History was in the making in Hobbema on March 13 to 16 as they hosted the 2008 Investors Group Hockey Alberta Provincials.
People from all over the province packed into the Hobbema Four Nations Arena for the opening ceremony and waited excitedly for it to begin.
Brian McDougall emceed the event and kept everyone entertained. McDougall welcomed everyone and encouraged families and friends of the hockey players to cheer on each individual. He also challenged the players to have good sportsmanship and to enjoy themselves and make friends.
McDougall introduced the Northern Cree drumming group and they immediately began drumming and singing as the eagle staff carriers and dancers came onto the ice. The Grand Entry was met with a thunderous round of applause and cheering. The dancers wore colourful traditional dress and their dance was vibrant and entrancing.
All the players lined up with their teams and stood for the opening ceremony to watch key dignitaries speak about the tournament.
The chief from each Nation took time to speak about the event and what it means to Hobbema and how pleased they were to be hosting the prestigious event.
After the inspiring speeches from key dignitaries McDougall took the microphone again and announced Shane Yellowbird’s performance.
Accompanied by two guitarists, Yellowbird emerged onto the ice and was met with a huge response from the crowd.
Yellowbird, who grew up in Hobbema, admitted he was nervous to be performing in front of people he knew well.
“I’d rather be playing in front of a million people I didn’t know than play in front of 10 people I do know,” he joked. “You’ll never hear from those million people again but if I mess up in front of people that know me, I know I’ll hear about it.”
He went on to perform ‘I Remember the Music’ and ‘Me and My Old Pickup Truck’ which was met by loud cheering, clapping and whistling.
With a smile on his face Yellowbird
“I usually shake my stuff when I sing in front of a crowd,” he laughed. “But tonight my mom is sitting right in front of me and you can’t shake your stuff when your mom is part of the audience.”
The Northern Cree drumming group performed another song as the hockey teams, dancers and important guests exited the ice.
Tina Wolk came to the provincial games from Westlock and thoroughly enjoyed the opening ceremony.
“We loved it. We have been to quite a few provincials and this one is the most colourful we’ve ever seen,” she said. “We also have never been so lucky as to be entertained by such a talented artist.”
Carol Gelleny came from Carstairs to watch her son play and was pleased with the opening ceremony and thought it added to the exhilaration of the tournament.
“The provincials are very exciting and the kids worked very hard to be here,” she said.
Dwayne Romanovich traveled from St. Paul to watch some fast paced hockey and was glad to have seen the opening ceremony and was excited about the tournament.
“It was really good, it was colourful and entertaining,” he said. “It’s all for the kids and gives them a chance to win the championship and that chance doesn’t come around very often.”
The Midget B games resulted in the Westlock, Lacombe, Thunderstars and Fairview making it to the semi-finals. Westlock triumphed over Lacombe 4-1 and Fairview was victorious with 9-1 against the Thunderstars.
The winning teams faced off in the gold medal game and Fairview emerged the winner over Westlock 4-3.
McDougall was also very pleased with how the event came together and believed that everyone did a good job preparing for it.
“The organization did a first class job at the opening ceremonies,” he said. “And having Shane come home and sing for this was really something great as well.”
The organization of this event took a lot of time and hard work but coordinator Justin Strongman believed the effort was worth it.
“We found out in December and ever since then we’ve been meeting and trying to get this going. I really wanted this event to happen and everything fell into place, it’s been a great experience.”
When Strongman found out that Hobbema was to host this event he knew it would mean a lot to himself, personally and to the community.
“It’s been my dream to host this,” he said. “I was almost in tears when I found out and immediately called my wife. It’s been my goal to get the tournament here and it’s also really good for the community.”
Strongman believes this was an incredible experience for the players and their time playing at the tournament will continue to be in their thoughts for years to come.
“Win or lose this was a great opportunity for the boys,” he said. “And it’s something they will remember for the rest of their lives.”