When the Lloydminster Bobcats were awarded the RBC Cup back in June of 2014, they had nearly two years to put all the pieces of the tournament together, both in the on-ice product and off ice arrangements.
There were many details to work on, from who would be on the team that would play for Lloydminster's first national junior A championship, to who would be behind the bench coaching, as well as the event details of how the entire tournament would have Lloydminster's special touch to make sure everything goes off without a hitch.
It was a process that began back in 2013, when the Bobcats originally submitted a bid to host the 2015 Western Canada Cup tournament, which eventually went to Fort McMurray. But rather than tuck the bid package away they had already created, they put it out one more time. And it seemed only fitting that on the same day when the Border City hosted another national hockey event, ScotiaBank Hockey Day in Canada, they were also submitting for the 2016 RBC Cup, a bid in which they won over Summerside, P.E.I.
Now with the calender finally hitting 2016, the tournament has finally become a reality. A little less talk and more action, from both the players on the ice, and the committee that is ensuring the tournament is the best Hockey Canada has ever seen.
“We are five months away which seems crazy,” said Bobcats business manager Malcolm Radke. “It just seems like yesterday we were named the host of the 2016 RBC Cup. With five months to go we feel we are ahead of it on the planning side of things. It's getting down to the details and the fun part where you can go over and above and start planning a lot of the fun stuff for the fans.”
The team itself has seen many changes over the course of the season, with players being traded and added leading up to the trade deadline. At the Christmas break, the Bobcats sat third in the Alberta Junior Hockey League's (AJHL) North Division, but have plenty of games in hand over second place Bonnyville and first place Spruce Grove. Nationally, Lloydminster fell out of the top 10 to 14th in the CJHL rankings, their lowest of the season, but with two months of regular season hockey and playoffs remaining, Lloydminster is keeping their eyes on smaller goals first, rather thank focusing on only the national championship.
“You don't focus on the big stuff right now, just on getting better as a group,” said Bobcats head coach Gord Thibodeau. “It's too much to think about first place or playoffs or RBC Cup. So right now that is what we are going to do.”
While Lloydminster is no stranger to hosting national hockey events, as it has hosted three Allen Cups in the past, along with Hockey Day in Canada, the process is getting down to the wire and has went from a month by month strategy, down to a week by week. As the calender gets closer to May, it will eventually turn into a day by day, until the puck is dropped for the first time on May 14.
“All of a sudden the timeline is getting pretty close,” said Radke. “From here, it is just a matter of making sure everyone is in place. We feel confident, and we know there is going to be a bunch of last minute stuff that comes up, but it is hedging our bets and getting as much of that out of the way as possible.”
The tournament runs from May 14th to 22nd.
by Andrew Brethauer