Alberta Junior Hockey League

The Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) is an Alberta-based Junior A ice hockey league that belongs to the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL). It was formed as a five-team league in 1964. The 2023–24 season began with 16 teams, however 5 teams did not finish the season after it was announced that they planned to join the BCHL in the 2024–25 season. The regular season league champions receive the Dave Duchak Trophy. The playoff champions receive the Inter Pipeline Cup (previously known as the Carling O'Keefe trophy and Gas Drive Cup). The winner of the AJHL playoffs continues on to play in the Centennial Cup tournament, which determines Canadian Junior A champion.

Alberta Junior Hockey League
SportIce hockey
No. of teams11
Most recent
Brooks Bandits (7)
Most titlesCalgary Canucks (9)
Official Edit this at Wikidata

History edit

The early 1960s saw a much different junior hockey scene in Alberta than what currently exists. The Edmonton Oil Kings were the only true Junior-A-calibre team in the province and drew most of the top talent Alberta had to offer. The Oil Kings were the Western Canadian champions from 1962 until 1966, Abbott Cup champions in 1954 and from 1960 to 1966, and Memorial Cup national champions in 1963 and 1966. In 1966, the Oil Kings helped create the Western Hockey League. The issue in 1964 was that there were hundreds of junior-calibre players in the province, but really only one team to play for. A group of business and hockey people got together in 1964 and decided to form a Junior "A" league in an attempt to truly develop Alberta hockey. The original league consisted of the Edmonton Safeway Canadians, the Edmonton Maple Leafs, the Lethbridge Sugar Kings, Calgary Cowboys, and the Calgary Buffaloes.

The Edmonton Safeway Canadians and Maple Leafs later merged in 1971 to become the Edmonton Mets, then moved to Spruce Grove to become the Spruce Grove Mets in 1974. They lasted only three seasons in Spruce Grove; however, they won the AJHL title twice, and the Manitoba Centennial Trophy in 1975. In 1976, they moved again to become the St. Albert Saints, where they won three more league titles. In 2004, the team returned to Spruce Grove as the Spruce Grove Saints. This well-travelled franchise has sent over 30 players into the National Hockey League (NHL), including Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Messier.[1]

One of the AJHL's most famous franchises, the Red Deer Rustlers, joined the league in 1967, capturing the championship in their first season. The Rustlers had attempted to join the Western Canada Junior Hockey League, but were blocked by the Alberta Amateur Hockey Association, and instead placed in the AJHL.[2] In 1971, the Rustlers captured the first Manitoba Centennial Trophy as national Junior A champions. The Rustlers, who featured all six Sutter brothers who would go on to the NHL, won eight AJHL titles and two Centennial Trophies during their existence. They were expelled from the league, however, in 1989, and formally folded in 1992 when the Red Deer Rebels joined the WHL.[3]

In 1971, the Calgary Canucks were founded following the demise of the Cowboys and Buffaloes. Today, the Canucks are the oldest franchise still operating in the AJHL. It was founded with a mandate to focus on giving Calgary-area kids a place to play while focusing on their educational needs. The Canucks have captured a league record nine AJHL championships and won the Centennial Cup in 1995, the Canadian Championship of Junior A hockey, now known as the Royal Bank Cup.

After a game on February 21, 1980, the AJHL was shaken by a tragedy. Twenty-year-old Trevor Elton, Captain of the Sherwood Park Crusaders was hit cleanly along the boards by a player on the St. Albert Saints in St. Albert. Elton landed and went into convulsions and died later that night while in hospital.[4]

On November 26, 2010, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons and Drayton Valley Thunder played the first modern-era regulation outdoor junior hockey game, at MacDonald Island in Fort McMurray. The game was known as the "Northern Classic".[5] The 5,000 tickets available for the game sold out in less than an hour, and consequently broke the league attendance record of 4,400.[6] A new attendance record was set in 2017 as 5,989 fans watched the Okotoks Oilers and Spruce Grove Saints play the last game at Northlands Coliseum.[7]

On May 2, 2012, the AJHL approved a request from the St. Albert Steel to relocate the team from St. Albert to Whitecourt to become the Whitecourt Wolverines.[8]

