Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

To Russia With...Hockey?!?

I've mentioned previously in this blog that while I am not a sports fan I recognize the community-building aspect of sports, and of sports teams in particular. We are fortunate in Fort Mac to have an excellent Alberta Junior Hockey League team in the form of the McMurray Oil Barons (affectionately known locally as the MOB, which has to be the best hockey team nickname ever!). The Oil Barons have a lot of passionate fans in the city, and they are truly a great contributor to the community spirit that sports engenders. I was delighted recently to hear from an acquaintance that the MOB are headed to Russia this summer to represent Canada in a hockey tournament, and being the nosy type I contacted the MOB's Executive Director Andrew Boutilier to talk about the upcoming trip.

Andrew graciously gave me a few moments of his time to explain how the trip came about and why it means so much to the MOB (and by extension to the city). Apparently Hockey Canada chose our local team out of 135 Junior A teams, which is quite the accomplishment. They will be playing at the inaugural World Junior Club Cup against 7 other teams (USA, Russia, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, and Czech Republic). The tournament will be held from August 30 - September 4, and the calibre of hockey is expected to be very high.

The fact that our local team was chosen to represent Canada is cause for celebration in itself, people. Whether they do well or not is immaterial, although of course I dearly hope they kick butt and come home champions. What matters is that this little city is sending a team to Omsk, Russia, to represent not just hockey in this city but all of us residents, too. It's yet another opportunity to put Fort Mac on the international map in a positive way, and I applaud the players and the leadership of the MOB for making this happen.

It's an incredible opportunity for the players and coaches, too, of course. This is the chance for them to play wearing the maple leaf and show their pride in being Canadian. It's another win-win for everyone involved, from the players to the coaches to the leadership to the entire city. I'm always proud to see us represented at any level in any sport or event, and this seems like a wonderful chance for our city to shine yet again. I will follow this story and the tournament results with great interest, and who knows? Maybe the MOB will come home carrying the World Junior Club Cup trophy from Russia. How cool would that be, people?

Incidentally, since I suspect most of us won't be in Russia during the tournament, there is an opportunity this summer to catch some local hockey action. On Sunday, August 7 the Oil Barons and Macdonald Island Park are hosting the players from the Canada National Junior Team Summer Development Camp. There is a Maple Leaf Luncheon scheduled that day as well as a Red/White Game that evening to showcase these exciting young players. So, while most locals won't be able to see our hometown junior players in action in Omsk there is an opportunity to support the Junior league and enjoy some summer hockey right here at home. I may have mentioned I'm not really a sports fan, but I think I might try to take in both the luncheon and the game as it's yet another chance to show some visitors our Big Spirit, and another opportunity to show support for the MOB.

I take this moment to wish the Oil Barons players, coaches, board of directors, and all those involved with the MOB my best, and my hopes for not only a successful finish at the tournament in Russia but an incredible experience, too. Go and show them all some damn fine Canadian hockey, guys - and show them our Big Spirit, too! We will be cheering you on from right here in good ol' Fort Mac.

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