Preparations have been going on for well over a year, but now the 2007 TELUS Cup in Red Deer, AB is in sight.
Organizers of the April event are getting more excited as it draws closer.
The Red Deer Optimist Rebels are the host team and are in automatically, but the players and coaches want to go through the front door as a champion that earns its way to the national championship tournament.
Simply being the host isn't really good enough for Brent Fudge, who returns as head coach for another year.
"It's a little bit different than most years," admits Fudge. "Most years we hope to be good enough to qualify and get to come to this tournament. This year we started out with the knowledge that we are going to be there so it's exciting."
The team has seven returning players this year, which is unusual. In a normal year, only two or three players are back from the previous season. Some of the seven could have stayed with tier two junior teams and possibly played on the third and fourth lines, but they felt the 2007 TELUS Cup would be a better experience.
Fudge has been coaching teams for 25 years and says he's never seen players so excited when he told them they made this year's Rebels. He says it was an opportunity many of the players didn't want to pass up.
"We have a fast team and a lot of 16-year-olds and some 17-year-olds," says Fudge. "They seem to be a really good skating, puck moving team. We need to continue to get better and look at the same goal setting that we've always done. Our first priority is to try to win enough games to qualify for the Mac's Midget Tournament in Calgary and then we want to go into the playoffs and we want to win Alberta.
"We're not going to sit back and say we're there and we don't have to do anything. I promise we'll work harder as a team than we've ever worked because I don't want that kind of attitude setting in. These guys will be motivated and they will be driven."
Selecting this year's team was no different for Fudge and his coaching staff just because the National Midget Championship is in Red Deer.
He says they try to pick the best players available every year.
Fudge says his choices are based on who will be the best contributors right now and hopes there is potential in all the kids that they chose.
"The only difference is that it gives you the opportunity to be a little bit more patient in some situations," Fudge says. "You are going to live to play another day but we're not going to do things much different than any other year."
Meanwhile, a ticket campaign was recently launched and it won't cost fans a lot of money to watch the best midget hockey players from across Canada. Tournament passes for 15 games only cost $69, while single-game tickets for adults are $8 for round robin and preliminary playoff games.
The price then goes up slightly to between $10 and $12 for the bronze medal and gold medal games.
There's also a $15 package that includes the bronze medal and gold medal games.
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