The Blackfalds Bulldogs are preparing to put in a bid to host the holy grail of junior A hockey, the Centennial Cup.
Organized by Hockey Canada and the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL), the Centennial Cup determines the junior A national champion in a 10-team tournament in May with the winners from all nine leagues within the CJHL.
The Bulldogs are hoping to host either the 2024 or 2025 Centennial Cup.
Trevor Thomas, director of business operations for the Bulldogs, said they have until Jan. 28 to put in a bid and explained ownership is committed to doing so.
“It’s a huge event,” he said. “It’s very big for the community to be on the national stage for 11 days. It’s something that doesn’t come around very often so when it does you’ve got to jump at the chance to grab it.”
“We’re just going through the process because it’s a fairly hefty package by getting letters of support and filling in all the blanks that Hockey Canada needs.”
The Bulldogs play out of the Eagle Builders Centre which was built just two years ago. The multi-purpose arena seats over 1,400 people and Blackfalds played their inaugural season in the facility last season.
“I think [what separates us] is the enthusiasm of the organization,” he added. “This organization is built differently than a lot of others where ownership has provided some resources for us to go get these types of competitions.”
Earlier this season the Bulldogs hosted the 2022 Alberta Junior Hockey League Showcase. The annual event is awarded to a franchise in the AJHL to host all 16 teams to play two games each in front of hundreds of scouts from the NHL and the NCAA.
Thomas said the arena was created to hold major events like the showcase and the franchise saw it as a big step forward.
“We absolutely believe it was a success for lots of reasons. It brought some people who probably have never been to a game in Blackfalds at the Eagle Builders Centre,” he said.
“Secondly it created some really great community spirit because we had a whole festival atmosphere around it that was more than just hockey. It also engaged a whole new set of volunteers who wanted to be a part of Bulldogs hockey.”
In order for the Bulldogs to place a bid they have to get the town council on as a partner which they accomplished this week. Thomas said the council was understanding of the potential economic and community benefit hosting an event of this stature can provide.
“Central Alberta has a really good track record hosting events. If you go back to curling events, to the Memorial Cup, to the 2019 Canada Winter Games, to just this past year with the World Juniors that were kind of here. There was still a big organizing committee and a lot of work that went into it,” he said.
Once the bid is placed, Hockey Canada’s planning committee considers all options before narrowing down the candidates. The host teams for the 2024 and 2025 Centennial Cup will be announced at the end of March.
The 2023 Centennial Cup will be held in Portage la Prarie, Man. for the first time since 2015. In 2022, it was held in Estevan, Sask. where the AJHL’s Brooks Bandits took home the championship.