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Canmore hockey players' eyes set on oldest Canadian trophy

“It's a really, really tough tournament to win. There's a lot of good hockey games. So, the longer you are around it, and the older you get, the more you realize how hard it is to accomplish. So being prepared and trying to prepare our group is what we've done all year,” said Smyth.
The seniors AAA Innisfail Eagles. SUBMITTED

CANMORE – Canmore hockey players will be trying their hand at taking home the Allan Cup after they “fell short” last year.

The five players and two coaches make up the local contingent of the Innisfail Eagles senior’s AAA team – that went 1-2 at last year’s Allan Cup, narrowly losing both games by a goal to eventual runners-up Clarenville Caribous and the Hamilton Steelers.

“We were able to go the Allan Cup last year and fell short of our goal, but like we’ve learned over the years what it takes to win there and hopefully this year we can come up with a better result,” said Kevin Smyth, the Eagles’ head coach and a Canmore realtor.

In hopes to finally lay their gloves on the trophy, Smyth has been making sure the team is ready in all aspects.

“It’s a really, really tough tournament to win. There’s a lot of good hockey games, so the longer you are around it, and the older you get, the more you realize how hard it is to accomplish. So, being prepared and trying to prepare our group is what we’ve done all year,” said Smyth.

“Just knowing what I know, you have to have depth and you have to have good goaltending and you have to be strong defensively and you have to score, so that was the one thing we really worked on all year this year. We’ve been making sure we have enough guys to fulfill in roles if we’re missing some guys because last year when we went, we lost a few of our key players.”

The team holds five more locals, Jeremy Reich, Braiden Leth, Bryan Arneson, Parker Smyth and Jonas Gordon. Bobby Richardson serves as an assistant coach.

“With the five players we have, we’re super excited to be able to inject them into the lineup and they’re just difference makers,” said Smyth.

The Allan Cup is annually awarded to the top senior men’s team in Canada and features players who competed at both the professional and semi-professional levels. The trophy has been competed for since 1909, with the exception of one year during the Second World War and three years during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the oldest national hockey championship in Canada.

Ontario has largely been the dominant province, having won 50 titles, but also been captured by teams from the other nine provinces, one territory and two American states.

The cup is a round robin tournament, unlike the typical best-of-five series, which Smyth says you must be ready and healthy for.

“Anytime you’re going into a tournament like this, it’s different than playing a five-game series. You have a round robin and then we have a semi and a final, so the key is to be ready to go with the round robin games and you got to be healthy. And as of right now we’re healthy, so we’re pretty positive on where we’re at,” said Smyth.

After shutting out the Stoney Plain Eagles in a best-of-five series, the Innisfail team earned their spot in the tournament.

The team will head to Dundas, Ont. for the tournament, which will be held April 20-27.

They capped the season off against the Powell River Regals and the Stoney Plain Eagles with 11 wins and only four losses.

“The season was up and down a little bit. We had had some really good games against Stoney Plain and we kind of split the series until the last game of the year where we were able to clinch home ice advantage, and then we had a couple of games against Powell River Regals from B.C. and were able to sweep that series,” said Smyth.

The Eagles have their calendars marked for the first game of the tournament on April 21 followed by the second and third on April 22 and 24.

On Friday (April 5) at 6 p.m. the hockey team will be hosting a fundraiser at CanGolf in Canmore to aid in their travels for the tournament.

“We’re really looking at having a good time and raising a little bit of money and showing the valley what the Allan Cup’s all about,” said Smyth.

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