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Royal Bank Cup fever

The Reminder is making its archives back to 2003 available on our website. Please note that, due to technical limitations, archive articles are presented without the usual formatting.

The Reminder is making its archives back to 2003 available on our website. Please note that, due to technical limitations, archive articles are presented without the usual formatting.

The Grande Prairie Storm of the Alberta Junior Hockey League has sold 1,300 season tickets in 2003-04. It's a significant increase from the average of 700-900 season tickets sold in most seasons since Grande Prairie was admitted to the AJHL in 1996-97. "If you have season tickets, you can buy Royal Bank Cup tournament packages before they are sold to the general public Dec. 1," said Royal Bank Cup 2004 committee chairman Grant Menzies. The packages will be available through the Crystal Centre box office, by telephoning 780-538-0387. A tournament package will cost $204 for 13 games, including the round-robin, semi-finals and final. "We anticipate that we are going to sell out," said Menzies. The capacity at the Canada Games Arena will be 3,000, with 200 bleacher seats to be added behind each net and sky boxes for corporate partners. The 3,000 seats includes those set aside for Hockey Canada, competing teams and sponsors. The total for Storm corporate partners is $400,000 this season, because of the national junior A championship. The Royal Bank Cup sponsorship total is about $75,000 but "we haven't been aggressive yet because of team commitments," according to Menzies. Grande Prairie signed former Quebec Major Junior Hockey League goalie Jonathan Cayer and ex-Western Hockey League/QMJHL defenceman Jack Redlick to strengthen its roster for the Cup run. Veteran Mark Szott, who was with the Camrose Kodiaks of the AJHL when they won the Royal Bank Cup in 2001 and were finalists earlier this year, is another solid 20 year-old addition. A fourth player added for his leadership is Steve Knowles, who played for the Rayside Balfour Sabrecats of the Northern Ontario Junior 'A' Hockey League in 2002-03. Cayer, 20, was second in the QMJHL with five shutouts in 3,316 minutes with the Montreal Rocket last season. He made his AJHL debut with 24 saves for a shutout Sept. 6 in a 1-0 win over the Drayton Valley Thunder in Drayton Valley. Josh Welter and defenceman Kyle Radke are among Grande Prairie's outstanding returning players. Welter, 20, led the league with 69 assists and was second in the league with 98 points in 60 regular-season games in 2002-03. Radke, 18, led league defencemen with 48 assists and 65 points in 63 games. Grande Prairie led the league and was among the Canadian Junior 'A' Hockey League leaders with average attendance of 1,964 fans per game last season. The Storm also leads the league and is sixth in the CJAHL with 252 wins since entering the AJHL from the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League. All signs are extremely positive as the Storm prepares for the May 8-16 tournament. The Fred Page Cup, Dudley-Hewitt Cup and Anavet Cup regional champions will advance to join Grande Prairie in the Royal Bank Cup. The Doyle Cup champion will also qualify, unless Grande Prairie wins the Doyle Cup, awarded to the Alberta-B.C. Junior 'A' champion. The British Columbia Hockey League champion and Doyle Cup finalist will advance if Grande Prairie wins the Doyle Cup. Menzies and fellow executive members attended the 2002 and 2003 Royal Bank Cup championships in Halifax and Charlottetown, P.E.I., respectively, to borrow ideas for the Grande Prairie tournament. "One of the big positives that we learned in Charlottetown was the involvement of team hosts," said Menzies. "It's important having someone to show team members around the city and area for 10 days." The committee members also discovered that it's preferable to have the competing teams stay at separate hotels. A beer garden, at the adjoining Crystal Gardens, is certain to be a hit, as it has been at recent national championships. It will likely be dubbed the Storm Shelter and will accommodate 400-500 people. "We will have closed circuit television and some entertainment through the week," said Menzies. The Storm is launching a new web site and the 2004 Royal Bank Cup logo will soon be unveiled to add to the optimism in the vibrant city 450 kilometres northwest of Edmonton. Success is virtually assured as Grande Prairie follows Olds in 1994 and Fort McMurray in 2000 as AJHL centres that have staged the national championship.