As a great holiday bonus thousands of us got caught up in the thrilling hype of the World Junior Hockey Championships in Ottawa, cheering for which ever team we wished, but likely getting totally overwhelmed by the gritty performance of our rambunctious young Canadian boys.
It was a great rush watching all those talented super-stars giving it their very best effort each and every game in front of fanatic sell-out crowds of 20,000 plus, as well as a T.V./radio/Internet audience in the multi-millions. No matter what, they always manage to put a new twist on the thrilling and traditional Canada/Russia/U.S.A. or whatever rivalries, and if we didn’t take our breaks at the commercials or period changes we likely missed some of those wild and unbelievable antics on ice. There always seems to be some sort of hockey magic and mayhem in these classic International tournaments, with hitting-skating and scoring going non-stop from opening face-off to final buzzer, with the goaltenders left to the mercy of a whole lot of pro-bound worldly snipers.
Of course there is very little fighting allowed in this brand of hockey, but they more than make up for it with their blazing speed, amazing moves, and a delightful mix of spirited shuffles and verbal exchanges both on the ice and in the media. Bottom line, the perfect formula for the great success of this thrilling and totally unpredictable hockey action is generated by a feisty bunch of multi-talented puck chasing teenagers who are still learning the game, make lots of mistakes, but give it their all for 60 minutes to impress the pro-scouts and bring glory to their nations.
Yes, we did win the coveted gold medal again for another five in a row, bringing our total to 14 since 1977, but each and every one of those teams deserve our accolades for their super efforts. Did you know that Canada is only three behind Russia in the overall medal count (27-23) in the World Junior Hockey tournament history; and that both these teams were disqualified for brawling at the 1987 showdown in Czechoslovakia, where the diminutive Thereon Fleury led the charge?
Ponoka has a part of World Junior history.
Our community and surrounding districts has a long and proud history of hockey tradition, including the senior Stampeders, Junior A and B teams, commercial hockey, farm-church-ladies and fun leagues, and an excellent minor hockey system.
Local products of this great local program have included the likes of: Larry Mickey, Teddy Hodgson, Jim McCrimmon, Stan Weir, Greg Smith, Greg Boddy, Harry York, and Allen Conroy-all who enjoyed stints in the National League. Many others have also advanced into playing and coaching careers in the junior, WHL, international, semi-pro, and Intermediate hockey ranks; and the opportunity will always be there, as our local players enjoy lots of ice time, superb coaching and leadership, and keen parent-fan and community support.
Marcel Comeau spent most of his youthful years here in Ponoka, excelling in the sports of baseball-fastball and hockey. After playing with the Max Bentley coached Ponoka Junior ‘A’ Stampeders in the Alberta Junior Hockey League and the Edmonton Oil Kings (W.C.H.L.), the Minnesota North Stars drafted Comeau in 1972.
‘Muz’, to whom most of us that knew him referred, went on to play 12 seasons with the Saginaw Gears (I.H.L.) and Maine Mariners (A.H.L.), appearing in 853 league and playoff games, where he scored 376 goals and added 627 assists.
In 1982 Marcel Comeau embarked on the next chapter of his hockey career as a coach, going 14 successful seasons behind the benches of the Saginaw Gears, Saskatoon and Tacoma of the W.H.L., and New Haven and Winston Salem of the Eastern Hockey League. He later joined the Atlanta Thrasher organization as a scout and was named as the Chief scout of that N.H.L. team in 2003, a position he still holds. Among the most cherished items in his illustrious trophy case are the Gold Medals he received as the Head Coach of the Under 18 Canadian team in 1994, and our Canadian Juniors in 1995.
Please continue to salute and cheer on all of our hockey players, teams, officials, and coaches of yesterday and today by dropping into the Complex during Minor Hockey Week in January. Enjoy all the games, check out the nostalgia in the friendly lobby, and then come back as much as you can to relish the atmosphere of keen competition and fun. Who knows, maybe some of those enthusiastic young boys and girls may become a future Junior or N.H.L. star somewhere in the future? Have a great week, all of you!