On January 20, 2024, the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) announced that the Blackfalds Bulldogs, Brooks Bandits, Okotoks Oilers, Sherwood Park Crusaders, and Spruce Grove Saints would join the BCHL in the 2024–25 season.[9] Following the announcement, the teams' remaining AJHL games for the 2023–24 season were cancelled, and nearly all trace of the five departing teams, including statistics for the current and previous seasons, had been removed from the AJHL website.[10]

Current teams edit

The 2023–24 season began with 16 teams organized into 2 divisions; the North Division and the South Division. Following the announcement in January 2024 that the Blackfalds Bulldogs, Brooks Bandits, Okotoks Oilers, Sherwood Park Crusaders, and Spruce Grove Saints would join the BCHL in the 2024–25 season, the teams' remaining AJHL games for the 2023–24 season were cancelled. An official statement from the AJHL said that it had received expressions of interest from "various partners and stakeholders" about joining the league.[11]

North Division
Team City Arena Joined
Bonnyville Pontiacs Bonnyville R. J. Lalonde Arena 1991
Drayton Valley Thunder Drayton Valley Drayton Valley Omni-Plex 1998
Fort McMurray Oil Barons Fort McMurray Centerfire Place 1981
Grande Prairie Storm Grande Prairie Bonnetts Energy Centre 1995
Lloydminster Bobcats Lloydminster Centennial Civic Centre 1988[a]
Whitecourt Wolverines Whitecourt Scott Safety Centre 1976[b]
South Division
Team City Arena Joined
Calgary Canucks Calgary Ken Bracko Arena 1971
Camrose Kodiaks Camrose EnCana Arena 1997
Canmore Eagles Canmore Canmore Recreation Centre 1995[c]
Drumheller Dragons Drumheller Drumheller Memorial Arena 2003
Olds Grizzlys Olds Olds & District Sports Complex 1974[d]
  1. ^ founded in 1982 in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League
  2. ^ Whitecourt Wolverines since 2012, originally Fort Saskatchewan Traders.
  3. ^ Canmore Eagles since 2001, originally Bow Valley Eagles.
  4. ^ Olds Grizzlys since 1981, originally Taber Golden Suns.

National Junior A Championships edit

Teams from the AJHL have captured the Centennial Cup 11 times. The Canadian Junior A championship was known as the Manitoba Centennial Trophy until 1995 and the Royal Bank/RBC Cup from 1995 to 2019.

  • 1971: Red Deer Rustlers
  • 1975: Spruce Grove Mets
  • 1980: Red Deer Rustlers
  • 1994: Olds Grizzlys
  • 1995: Calgary Canucks
  • 2000: Fort McMurray Oil Barons
  • 2001: Camrose Kodiaks
  • 2013: Brooks Bandits
  • 2019: Brooks Bandits
  • 2022: Brooks Bandits
  • 2023: Brooks Bandits

Playoff champions edit

Locations of AJHL teams (North Division teams in red; South Division teams in blue)

The playoff championship cup was originally known as Carling O'Keefe Cup before it began going by several other sponsored names:

  • Carling O'Keefe Cup was presented 1965–1997
  • Rogers Wireless Cup presented 1998–2007
  • Enerflex Cup presented 2008–2012
  • Gas Drive Cup presented 2013–2017
  • Inter Pipeline Cup presented 2018–present

The winners of the AJHL playoffs then advance to the Centennial Cup tournament, which determines the Canadian Junior A champions. Historically, from 1971 to 2012 and from 2018 to 2019, the AJHL champ played for the Doyle Cup against the champion of the British Columbia Hockey League. The winner of the Doyle Cup then advanced to the national championship tournament. From 2013 to 2017, instead of the Doyle Cup, the AJHL playoff winner participated in the Western Canada Cup.

