Alberta Junior Hockey League
The Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) is an Alberta-based Junior A ice hockey league that belongs to the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL). It was formed as a five-team league in 1964. There are currently 16 teams in the league. The regular season league champions receive the Dave Duchak Trophy. The playoff champions receive the Inter Pipeline Cup (previously known as the Carling O'Keefe trophy and Gas Drive Cup). The winner of the AJHL playoffs continues on to play in the Doyle Cup in a seven-game series with the champion team of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL). The winner of the Doyle Cup competes in the National Junior A Championship (formerly known as the Royal Bank Cup).
|No. of teams||15|
|Brooks Bandits (5th)|
|Most titles||Calgary Canucks (9)|
The early 1960s saw a much different junior hockey scenario in Alberta than what currently exists. The Edmonton Oil Kings were the only true Junior-A-calibre team in the province and drew most of the top talent Alberta had to offer. The Oil Kings were the Western Canadian champions from 1962 until 1966, Abbott Cup champions in 1954 and from 1960 to 1966, and Memorial Cup national champions in 1963 and 1966. In 1966, the Oil Kings helped create the Western Hockey League. The issue in 1964 was that there were hundreds of junior-calibre players in the province, but really only one team to play for. A group of business and hockey people got together in 1964 and decided to form a Junior "A" league in an attempt to truly develop Alberta hockey. The original league consisted of the Edmonton Safeway Canadians, the Edmonton Maple Leafs, the Lethbridge Sugar Kings, Calgary Cowboys, and the Calgary Buffaloes.
The Edmonton Safeway Canadians and Maple Leafs later merged in 1971 to become the Edmonton Mets, then moved to Spruce Grove to become the Spruce Grove Mets in 1974. They lasted only three seasons in Spruce Grove; however, they won the AJHL title twice, and the Manitoba Centennial Trophy in 1975. In 1976, they moved again to become the St. Albert Saints, where they won three more league titles. In 2004, the team returned to Spruce Grove as the Spruce Grove Saints. This well-travelled franchise has sent over 30 players into the National Hockey League, including Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Messier.
One of the AJHL's most famous franchises, the Red Deer Rustlers, joined the league in 1967, capturing the championship in their first season. The Rustlers had attempted to join the Western Canada Junior Hockey League, but were blocked by the Alberta Amateur Hockey Association, and instead placed in the AJHL. In 1971, the Rustlers captured the first Manitoba Centennial Trophy as national Junior A champions. The Rustlers, who featured all six Sutter brothers who would go on to the National Hockey League, won eight AJHL titles and two Centennial Trophies during their existence. They were expelled from the league, however, in 1989, and formally folded in 1992 when the Red Deer Rebels joined the WHL.
In 1971, the Calgary Canucks were founded following the demise of the Cowboys and Buffaloes. Today, the Canucks are the oldest franchise still operating in the AJHL. It was founded with a mandate to focus on giving Calgary-area kids a place to play while focusing on their educational needs. The Canucks have captured a league record nine AJHL championships and won the Centennial Cup in 1995, the Canadian Championship of Junior A hockey, now known as the Royal Bank Cup.
After a game on February 21, 1980, the AJHL was shaken by a tragedy. Twenty-year-old Trevor Elton, Captain of the Sherwood Park Crusaders was hit cleanly along the boards by a player on the St. Albert Saints in St. Albert, Alberta. Elton landed and went into convulsions and died later that night while in hospital.
On November 26, 2010, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons and Drayton Valley Thunder played the first ever modern era regulation outdoor junior hockey game at MacDonald Island in Fort McMurray. The game was known as the "Northern Classic". The 5,000 tickets available for the game sold out in less than an hour, and consequently broke the league attendance record of 4,400.
- founded in 1982 in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League
- Spruce Grove Saints since 2004, originally Edmonton Movers.
- Whitecourt Wolverines since 2012, originally Fort Saskatchewan Traders.
- Canmore Eagles since 2001, originally Bow Valley Eagles.
- Okotoks Oilers since 2005, originally Crowsnest Pass Timberwolves.
- Olds Grizzlys since 1981, originally Taber Golden Suns.
National Junior A Championships
Teams from the AJHL have captured the National Junior A Championship nine times. The championship was formerly known as the Manitoba Centennial Trophy until 1995 and the Royal Bank/RBC Cup from 1995 to 2019.
The playoff championship cup was originally known as Carling O'Keefe Cup before it began going by several other sponsored names:
- Carling O'Keefe Cup was presented 1965–1997
- Rogers Wireless Cup presented 1998–2007
- Enerflex Cup presented 2008–2012
- Gas Drive Cup presented 2013–2017
- Inter Pipeline Cup presented 2018–present
The winners of the AJHL playoffs then advance to the Doyle Cup against the playoff champion of the British Columbia Hockey League. The winner of the Doyle Cup then advances to the National Junior A Championship, previously known as the Royal Bank Cup and RBC Cup. From 2013 to 2017, instead of the Doyle Cup to qualify to the National Championship, the AJHL playoff winner participated in the Western Canada Cup.
