LAC LA BICHE/PLAMONDON - The arenas and hotels in the Lac La Biche and Plamondon area will be filled with hockey teams this coming weekend as both communities are hosting provincial championships.
In Lac La Biche, the U13 Clippers are hosting eight U-13 Tier 3 teams from across the province for the 2023 Hockey Alberta Provincial Championships. The tournament starts on Thursday, March 23 and runs to Sunday March 26. All the games are open to hockey fans and will be held on Bold Center ice.
In Plamondon, the U-15 Cougars are hosting the U-15 Tier 1 — Non-Body-Contact — Provincials at the same time, drawing hockey fans and community supporters to the Plamondon arena.
Blocks of hotels across the region have been reserved for an influx of what is expected to be upwards of 500 young players, coaches and family members — boosting the region's population by more than five percent — for the single weekend. Organizing committees in both communities have been working to not only make sure hotel rooms are available for the teams, they've slated several events during the tournaments to make the communities a home-base for the visiting squads.
Games, pancakes and shopping
In Lac La Biche, organizers have scheduled a skills competition for the young players, Friday and Saturday morning pancake breakfasts, and a Spring Market and Fair at the Bold Center on Saturday.
“We are so excited to be the host and welcome all these teams from across Alberta to our amazing community and facility,” said Jennifer Okrainec, the co-chair of the host committee for the Lac La Biche weekend.
The opening ceremonies in Lac La Biche are scheduled for Friday March 24 at 12:45pm at the Bold Center Performance Rink.
While the Clippers will be carrying the banner for the host team, the Cougars will be entering the Plamondon arena as host team — and league champs.
The Cougars finished their regular season in the Northeastern Alberta Hockey League in second place to the Boyle Blazers. In league finals over the March 12 weekend, the Cougars faced the Blazers in the championship game — taking the title in a 6-5 victory that needed overtime to decide the winner.
Across the province, the top teams of their leagues will be in the Lac La Biche and Plamondon communities.
The Cougars will be hosting teams from Boyle, Sherwood Park, Stettler, Olds and Calgary.
The Clippers will be hosting teams from Athabasca, Rimbey, High Prairie, Irvine, Marwayne, Calgary and Edmonton.
There has been a good showing of local support for the busy weekend, with business and individuals helping with the planning and donating items for raffles and draws.
Okrainec hopes to see the community support continue through the weekend.
"Local fans are encouraged to come out and see some of the best U13 Tier 3 Division –aged players in the province," she said. "It's such a big weekend in the community. There's going to be a lot of hockey to watch and a lot of memories for the players."
Lac La Biche County officials are supporting both championship venues, promoting the region to the visiting teams.
The Cougars and Clippers have set up comprehensive websites with schedules and stats for the weekend games. Organizers with both teams are also calling on community volunteers and supporters for help over the busy weekend.
The Plamondon Minor Hockey website also includes a growing 50-50 cash raffle. Going into the week of the tournament, the prize was a split of $2,200.
The Plamondon Minor Hockey Association and the Lac La Biche Minor Hockey Association are co-hosts of the weekend events.
In Lac La Biche, the Clippers open round-robin U-13 provincial championships on Thursday night against Athabasca. The puck drops at 6 pm.
In Plamondon, the provincial championship weekend starts on Thursday at 5pm with a game between Stettler and Calgary. The Cougars play Sherwood Park at 7:45 pm.
The three-day events will both wrap up on Sunday afternoon. In Plamondon, the final game begins at 3 pm. In Lac La Biche, the championship game will start at 4pm.
Updates on games will be available at www.lakelandtoday.ca.