Alberta Junior Hockey League
|Current season, competition or edition:
2016-17 AJHL season
|No. of teams||16|
The Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) is an Alberta-based Junior A 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 Gas Drive Cup (the Carling O'Keefe trophy before 1998). The winner of the AJHL playoffs continues on to play in the Western Canada Cup in a round robin tournament with the MJHL, SJHL, AJHL and BCHL. The winner of the Western Canada Cup competes in the Junior "A" National Championship for the Royal Bank Cup.
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.
Royal Bank Cup champions
Eight AJHL teams have captured the Royal Bank Cup, or its predecessor, the Manitoba Centennial Trophy, as Canadian national champions since the tournament was introduced in 1971:
- 2013: Brooks Bandits
- 2001: Camrose Kodiaks
- 2000: Fort McMurray Oil Barons
- 1995: Calgary Canucks
- 1994: Olds Grizzlys
- 1980: Red Deer Rustlers
- 1975: Spruce Grove Mets
- 1971: Red Deer Rustlers
- For the Western Regional playoffs, see Western Canada Cup.
- For the National Championship, see 2016 Royal Bank Cup.
- Carling O'Keefe Cup was presented 1965–1997
- Rogers Wireless Cup presented since 1997
Please note: In chart, league champions are bolded.
Timeline of teams in the AJHL
- 2012-St.Albert Steel relocate to Whitecourt and become the Whitecourt Wolverines
- 2010-Calgary Royals become the Calgary Mustangs
- 2007-Fort Saskatchewan Traders relocate to St.Albert and become the St.Albert Steel
- 2005-Lloydminster Blazers become Lloydminster Bobcats
- 2005-Crowsnest Pass Timberwolves relocate to Okotoks and become the Okotoks Oilers
- 2004-St.Albert Saints return to Spruce Grove and become the Spruce Grove Saints
- 2003-Drumheller Dragons join league
- 2001-Bow Valley Eagles become Canmore Eagles
- 2000-Brooks Bandits join league
- 1998-Drayton Valley Thunder join league
- 1998-Crowsnest Pass Timberwolves join league
- 1997-Camrose Kodiaks join league
- 1995-Grande Prairie Storm join league from the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League
- 1995-Bow Valley Eagles join league
- 1991-Bonnyville Pontiacs join league
- 1990-Calgary Spurs become the Calgary Royals
- 1989-Red Deer Rustlers expelled from league after bi-law violations
- 1988-Lloydminster Blazers join league from the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League
- 1981-Fort McMurray Oil Barons and Hobemma Hawks join league
- 1981-Taber Golden Suns relocate to Olds and become the Olds Grizzlies
- 1979-Calgary Chinooks become the Calgary Spurs
- 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
- 1977-Spruce Grove Mets relocate to St.Albert and become the St.Albert Saints
- 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
- 1974-Edmonton Mets relocate to Spruce Grove and become the Spruce Grove Mets
- 1974-Taber Golden Suns join league
- 1972-Edmonton Movers become Edmonton Mets
- 1972-The Pass Red Devils join league
- 1971-Calgary Canucks join league
- 1967-Red Deer Rustlers join league
- 1965-Edmonton Canadians become Edmonton Movers
- 1964-Edmonton Canadians join league
- 1964-Alberta Junior Hockey League is founded
- AJHL Annual Guide & Record Book 2006–07, pg. 98
- AJHL history—1960s, ajhl.ca
- AJHL history—1980s
- Junior player dies after game. Regina Leader-Post, February 21, 1980, Pg. 20.
- "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. Retrieved 2012-05-03.