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Hockey season started in Grande Prairie

by Kalen Qually / Edmonton Oilers
The Fanboni makes its way across the ice in Grande Prairie.

The Oilers Events Team knew they would be celebrating with the Storm in Grande Prairie this weekend but didn’t realize they’d be dealing with one too. Poor weather moved the Grande Prairie Storm Season Icebreaker in-doors but spirits weren’t dampened with hockey fans that attended at the Crystal Centre.

"We had to make some last-minute adjustments because of the weather," said Storm Business Manager Don Moon, "but it worked out well. We were able to do just about everything we had planned for outdoors."

Events slated to take place on Saturday in the Crystal Centre’s parking lot were moved into the Centre’s foyer and Canada Games Arena. On the ice at Canada Games Arena young fans were able to take in Fanboni rides, an accuracy competition, and taking shots on the mascot of the Grande Prairie Storm, Slapshot. Meanwhile a street hockey showdown took place on the cement inside the Arena.

Storm Business Manager Don Moon said about the event, "Northern Alberta is Oil Country and by doing things like the Icebreaker our 'local' NHL team is certainly proving that.”

Before Saturday’s rainy afternoon, the Oilers Events Team and Community Partnerships Staff hit the ice at the Coke Centre on Friday with Hockey Alberta. Participants in the Hockey Alberta Camp were able to wrap up a week of training in skills and power skating with the Oilers Events Team. The 100 young hockey players at the Camp played on-ice with the staff and also off of it in a road hockey game.

Oilers Fan and Community Development Coordinator Tyson Lazaruk spoke to several of the Camp participants about the experience, including 11-year-old Jesslyn. Jesslyn, who is from Grande Prairie, was one of the few girls playing at the Hockey Alberta Camp and said about the experience, “We’re having lots of fun and we’re learning lots of things.”

One of Jesslyn’s friends at camp was 11-year-old Kourtney from Clairmont, AB. Talking about her favourite reasons for playing hockey she said, “I like hockey because it’s fun, you meet lots of new friends and it’s very active.”

Saturday also belonged to the girls as Grande Prairie was the site of a single-day hockey program called the OneGoal Outreach Try Female Hockey Day. The Grande Prairie Minor Hockey Association won the right to host the program that provided 30 full sets of hockey equipment to hopeful female hockey players between the ages of four and eleven years-old.

“I think the OneGoal Foundation with the Oilers Staff coming out, with the work of Grande Prairie Minor Hockey and Hockey Alberta, was such a great event,” said David Brown, Coordinator of Development for Hockey Alberta’s Northern Region. “There’s a lot of girls in this region that don’t get the opportunities and the ice time to play the game.”

Lorna LeBlanc, Executive Director of the Grande Prairie Minor Hockey Association, was thrilled to have the OneGoal program and Oilers Events Team in town. “This is a phenomenal opportunity,” said LeBlanc. “Kids from all over the Peace Country were invited to come and try hockey. It’s no cost to the parents and we hope they all had a fun day on the ice and with the Oilers.”

Following a fun and eventful weekend for the Oilers Events Team, they’ve returned to Edmonton with their road hockey gear and Fanboni knowing that hockey season has officially started in Grande Prairie.

Before too long the puck will also drop on the Oilers season as they will start the pre-season visiting the Vancouver Canucks on September 22. The Oilers first home pre-season game is the following night when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning on September 23 at Rexall Place.
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