There is a sense of renewal when it comes to senior hockey in Alberta.
The Chinook Hockey League, founded in 1955, has been re-named "Allan Cup Hockey West" in a bid to refresh and and expand its popularity.
“It feels new,” Lacombe Generals GM Jeff McInnis offered. “Credit to the league for the name change, it’s brought freshness and it breeds excitement.”
McInnis says a big reason for rebranding the decades-old league was to keep pace with their neighbours to the east.
“Really, we and Ontario are the only two triple-A leagues who run a polished show as far as our brand. But they’re growing and we haven’t been. We need to grow,” he admitted. “So we thought of something new, something catching, and one of the things we can associate ourselves with is the Allan Cup. That’s our number one feature. So when you align yourself with Ontario with the same thinking we hope it’ll help spur some growth.”
Brian Sutter, back for another season as head coach of the Innisfail Eagles, says the level of play in the league is worthy of all the attention it can get.
“Every team in this league is good,” Sutter surmised. “Fort Saskatchewan always brings a skilled group. Stony’s always been Stony, they’re going to be right there and are going to play hard. Lacombe and ourselves, we’re going to play hard every night.”
Another move McInnis hopes will help their league prosper is the inclusion of the Rosetown Red Wings, host team for the 2018 Allan Cup Championship, who joined the league last season.
“In 2012 we had Lloydminster, they were the host that year and they were strong. In 2007 Stony Plain was they host, they were strong. We hosted in 2013 [and won the Allan Cup]. Whenever you have someone in this league hosting the Allan Cup you see a very tough opponent, so we’re excited to have that in our league. It raises the calibre of play. It’s going to be tough for our teams to compete with Rosetown personnel-wise, but we welcome the challenge.”
“It’s good minor pro hockey,” Sutter proclaimed. “We look for good people because good people make good players down the road, that’s how you build something special. That’s what it’s all about.”
Allan Cup Hockey West held its annual Preseason Showcase last weekend in Lacombe featuring all five league teams plus the RDC Kings.
Regular season play begins next weekend with Lacombe visiting Stony Plain on Sat. Oct. 14 then visiting Innisfail the following day (5 p.m.)
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