2015.
“We were elated today when we found out we had this bid,” said Oil Barons and Northern Alberta Athletic Association President Len Clarke. “It just gives us so much more enthusiasm to make sure that we do a good job for the league itself, and for hockey in general.”
The event is the final step on the journey to the RBC Cup national championship, which the Barons hosted and won back in 2000. The host team competes against the champions of the four western Junior A leagues; British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. The winner of the final gets one spot in the RBC Cup, while the loser of the final plays the winner of the third-place game for the second national championship berth.
Clarke had a simple explanation for what elements were highlighted most in their bid.
“It was the facility, the community, and the fans,” said Clarke. “We've had unbelievable support over the past twenty years, and the past two or three years have even gotten better; and we look forward in 2015 to fantastic support as usual.”
He adds that although the tournament is more than a year away, the work will start very soon.
“We anticipate we'll have our first organizational committee struck and started in January,” said Clarke. “We're probably looking at a volunteer list of probably 300 to 350, for sure. It's a fantastic tournament; we want to make sure that we do it to the best of our ability and just set the bar a little higher for everybody who comes after us.”
This year the tournament will be in Dauphin, Manitoba. Last year, the inaugural event was in Nanaimo, British Columbia. Prior to the creation of the WCC, the champions BC and Alberta would play each other in a best-of-7 series, as would Manitoba and Saskatchewan, to decide who would advance to the national championship.
The 2015 WCC will be the first major junior A tournament that Fort McMurray has hosted since the 2000 RBC. The team was denied when it bid to host the 2010 national championship, losing out to Humboldt, Saskatchewan.
But it has hosted a bevy of one-game events, like the Northern Classic outdoor game in 2010, the final AJHL All-Star Game, and the Hockey Canada World Junior Red and White Game in 2011.