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The spirit of men's senior hockey is alive and well in the city of Central Alberta

The spirit of men's senior hockey is alive and well in the city of Central Alberta


Innisfail Eagles vice-president Kent Wing heads out on a 32-hour drive alone to Ontario's Allan Cup tournament to deliver equipment and facilities

INNISFAIL– Senior men's hockey is uniquely special.

Most players are former pros. Some of them have played full-time in the NHL; others for just a cup of coffee.

Many have at least reached the minors. Others had standout college or junior careers.

At one point or another they dreamed of huge salaries and perks.

Not today. All that is just a distant memory.

But everyone still cares deeply about the game. They compete to win and give everything they have on the ice.

And also away from it.

Every team member contributes without receiving a single cent of pay.

This week on Friday, April 19, members of the 76-year-old Innisfail Eagles Hockey Club, which includes twenty players, will board a red-eye plane to Dundas, Ontario at 11:50 p.m. to compete in the Allan Cup Challenge starting in April. 20 to 27.

The national round-robin series is a once-respected tournament that continues to decide the best senior hockey team in Canada.

The Allan Cup is named after Sir H. Montagu Allan, a prominent Canadian businessman and philanthropist, who donated the trophy in 1908 because he wanted the country's top amateurs to have their own special prize to play for after the Stanley Cup competition was limited to just professionals.

And the Allan Cup champions continued to play a major role on the international front.

From 1920 to 1960, the reigning Allan Cup champion was chosen to represent Canada at the Winter Olympics.

The sanctity of the Allan Cup is still not lost on many, including everyone on the Innisfail Eagles hockey team.

Kent Wing is a former Eagles player. He now serves as the team's vice president and director of hockey operations, as well as an assistant coach. His wife, Dana Fox-Wing, is the team's trainer.

They both only do it for the love of the game.

On the morning of Wednesday, April 17, Wing will set off alone in his truck and trailer on a 32-hour journey across the northern United States to deliver each Eagles hockey equipment and all associated amenities for the Allan Cup Challenge in Dundas.

He wants to make sure everything is ready for his 20 players during their first training session before playing in the men's national senior championship.

“I'm going to ride until I know I'm tired and I don't want to ride anymore,” said Wing, whose wife is flying to Dundas on red-eye with team chiropractor and doctor Maddy Oystrick.

“The team will arrive in Ontario at 6am on Saturday morning and we will have a team skate. I want the locker room ready for them. I want everyone's bags in the locker room. I want all their equipment ready, just like the pros do.

“I want everyone to come in and not have to worry about unpacking and drying out their equipment and things like that before we practice,” Wing said, emphasizing that his efforts are in line with the hockey team's beloved culture . At home; that's our biggest thing. We have worked so hard all year to create our culture and feeling in our room.

“We want to take that home when we get to Ontario to win the Allan Cup championship.”

And all the players participated. They are collectively committed to the mission at hand.

This is the Eagles' third chance since 2019 to finally take home senior men's hockey's biggest prize. There's no room for tricks until the job is done.

The Eagles' first match in the four-team Allan Cup Challenge is April 21 and they will play the Stoney Creek Tigers, the Ontario senior men's champion.

“It's all business. There's no, 'Hey, let's go watch a Jays game.' “There's no, 'Hey, let's do this or that.' At the last practice they had a meeting in the locker room and talked about guys wanting to go out and party,” said Ryan Dodd, general manager and assistant coach of the Eagles.

“They're going to hold each other accountable, and they expect us as coaches to also step in and hold players accountable.

“I don't think we're going to have any problems. Every guy sitting in the locker room says, 'I'm not drinking beer until we win this.' It was all 100 percent sourced, and they talk about their health, the way they eat now; all these things are what the players say.

“We have a 100 percent different mentality this year going into the Allan Cup. So, watch out. These guys are coming and they are hungry for that championship.”




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