Camrose Sport Development Society helps grow local sports.
When a visionary group of Camrose businessmen and community members gathered more than a decade ago to explore ways to bring Junior A hockey to Camrose, a broader vision emerged which is now paying dividends in a big way.
The Camrose Sport Development Society was originally formed out of a group gathered together by Viking Cup founder LeRoy Johnson. Its objective at the time was to purchase the struggling Sherwood Park Crusaders franchise and move it to Camrose. That deal eventually fell through, but the group persisted and was ultimately awarded an expansion franchise by the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL).
In the end, a group of 25 investors came forward and the highly successful Camrose Kodiaks franchise was born.
However, from the very beginning the Camrose Sport Development Society felt it could be more than just the owner of a hockey club. Consequently, when the constitution of the group was drawn up by Verlyn Olson, its first president, the purpose was to help support and develop all sports in Camrose, not just hockey.
"It was felt that we could be more than just a group to bring Junior A hockey here, we could be a group that would promote sport, whatever the needs might be," explains Johnson, one of the group’s founders.
Of course, the Society's first project was the establishment of the Camrose Kodiaks. The team took to the ice for the first time in the fall of 1997 and though it struggled through its first few seasons, the building blocks were put in place to create the most successful Junior A franchise in Canada.
The Kodiaks won their first AJHL championship in 2001. They followed that up with a victory at the Doyle Cup (B.C.-Alberta championship) and earned their only national championship at the 2001 Royal Bank Cup. Since then the Kodiaks have added four more AJHL and Doyle Cup titles along with three silver medals at the National Junior A Championship.
Over the years the Kodiaks have also built a large fan base not only in Camrose but throughout central Alberta. They have become substantial contributors to the community, supporting local charities, youth programs and local hockey teams. And, their success was one of the factors which helped spark the development of the new Edgeworth Centre.
"Having the Kodiaks I think was a bit of a catalyst to get the facility here, which I think is going to help us long term," states World Junior A Challenge co-chair and Camrose Sport Development Society member Kevin Gurr.
With the Kodiaks now successfully established, the Camrose Sport Development Society has been able to begin to explore ways to support its broader mandate. It played a critical role in bringing the World Junior A Challenge to Camrose and the ultimate success of this event will allow the group to expand its support for local sports groups and even individuals.
"We're hoping we can put a sizable amount into the Camrose Sport Development Society coffers and then the community will start to see the Society contribute in an even bigger way," states Gurr, who says the Society would like to focus its efforts on supporting underprivileged youngsters so that they can enjoy the benefits of participating in sport. They also hope to contribute to local teams and sports organizations in a more substantial way.
"We're just on the cusp of being able to do some great things with this," Gurr says.