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Alberta junior hockey league quiet on south as northern opportunities arise

In proximity to Canmore, only three AJHL teams are within 300 km of the mountain town.
Former Canmore Eagles defenceman Brody Tallman takes a wrist shot against the Whitecourt Wolverines at the Canmore Recreation Centre in January 2024. JUNGMIN HAM RMO PHOTO

CANMORE – No word on southern franchise expansion as the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) eyes northern markets.

The AJHL announced last Friday (April 26) that a franchise is coming to the community of Devon, while the league is in talks for bringing a new club to Cold Lake and keeping another team alive in Whitecourt.

Currently, that would mean more clicks on the odometer and overnight stays for the Canmore Eagles Junior A Club, which has been vocal about added expenses when travelling to northern communities affecting its budget.

Andrew Milne, head coach and general manager of the Eagles, said there is a need to have more southern teams, but he thinks the latest AJHL announcement is going to “catapult” other communities to make a stronger case for a franchise. The uncertainty is around how quickly those applications can be turned around.

“I think there is all sorts of things on the table right now and the AJHL is doing their best to review them and listen,” said Milne. “Then we have a timeline in place to get our current season going, which means we got to know pretty quickly what’s happening with our league scheduling and structure and what have you so there will be some discussion on that.”

The AJHL currently has 11 teams scheduled to compete next season, with one franchise’s future uncertain.

The Northern Alberta Xtreme Athletics Group is bringing a new club to Devon for the 2024-25 season. According to a recent job posting, the team is called the Northern Alberta Xtreme Junior A Club.

The ownership group had also taken part in running the Whitecourt Wolverines Junior A Club, which has its status in the league in question as the AJHL “is in the process of evaluating new ownership opportunities” to continue having a team in Whitecourt.

However, if Whitecourt does lose its team, it’s believed that up to 10 communities reached out to the AJHL about franchise expansion opportunities following the exodus of five clubs toward the end of the 2023-24 season.

One being Cold Lake, which has been active in recent years in landing a Junior A club. The league will continue to discuss potential expansion to the small city located approximately 300 km northeast of Edmonton for the 2025-26 season.

In proximity to Canmore, only three AJHL teams are within 300 km of the mountain town.

It's unsure whether or not more communities are being seriously considered at this time.

The Outlook reached out to the AJHL for comment.

The AJHL is set to announce a new league structure and schedule format in May, the same month the league’s Annual General Meeting comes to Canmore.

Eagles sign forwards

The Canmore Eagles acquired forwards Aidan Tkachuk of the Calgary Royals and Brayden Schwartz of Edge School. The pair will suit up for the Eagles in 2024-25.

Tkachuk, a six-foot-three 17-year-old, had 17 goals and 44 points in 38 games with the Royals last season, and was called up to play two games with the Calgary Canucks, while Schwartz, 17 years old and standing five-foot-ten, scored 10 goals and had 21 points in 29 games with the U18 prep team.

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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