League champions by year
Year League champion League runner-up
Memorial Cup era
1965 Calgary Buffaloes Calgary Cowboys
1966 Calgary Buffaloes Edmonton Canadians
1967 Edmonton Western Movers
1968 Edmonton Western Movers
1969 Lethbridge Sugar Kings
1970 Red Deer Rustlers
Centennial Cup era
1971 Red Deer Rustlers Lethbridge Sugar Kings
1972 Red Deer Rustlers Calgary Canucks
1973 Calgary Canucks Red Deer Rustlers
1974 Red Deer Rustlers The Pass Red Devils
1975 Spruce Grove Mets Drumheller Falcons
1976 Spruce Grove Mets Taber Golden Suns
1977 Calgary Canucks Taber Golden Suns
1978 Calgary Canucks Fort Saskatchewan Traders
1979 Fort Saskatchewan Traders Calgary Canucks
1980 Red Deer Rustlers Calgary Canucks
1981 St. Albert Saints Taber Golden Suns
1982 St. Albert Saints Calgary Spurs
1983 Calgary Canucks Fort McMurray Oil Barons
1984 Fort Saskatchewan Traders Red Deer Rustlers
1985 Red Deer Rustlers Sherwood Park Crusaders
1986 Calgary Canucks Sherwood Park Crusaders
1987 Red Deer Rustlers St. Albert Saints
1988 Calgary Canucks St. Albert Saints
1989 Red Deer Rustlers Fort Saskatchewan Traders
1990 Calgary Canucks Sherwood Park Crusaders
1991 Calgary Royals Fort Saskatchewan Traders
1992 Olds Grizzlys Fort McMurray Oil Barons
1993 Olds Grizzlys Fort Saskatchewan Traders
1994 Olds Grizzlys Fort McMurray Oil Barons
1995 Calgary Canucks Olds Grizzlys
1996 St. Albert Saints Fort McMurray Oil Barons
1997 Fort McMurray Oil Barons Calgary Canucks
1998 St. Albert Saints Fort Saskatchewan Traders
1999 Calgary Canucks St. Albert Saints
2000 Fort McMurray Oil Barons Camrose Kodiaks
2001 Camrose Kodiaks Drayton Valley Thunder
2002 Drayton Valley Thunder Grande Prairie Storm
2003 Camrose Kodiaks St. Albert Saints
2004 Grande Prairie Storm Fort McMurray Oil Barons
2005 Camrose Kodiaks Fort McMurray Oil Barons
2006 Fort McMurray Oil Barons Camrose Kodiaks
2007 Camrose Kodiaks Fort Saskatchewan Traders
2008 Camrose Kodiaks Fort McMurray Oil Barons
2009 Grande Prairie Storm Spruce Grove Saints
2010 Spruce Grove Saints Fort McMurray Oil Barons
2011 Spruce Grove Saints Camrose Kodiaks
2012 Brooks Bandits Fort McMurray Oil Barons
2013 Brooks Bandits Spruce Grove Saints
2014 Spruce Grove Saints Drumheller Dragons
2015 Spruce Grove Saints Brooks Bandits
2016 Brooks Bandits Spruce Grove Saints
2017 Brooks Bandits Whitecourt Wolverines
2018 Spruce Grove Saints Okotoks Oilers
2019 Brooks Bandits Spruce Grove Saints
2020–2021 Not awarded due to COVID-19 pandemic in Alberta
2022 Brooks Bandits Spruce Grove Saints
2023 Brooks Bandits Spruce Grove Saints

Timeline of teams in the AJHL edit

NHL alumni edit

As of 2006, nearly 200 AJHL alumni have gone on to play in the National Hockey League.[1] Among them:

References edit

  1. ^ a b AJHL Annual Guide & Record Book 2006–07, pg. 98
  2. ^ AJHL history—1960s Archived 2006-04-22 at the Wayback Machine,
  3. ^ AJHL history—1980s Archived 2006-04-22 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Junior player dies after game. Regina Leader-Post, February 21, 1980, Pg. 20.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2010-09-16.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "Junior outdoor hockey game tickets a hot sell". Calgary Herald. 2010-11-03. Retrieved 2010-11-03.
  7. ^ "Oilers win historic game at Northlands Coliseum". 22 December 2017.
  8. ^ "AJHL Moving to Whitecourt, Alberta". Alberta Junior Hockey League. 2012-05-02. Archived from the original on 2012-05-11. Retrieved 2012-05-03.
  9. ^ "BCHL agrees to terms with five Alberta-based teams". Retrieved 20 January 2024.
  10. ^ "AJHL STATEMENT ON FIVE DEFECTING TEAMS". Alberta Junior Hockey League. Retrieved 2 February 2024.
  11. ^ "AJHL STATEMENT ON FIVE DEFECTING TEAMS". Alberta Junior Hockey League. Retrieved 2 February 2024.
  12. ^ "AJHL approves move of Calgary Mustangs hockey club to Blackfalds". CTV News Calgary.

External links edit