Who knew Grizzlies were so at home in the big city?
The Jasper Grizzlies girls hockey team completed what a fire in the Jasper Arena prevented them from doing almost two months prior when they faced off against the Strathcona Dangerous Divas in a special hockey weekend.
The girls, aged 7-10, skated amongst shoppers and fans at West Edmonton Mall March 23 as they played the final game in a friendly tournament than began more than seven weeks prior. At that annual Jasper-based competition, held January 25 and 26, area teams played for a spot in the Sunday gold medal matchup. When the Jasper Grizzlies went undefeated and earned their way into the final game, members of the team were thrilled.
"They were so excited," said Wendy Hall, mom of 10-year-old Grizzlies veteran, Kira Peel.
Then, disaster struck. Emergency responders attended a fire in the Jasper Arena. The building would have to be shut down. The Grizzlies chance at gold was crushed.
"There were tears," one hockey dad said. "They were pretty upset they couldn't play."
Soon, parents started brainstorming a way for the Grizzlies and the Strathcona Dangerous Divas, who also were scheduled for the final match, to play the game in another rink. After contacting the other team, local organizers came up with a special treat for the girls: a rematch on the coolest ice in Alberta, the Ice Palace at West Edmonton Mall.
"It was pretty awesome," said Grizzlies mom, Crystal McNutt. "It's a super fun bunch of parents and a great team of girls."
The weekend started out with breakfast at the Jasper Inn before being whisked to the city via Sun Dog Tours. The girls had fun at West Edmonton Mall and the Water Park before they were escorted to the Old Spaghetti Factory by limousine. They spent the night at the Fantasy Land Hotel.
"Peter (Hayashi), Wendy (Hall) and Paul (Hardy) did an amazing job organizing," McNutt said.
The following morning the girls got ready for their big game. Playing in front of bemused shoppers and newly-anointed girls hockey fans, Jasper and Strathcona were hesitant to make the first mistake, according to one expert analyst.
"It was a defensive battle," cub sports reporter Jason Munn said.
When the tie-breaker finally came with five minutes left in the game, it was Jasper's Dana Angebrandt who potted the game winner. Despite the thrilling victory, both teams sent all skaters on a shoot-out to end the match.
The tournament that started so long ago couldn't have ended any better for the girls—and for parents.
"I love the Old Spaghetti Factory!" Munn said.