The National Hockey League had to cancel its annual Outdoor Winter Classic but that wasn’t the case for the OWC which has been held in Red Deer’s Bower neighbourhood which got its start a few years back.
“My wife and I were driving down the road in Calgary one day and we heard an ad for the winter classic (NHL) and we said ‘hey why don’t we do that?’” said Al Sim, one of the driving forces behind the Classic.
The event, which ran this past weekend, features teams of Midget A hockey players battling it out on a pair of rinks which are the centre of what resembles a small village, rising up over a few days of hard work by an army of volunteers.
The past two years some oilfield office trailers passed as dressing rooms for the teams but this year players were dressing in relative luxury.
“We made a little bit of money last year so we built our own dressing rooms,” said Sim, referring to the cattle shelters which include lights and heat.
The reason behind the Midget A players involvement is due to the fact this group of players doesn’t see the perks the elite teams receive over a season and so this is something special just for them, said Sim.
“We wanted to create something for them, especially the 17-year-old as it’s their last year of minor hockey.”
Another cool factor about the tournament is local businesses sponsor the jerseys these kids get to keep.
One year it was the original six, last year was the first NHL expansion teams from the late 60s and this year the theme was teams from the 1930’s which include the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Detroit Cougars.
There was also a 1987 Canada Cup event featuring novice teams wearing the maple leaf and the CCP of the former Soviet Union.
Future jersey plans may include the WHA teams and defunct NHL squads, he said.
This sort of thing doesn’t just happen without the support of the community and Sim said plenty of people get on board each year to make some magic.
“If it wasn’t for the community donating gifts in kind and the cash it would never happen,” he said, adding if this was all to be paid for out of pocket, the bill would be around $100,000.