Though there will not be any time to stage official tryouts, Alberta will once again be sending two teams to the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships.
This year’s national tournament, which will be held in Saskatoon, is scheduled to begin on Apr. 26 and continue until May 1.
Tryouts for both the Alberta female and male clubs had originally been scheduled for January but were cancelled as status of the 2011 national tournament was unclear. When the announcement came, organizers decided to make use of previously scheduled events to evaluate players.
Alberta officials selected the players for their rosters following a pair of events, the Treaty Hockey Championships, which began Mar. 30 in Calgary and the Native Hockey Championships, which ran Apr. 7-10 in Edmonton.
Ted Hodgson, manager for both Alberta clubs, said a number of potential team players have already been identified. But that does not necessarily mean the best players from Alberta will participate at the nationals.
“I know it’s a problem we’ve had in the past but it’s whoever can afford to go or whoever can fundraise,” Hodgson said.
He estimates it will cost each player about $1,500 to attend the week-long tournament in Saskatoon.
Hodgson added the Alberta girls’ entry could have as many as eight returnees on its roster.
Bruce Littlechild, coach for the Alberta boys’ team, said the club might have as many as half a dozen returnees.
But Littlechild is not sure how well the club will perform at nationals.
“It’s too early,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to speculate.”
With the original tryouts cancelled and the clubs not being announced until April, Littlechild said his team will not have much time together before the nationals begin. He anticipates one practice before they leave for Saskatoon and no exhibition play.
“Because of the time constraints, it’s impossible,” he said.
The tournament will see a few less teams participating. The uncertainty as to whether the tournament would be held at all — in large part because no group had stepped up to host the event — made some provinces choose to opt out of this year’s nationals.
When it was revealed in late January that Saskatoon would host the 2011 tourney, only four provinces — Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario — initially confirmed they would send entrants.
In previous years, the national tournament attracted about 10 female and 10 male clubs.
So no doubt organizers are pleased others have also decided to send teams.
The boys’ division will feature eight clubs as British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories and the Quebec-based Eastern Door and the North will also take part.
The girls’ grouping will have a total of seven entrants as B.C., EDN and the Northwest Territories will be icing squads, in addition to the four original confirmed clubs.
The NAHC primarily features bantam and midget-aged players, who are 18 and under. But the female division does allow for a number of 19 and 20-year-olds to take part.
At last year’s tournament, held in Ottawa, both Alberta teams lost in the quarter finals.