This past weekend was huge for Fort Saskatchewan minor hockey.

The Fort Saskatchewan Minor Hockey Association held its annual U7 Hockey Winter Jamboree last Saturday and Sunday (Jan. 9) at the JRC. The tournament was a massive hit for players and parents after COVID-19 forced the cancellation of last year’s tournament. 

“I think it was about four days after I put in the order for all the trophies for the kids is when the provincial government first cancelled youth sports in November, I remember just being gutted,” said Adam Creech, U7 director for the Minor Hockey Association. 

“A few weeks later [the trophies] showed up at my house, and knowing pretty much they weren’t going to be given out in any real form was tough.” 

There were 94 U7 players at the jamboree, with three teams playing. Creech explained that teams are large at the U7 level, and the players are grouped based on ability at the beginning of the season. Each team is broken up into four sub-teams, and they play amongst each other. Each team played three games throughout the two-day jamboree. 

For many children, this year’s season is the first time they’ve been able to play a full hockey season and the first tournament of their budding hockey careers. For parents like Brent Ursuliak and his son Noah, it was nice to feel a little bit of normality.  

Five-year-old Noah said his favourite part of the jamboree was playing with his teammates, adding he scored two goals during the three games he played. 

“I got a Stanley Cup,” Noah explained. “I’ve been so good at hockey.” 

Alyssa Van Hecke and her son, Thomas, were also delighted to return to the arena. Van Hecke praised the organizers and volunteers for a well-run event. 

“They all got a trophy at the end, and they were just so excited. None of these kids has ever participated in a tournament or jamboree before; a lot of older siblings do it, so they were really excited,” Van Hecke said.  

Things were also great on the ice for six-year-old Thomas; he couldn’t play in the jamboree last year but made up for it on the ice in 2022. He had to take a moment to count how many goals he scored, ultimately landing on 15. While he isn’t yet sure whether he’ll be the next Connor McDavid, he likes to skate fast, score goals, and play against other teams. 

Creech called U7 hockey the “grassroots of minor hockey,” adding every player, from the Edmonton Oilers to the AAA Fort Saskatchewan Rangers, has been the little guy in the Timbits Jersey at one point or another.  

“There’s nothing like seeing kids with their arms in the air and grandma and grandpa cheering in the stands. It’s really great. It’s really rewarding to be involved,” Creech continued.  

Creech would love to see more people get involved, and it won’t be long before spring when registrations for next year open. They’re always looking to have more kids each year.