One local man’s passion for football is bringing a new team to the City of Cold Lake.
Saturday, May 25 will kick-off the first season for the Cold Lake Fighter Jets, a men’s football team, which is part of the Alberta Football League (AFL). It’s an organization that offers athletes the chance to play once their university or junior careers are over.
For president of the Fighter Jets and Cold Lake-native Damon Schaub, it’s an exciting opportunity to bring this level of the sport to the city.
“Our league will run during the summertime, and I know fields don’t generally get used very much in the summertime... I kind of think there’s not enough men’s recreational sports around the area,” he said.
The AFL was formed in 1984 with two teams, the Calgary Crude and the Calgary Cowboys, and has grown to include as many as 10 teams, such as the Fort McMurray Monarchs and the St. Albert Stars. Currently, they have eight teams from across Alberta participating in the upcoming season.
After playing football in high school, Schaub joined the Lloydminster Vandals, who were in the AFL for 15 seasons. The Vandals provided him the opportunity to play the game he loves, and even win a couple of AFL championships.
When the Vandals folded last year and the City of Cold Lake announced construction on a new artificial turf field located by the Energy Centre, Schaub put a plan into motion to bring a team to the city.
“My eyes lit up, and I thought ‘this is the chance that I can bring a team to Cold Lake and the Lakeland area.’ I sat down with Mayor Craig Copeland and some councillors, pitched the idea, and basically I’ve just rolled with it since then,” he noted.
Copeland believes it’s just another avenue to encourage recreation in the city.
“When we built the facility with the new artificial field and grandstand, we built it for high school football, for the minor soccer programs, and adult rugby. (Council) never really envisioned there would be an adult football league coming to Cold Lake, so we’re excited to support the adult football league.”
With their probation season quickly approaching, the organization hopes to have a successful run.
“We’re looking forward to seeing how it goes in Cold Lake... to have a sustained men’s football team in the years to come. The team in Lloydminster started in 2004 until recently folding: they had a good 15 seasons out of the team, so I kind of want to see that happen in Cold Lake,” detailed Schaub.
Along with playing on the field, he added being involved with the city is important for the Fighter Jets.
“Anyway we can give back to the community, give the youth football players something to look forward to after high school, bringing in talented athletes from all over Canada to the area to join the workforce and become a contributor to the workforce, as well, is something that is one of our values.”
For local residents, the new team will offer another event to enjoy right in their own backyard.
“It’s going to be another feature for residents to get out of their house this spring and summer, and watch an exciting game of football,” Copeland said.
While they’re still in the process of building their roster, Schaub noted they’ve had interest from men of all levels and ages.
“We’ve got guys as old as 52 still playing and guys that are turning 18, right out of high school, that are just starting to come onto the roster. But, a majority of the talent is guys that have gone out that are done with their university and junior football careers, and they come back to their home town.”
The organization is also currently in discussions with a coach for the team.
With the May 25 home opener quickly approaching, the Fighter Jets are excited to show what they’ve got.
Schaub said, “Eight years ago when I joined the team in Lloydminster, I didn’t expect to be a president of a football team because my resume doesn’t have the university or junior experience that some players do on the team. I’m doing it for the passion of the game and to give back.”