Among my fondest memories is being a staff member of the new Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex, with a 1984 highlight being the welcome and hosting of the first of many Black Elk Summer Hockey Camps.
It was in a hot July just after Stampede that we prepared the two, sometimes-foggy sheets of ice that would accommodate more than 200 young players and their instructors each seven-day session for several gruelling but fun weeks of hockey mania.
This hockey camp was the vision of Gordon, Richard, and Marion Jones (Raugust), members of the active and sports minded family of Idris and Emily Jones from out in the Mecca Glen district. When they weren’t farming or going to school they were likely taking part in sports; they have always been avid hockey fans, competitors, and keen community supporters both in their district and in the great hockey town of Ponoka.
The Black Elk Hockey Camp, visiting Ponoka for the 27th year this week (Aug. 14 to 19), was an instant success right from the outset, and has always strived to maintain that keen reputation to this day. Over the years the award winning hockey organization has expanded to serve seven other Alberta centres each summer, and along the way have played host to thousands of boys and girls from mite to midget age, as well as adult, goaltenders, special programs, and much more.
From those humble beginnings here in 1984, the Jones family and partners have always worked very hard to bring in top-notch instructors, including present and former players, coaches, and teachers from all levels of amateur and professional hockey and fitness programs. As well as the vigorous on ice drills, skills, and scrimmages, participants are kept very busy in a team concept with off-ice activities such and floor/ball hockey, soccer, softball, swimming, dry land training, and video classroom sessions.
Black Elk mentors have always been proud of the fact that their summer camps have always been a family affair, with many parents spending the whole week at the rink while staying in town or camping out at the Stampede grounds, as well as enjoying the many amenities of our community.
Each camp session features an official opening ceremony and wraps up with a graduation where awards are given out and mementos swapped after a great week of keen action and camaraderie. Local sponsors, volunteers, and our community have always been keen supporters of the Black Elk Hockey camps, whose ongoing promotions and popularity have helped them to attract participants from the local minor hockey program, as well as throughout Western Canada, the United States and Europe.
This longstanding hockey legacy has allowed many of the Black Elk instructors and participants to hone their skills and graduate to lucrative playing and coaching careers, while others are now raising families of their own, are assisting with minor hockey and other sports programs, and have become proud and busy citizens of their communities.
Some of our local stars who have always enjoyed ‘coming home’ to help out at Black Elk have included Stan Weir, Tim Corkery, Allan Conroy and Marcel Comeau. Another milestone of this annual Black Elk Hockey Camp is that many of the participants and instructors look forward to returning to the action for ongoing summer sessions. For many seasons Black Elk has also offered summer camp tuition prizes and support to the Ponoka Minor Hockey Association tournaments.
While new partners have been added to the Black Elk Hockey Camp mix and some have retired, Gordon Jones has been involved since day 1, and many of the ongoing family generations, friends, and volunteers have also pitched in to help carry on the keen spirit and tradition. Thanks to the great assistance of the arena staff each summer the Black Elk Hockey Camp always becomes the ‘coolest place’ in town to visit, mingle with the friendly crowds, and enjoy all the exciting scrimmages and exhibition game in your shirtsleeves.
Congratulations to the Black Elk Hockey Camp and the Jones family for their dedication and loyalty in presenting youths with the exciting opportunity of enjoying the great Canadian game of hockey.
Thanks for the memories, and we will see you at the rink.