With the RBC Royal Bank Cup just a month away, what was once over 3000 eligible players on 141 teams in 10 leagues across the country has been whittled down to just 28 teams still vying for the four available spots. With the Prince George Spruce Kings already securing the fifth spot in the five team tournament as the host team, the remaining slots still need to be filled and that picture is starting to become a little clearer with every passing day. After seven months of practicing, game day rituals and long bus rides to get to the next rink, the cream of the crop is starting to rise to the surface and set the tone of this year’s National Junior ‘A’ Hockey Championship in Prince George, British Columbia.
From one end of the county to the other, aspiring young hockey players between the ages of 15 and 21 are trying to realize dreams that have grown and manifested themselves into the driving force that pushes them on and off the ice. It starts with winning individual games, then division and league championships and finally regional titles to gain a berth into the biggest event these players have probably ever experienced. The prize at the end of the road can only be realized by a mere 1 percent of the players that started on the quest back in September.
The RBC Royal Bank Cup has a 36 year history including 25 under the previous banner of the Centennial Cup. In the history of the final game of the season, the host team has actually won 16 banners and finished second 9 other times. The BCHL has produced the most champions with nine, but has only hosted the national tournament twice before - Vernon (1990) and Nanaimo (1998). In 1990, the Vernon Lakers went on to hoist the Centennial Cup and in 1998 it was the Coastal Division Surrey Eagles that won the RBC Royal Bank Cup.
A number of NHLers have held the trophy including three of the Sutter brothers – Ron, Brent and Rich along with Ed Johnstone, Bryan Murray, Terry Simpson, Greg Johnson, Joe Murphy, Curtis Joseph, Scott Gomez and Rod Brind’Amour to name a few. For many others, an appearance at the annual championship tournament has provided the exposure to earn a scholarship.