Note: Playoff champions are in bold.
Timeline of teams in the AJHL
- 1964 – Alberta Junior Hockey League is founded with: Edmonton Safeway Canadians, Edmonton Maple Leafs, Lethbridge Sugar Kings, Calgary Cowboys and Calgary Buffaloes.
- 1965 – Edmonton Canadians renamed Edmonton Western Movers
- 1967 – Red Deer Rustlers join league
- 1971 – Calgary Canucks join league
- 1972 – The Pass Red Devils join league
- 1972 – Edmonton Maple Leafs and Edmonton Western Movers merge, renamed Edmonton Mets
- 1974 – Edmonton Mets relocate to Spruce Grove and become the Spruce Grove Mets
- 1974 – Taber Golden Suns join league
- 1976 – Edmonton Crusaders join league
- 1976 – Fort Saskatchewan Traders join league
- 1976 – The Pass Red Devils relocate to Pincher Creek and become the Pincher Creek Panthers
- 1977 – Spruce Grove Mets relocate to St. Albert and become the St. Albert Saints
- 1978 – Edmonton Crusaders relocate to Sherwood Park and become the Sherwood Park Crusaders
- 1978 – Pincher Creek Panthers relocate to Calgary and become the Calgary Chinooks
- 1979 – Calgary Chinooks become the Calgary Spurs
- 1981 – Fort McMurray Oil Barons and Hobbema Hawks join league
- 1981 – Taber Golden Suns relocate to Olds and become the Olds Grizzlys
- 1988 – Lloydminster Lancers of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League join league as Lloydminster Blazers
- 1989 – Red Deer Rustlers expelled from league after bi-law violations
- 1990 – Calgary Spurs become the Calgary Royals
- 1990 – Hobbema Hawks take leave of absence
- 1991 – Bonnyville Pontiacs join league
- 1993 – Hobbema Hawks cease operations
- 1995 – Bow Valley Eagles join league
- 1996 – Grande Prairie Storm join league from the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League
- 1997 – Camrose Kodiaks join league
- 1998 – Drayton Valley Thunder join league
- 1998 – Crowsnest Pass Timberwolves join league
- 2000 – Brooks Bandits join league
- 2001 – Bow Valley Eagles become Canmore Eagles
- 2003 – Drumheller Dragons join league
- 2004 – St. Albert Saints return to Spruce Grove and become the Spruce Grove Saints
- 2005 – Lloydminster Blazers become Lloydminster Bobcats
- 2005 – Crowsnest Pass Timberwolves relocate to Okotoks and become the Okotoks Oilers
- 2007 – Fort Saskatchewan Traders relocate to St. Albert and become the St. Albert Steel
- 2010 – Calgary Royals become the Calgary Mustangs
- 2012 – St. Albert Steel relocate to Whitecourt and become the Whitecourt Wolverines
- 2019 – Calgary Mustangs go on hiatus
As of 2006, nearly 200 AJHL grads have gone on to play in the National Hockey League. Among them:
- Craig Adams
- Dave Babych
- Stu Barnes
- Bob Bassen
- Jay Beagle
- Dan Blackburn
- Mike Commodore
- Mike Comrie
- John Davidson
- Brennan Evans
- Curtis Glencross
- Kevin Haller
- Scott Hartnell
- Dany Heatley
- Cale Hulse
- Corey Hirsch
- Braden Holtby
- Chad Johnson
- Kelly Kisio
- Mark Letestu
- Clarke MacArthur
- Cale Makar
- Clint Malarchuk
- Richard Matvichuk
- Lanny McDonald
- Mark Messier
- Randy Moller
- Troy Murray
- Dana Murzyn
- Mike Needham
- Jim Nill
- Colton Parayko
- Chris Phillips
- Fernando Pisani
- Nolan Pratt
- Mason Raymond
- Wade Redden
- Steven Reinprecht
- Carter Rowney
- Lindy Ruff
- Ben Scrivens
- Geoff Smith
- Jason Smith
- Sheldon Souray
- Brent Sutter
- Brian Sutter
- Darryl Sutter
- Duane Sutter
- Rich Sutter
- Ron Sutter
- Ken Sutton
- Garry Unger
- Scottie Upshall
- Garry Valk
- Mike Vernon
- Stan Weir
- Craig Weller
- Glen Wesley
- Zarley Zalapski
- AJHL Annual Guide & Record Book 2006–07, pg. 98
- AJHL history—1960s Archived 2006-04-22 at the Wayback Machine, ajhl.ca
- AJHL history—1980s Archived 2006-04-22 at the Wayback Machine
- Junior player dies after game. Regina Leader-Post, February 21, 1980, Pg. 20.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2010-09-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Junior outdoor hockey game tickets a hot sell". Calgary Herald. 2010-11-03. Retrieved 2010-11-03.
- "AJHL Moving to Whitecourt, Alberta". Alberta Junior Hockey League. 2012-05-02. Archived from the original on 2012-05-11. Retrieved 2012-05-03.