For three Camrose Kodiaks, the Air Canada Cup provided a wealth of experience on the national stage.
Kyle Smith, Matt McKnight and MacGregor Sharp were members of the Red Deer Chiefs, who represented the Pacific region at the 2002 national midget championship.
The advantage these players enjoyed from participating in the Air Canada Cup is invaluable and helped them in their efforts to make the championship game of the Royal Bank Cup.
“It was a great experience…just like today, and to be honest, it seemed like we didn’t have our legs through the first couple periods, like the semi-final game we lost to Dartmouth in the Air Canada.
“The experience helps when you’re talking to guys who haven’t been on the national stage before. It made me hungry, after the loss, it made me want to come here and get to the title game to set things right,” said McKnight.
Sharp believes because of his experience he can help instill confidence in his teammates.
“We can chip in with leadership along with the four guys on our roster who were in the Royal Bank Cup two years ago.
“The experience for me and the other two guys is huge because last year we went through the round robin and ended up in first and we took the semi-final a little too lightly and ended up losing. We knew for sure if we did the same this year we’d be done now, we didn’t make the same mistake here,” said Sharp.
The fact both championships play the same format adds to the experience, said Smith.
“It’s a one-game competition, you can’t think best of seven, it’s just one shot to do your best and adapt to other teams systems quickly, we did not want to lose in the semi’s like we did in last year (in the Air Canada Cup).
The Air Canada Cup has also served as a stepping-stone for many current NHLers, such as Joe Sakic
(Colorado), Al MacInnis (St. Louis), Steve Yzerman (Detroit), Patrick Roy (Colorado) and Rod Brind’Amour
(Caorlina) who also played at the Royal Bank Cup in 1989.
McKnight does see this experience as a stepping-stone to bigger things.
“I definitely think so, I got a scholarship to the states and I think playing here helps prepare me for a different level of hockey,” he said.
Smith agreed. “It definitely gets you noticed, teams want winners on their rosters so if you can show it and go all the way, it gets you noticed,” he said.
The Air Canada Cup began in 1979 (then known as Wrigley National Midget Hockey Tournament) in Winnipeg, Manitoba and today is comprised of five regional champions from across the country and a host club, much like the Royal Bank Cup.
The Kodiaks are now just one step away from winning their second Royal Bank Cup in three years as they
defeated the Lennoxville Cougars in Saturday’s first semi-final matchup.
The will now await the winner of Wellington and Humboldt to determine who they will play in Sunday’s final at 2:00pm.