The national midget AAA tournament is rich in history.
Although the format has changed over the decades, the allure of the event is still the same.
“For these guys, it gets a lot of notoriety, but it doesn’t matter what level you’re at or what age group, if you can say that you won and that you were the best at that age bracket, it is phenomenal,” said Mike Stothers, a alumnus of the tournament and current head coach of the Moose Jaw Warriors.
The national tournament originally began as the Wrigley National Midget Hockey Tournament, which ran from 1974 to 1978.
It was an invitational event, with each Canadian branches declaring their respective champions through playdowns. The champions were then invited to play in the Wrigley event each January.
Each year, the champion would represent Canada in the Soviet Union for a series of games against other elite teams from different countries.
It was then named the Air Canada Cup in 1979 until 2003. It still used a similar format to the Wrigley with each of Canada’s 12 branches determining their champions through a playoff system. The branch champions advanced to the national tournament to play for the Cup.
Stothers and his St. Michael’s College Buzzers were in the inaugural year of the Air Canada Cup. They lost to Couillard de Ste-Foy 9-7 in overtime. The Notre Dame Hounds finished third that year.
In 1984, the Air Canada Cup was revised to the format that is still used today.
Five regional representatives are decided by inter-branch competition and joined by the host team, which is predetermined via a bid process.
Teams play a round robin with the top four teams moving on to the semifinal. The winners of the semis advance to the championship, which will be held on Sunday. A total of 19 games are played over six days of competition.
The name of the tournament once again changed in 2004 when Telus signed on as the new sponsor.
Saskatchewan teams have had success at the national stage, including the Regina Pat Canadians and the Notre Dame Hounds, as both have four titles. A team from the Prairies has competed at the tournament 23 times over its 40-year history.
The 1980s and 1990s had a good stretch of either the Pat Canadians or the Hounds representing the west region. Into the 2000s, the Saskatoon Contacts won once and finished second twice. The Prince Albert Mintos won back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007. The Hounds then went back-to-back in 2009 and 2010, which was the year that Telus Cup ambassador Morgan Rielly won the title.
This is just the third time that a Saskatchewan team will host the Telus Cup and first time for Moose Jaw and the Generals.
“It was a great tournament and I still have the lasting memories,” said Stothers. “It was pretty cool to look back and see who was on the team and where they ended up.”
The Telus Cup runs April 21 to 27 at Mosaic Place and tickets are still available.
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