Two Bonnyville hockey players are getting the chance of a lifetime, as they gear up for the 2017 Alberta Cup.
Seth Hebert and AJ Macaulay will be playing amongst some of Alberta’s best as part of the Alberta Cup Northeast team.
In March, the pair tried out for the prestigious team during a two-day zone camp. Annually, nearly 120 players try out for the northeastern team, but only 20 will wear the jersey.
As teammates and friends for a number of years, Macaulay and Hebert are excited to be sharing in the experience together. Most recently, they played together for the Lloydminster Heat Bantam AAA team.
“We’re two kids from the same town who are good friends. What are the chances of this? It obviously means we are doing the right thing,” said Macaulay.
Head coach for the Heat Curtis Johnson said he wasn’t surprised to see the two local players had made it.
“I am proud of those guys. It’s something they should be extremely honoured to be a part of,” Johnson said.
Since an early age, both Macaulay and Hebert have played hockey, each finding their own roles within the team. Hebert, 14, plays left wing, scoring 11 goals last season. Of his 32 games played, he managed to rack up 26 points.
As a defenceman, Macaulay, 15, played 34 games this season, scoring eight goals and earning 11 points.
“He was our captain this past year, and I think the biggest thing is just his character, his passion for the game,. He cares for the team and puts himself second. He cares about his teammates and the rest of our team,” noted Johnson. “His passion is second-to-none. His competitiveness and wanting to win is something that makes him such a great hockey player.”
Johnson descried Hebert as a hard-working player, who is a strong individual both on and off the ice.
“I can see why they have chosen him to be on the team for the Alberta Cup,” said Johnson. “He’s the good guy. He is a small forward but he works hard. He skates well, has that offensive presence in the offensive zone to put pucks in the net. He sees the game well and is a very well-liked individual on the ice and off the ice.”
On-ice evaluators at the tryouts were keeping a number of things in mind as they watched players compete for their spot on the team. Speed, puck handling, stick handling, and passing were some of the skills they were hoping to see in successful players.
Macaulay explained, “They were looking for whether you were hard to play against and physical, your ability of playing offence and defence, your back-check and forecheck, and whether you had good body positioning and good stick positioning.”
In preparation for the tournament, each team is permitted three hours of on-ice practice time. The northeast team used theirs earlier this month.
The practice included going over the mental aspects of preparing for the Alberta Cup, and team-building exercises both on and off the ice. As individuals, each player is required to hit the ice a minimum of three times per week.
Macaulay said in terms of the tournament, he is eager to be playing with such a strong group of hockey players.
“I am looking forward to playing with players with that much skill, where everyone knows what they are doing and where to be at the right time. It‘s all just going to come together nicely.”
Hebert said regardless of the team’s skills, it’s important to stay cautious of becoming overly confident.
“You can’t get too confident that you are going to win the tournament, because we do have a very good team, but we don’t want to get too confident and blow it,” he said.
Being part of the team, means exposure to scouts and other teams they may not have seen otherwise, said Macaulay.
Hebert added that the provincial competition is another opportunity to move forward in their hockey careers.
“I think the rest of the (Bantam Heat) players are proud too. It’s not just them as individuals that have got them there. There’s a lot of people who have helped them, and they understand that too,” Johnson noted.
The Alberta Cup takes place April 26 to 30 in Canmore.