In its 150th year, St. Albert has become a hot spot for sporting events, and the 2011 Esso Cup national female midget championship may just be the city’s biggest sporting event ever.
Organizers of the 2011 Esso Cup, set to run at the Performance Arena at Servus Credit Union Place from April 17 to 23, announced Tuesday at the St. Albert Inn and Suites their partnership with Landrex Developers, Inc. as its biggest local sponsor, and that tickets for the event are now on sale. "There’s been a lot of planning that’s been happening for almost two years now, as we stepped through the bid process and the very early discussions with Hockey Canada," said Dean Hengel, chair of the 2011 Esso Cup. "Our planning has intensified since September and we’re right on track with where we want to be."
The 2011 Esso Cup will bring together five regional champions from Pacific, West, Ontario, Quebec and
Atlantic along with the host team, the St. Albert Slash. In 2009, Manitoba’s Westman Wildcats won the
first-ever Esso Cup. Ontario’s Thunder Bay Queens took last year’s title.
St. Albert’s 2011 has consisted of the World Financial Group Continental Cup of Curling and, in a few weeks, the Alberta 55-plus Winter Games. Hengel said his group has been waiting respectfully and patiently to hit St. Albert over the head with all things Esso Cup.
"We respect the Continental Cup with their event, we respect the 55-plus with their initiative; they’re both very important to the community," Hengel said. "Our time to shine is the six weeks starting March 1 through April 23 and we’re really excited about that."
Hengel said his team has been looking into hosting the Esso Cup since its inception in 2009. He knew then, though, that his team of organizers was not quite ready to host the first-ever running of the event, so he looked forward. With St. Albert’s 150th anniversary just two years away, Hengel said it was only natural at that time to start preparations to host it then.
"We had to win that bid, so we put a tremendous amount of effort into putting in a very detailed bid package ensuring that Hockey Canada knew St. Albert is a hockey town and that this event would be special," added Hengel.
He said the success of the Continental Cup only helps St. Albert when they’re looking to bring more such national events, such as the Esso Cup, to the city.
"It’s important to have the opportunity to host events of a national and international nature," Hengel said. "We, for so long, didn’t have the venues that we needed to do that. With the community’s support, and (city) council and administration support pushing through Servus Place, we’ve got a venue that can support a tremendous amount of initiatives. This is the first-ever (Hockey Canada) national championship hosted by St. Albert. There are very few Hockey Canada championships that have been hosted in Alberta, so this is the first of many (for St. Albert)."
Hengel and Brian McConkey, president of the St. Albert Minor Hockey Association, also took part in a cheque presentation ceremony. Landrex Developers, Inc. was named the tournament’s premiere local marketing partner and thus donated two separate cheques for $25,000 on behalf of their Hunter Ridge and Tenor on the River projects.
Also made public was the fact that tickets for the event are now on sale.
A full event ticket package, which includes general admission for all 19 games, including semifinals and medal games, can be purchased for $50 online at the official 2011 Esso Cup website at www.hockeycanada.ca/essocup.
McConkey then gladly took the opportunity to purchase the first tickets for the event, much to the delight
of everyone in attendance.
Slash players Paige Foster and Melissa Kueber, along with head coach Terry Sydor, were also among the people present at the press conference. Sydor spoke afterwards about the magnitude of the event and how often that can get overlooked.
"It’s a great opportunity for the community. A lot of these things, after they’ve come and gone, people kind of go, ‘Wow, that was incredible,’ or ‘What an opportunity,’" he said. "I don’t know if people right now have grasped the magnitude of it. This is the Canadian championship and many of the best female Midget-aged hockey players in the country will be here performing. It’s a very special, unique opportunity. There are hundreds of hockey communities across the country that would like to host these types of things, and that could, and for us, we’re extremely fortunate and I know we’re going to do a great job and play hard."