Future of Allan Cup Hockey West up in the air

After the Rosetown Red Wings announced they wouldn’t return in 2019-20, only three teams remain

Senior hockey has long been a lifeline for players looking to capture the glory one last time.

That glory was on full display as the Lacombe Generals hoisted the Allan Cup on home ice in April. They paraded the 111-year old trophy proudly around the rink in front of family and friends at the Gary Moe Autogroup Sportsplex.

They smiled; they cried and talked about the sacrifice it takes to win a national Senior AAA Championship and the brotherhood they formed with a bunch of men with long hockey histories.

It was clear that what it takes to win at that level might not be the same skill level it takes to win in pro hockey, but the sacrifice still resonated.

Whether they will have that chance again in 2019-20, has reached a pivotal point.

On Friday, the Rosetown Red Wings announced their withdrawal from the Allan Cup Hockey West for the 2019-20 season.

That leaves just three teams in the ACHW for next year, with the Innisfail Eagles, Generals and Stony Plain Eagles remaining, after the Fort Saskatchewan Chiefs stepped away from the league earlier in the year.

That’s a precarious position according to Generals GM Jeff McInnis. He said the remaining parties are set to meet in the near future to discuss what to do, but isn’t sure what the way forward is.

“We’re going to have a meeting with the operators and discuss the future. There’s a lot of issues with our hockey. It’s retracting and not expanding. So we have to deal with a lot of things,” he said.

“So many teams have died over the years, we’re finally at the last straw.”

It was always a tall order to ask the Red Wings to come all the way to Alberta to play in a league, but it helped keep it afloat. They played in the league the last two seasons.

McInnis admits it would be very difficult for the Generals to go the other way and play in Saskatchewan if it was them in the Red Wings situation.

There are a lot of options on the table for next season, but one that McInnis doesn’t think the Generals would consider is dropping down to the Senior AA level.

“If that’s what it takes, we’re open to it, but that’s not something I’m interested in. Been there, down that. In our third season we won AA, that was 17 years ago,” he said.

With such a competitive and close Allan Cup in 2019, it is tough to imagine the 2020 edition in Hamilton and Dundas without an Alberta representative. While that future is a long way from coming to fruition, McInnis has long wished for senior hockey to return to the glory days.

“We don’t want the condition that we’re in now to continue… We want to play like we had it a few years ago, but how do we get there?” McInnis pondered.

“It was growing and there were teams in B.C. and there were MacKenzie Cups. There was Powell River, Trail and Fort St. John and Fort Saskatchewan was a good hockey club.”

Last year, the ACHW season started on Oct. 6. So, the early summer months will be critical to sort out the future of the league.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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