On Saturday Dec. 9 at 7 p.m, the NAIT men’s hockey team will face off against the University of Alberta Golden Bears at Northlands Coliseum, the former
home of the Edmonton Oilers, known back then as Rexall Place.
The game is a charity event, with 20 per cent of the money raised going to the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation. The rest will be divided equally between the Ooks’ and Golden Bears’ hockey programs.
This matchup is a revival of an old tradition for the two teams, who played seven charity games from 1985-1991. The games have been historically intense: no game played in those seven had fewer than six goals (one game ended with a total of 15 goals). NAIT has won two of the seven previous charity games, once in 1986, 7-5, and once in 1990, 6-5.
NAIT plays the University of Alberta’s team once or twice every year, so the teams are somewhat familiar with each other.
“It’s always a pretty close and competitive game,” said NAIT’s Jake Mykitiuk, who currently leads the ACAC in points.
“I think we have a bit of a rivalry and it should be fun. You learn a little
bit every time you play them. We’re going to have our hands full but that’s a
good challenge for us.”
This will be the second game that NAIT has played against the U of A this
year, the last game being in early September. NAIT lost 4-3 in overtime.
“I feel more game ready,” said Nathan Park, NAIT’s goaltender, who shared the September game with Patrick Gora, NAIT’s backup goalie. When asked about his mindset going into the Face-Off game, Park said: “You have to treat it like another game. If you go in trying to do a little too much, trying to think a little too hard, that’s when you start making mistakes. You just have to trust your game,” he said.
Corey Chorneyko, NAIT’s team captain, said the players “are starting to get excited for all the hype that the game is getting. It’s going to be a higher tempo game and we’re going to have to change the way we play to try and match them.”
When asked how this game will be different, Chorneyko said he tries to
play every game with the same energy. “I show up every day and try to be as
consistent as I can, play every shift as hard as I can and lead by example.”
“We have a good partnership with [U of A’s team], playing them every year,”
said Chorneyko. “It’s good for our organization. I hope both teams benefit
from every time we play [each other].”
Northlands, the non-profit organization that is currently taking care of the
Coliseum, can no longer maintain the old arena with maintenance costs rising
every year. The City of Edmonton regains possession of it at the end of the year and the cost of maintenance will continue to be a problem.
Though no official decision has been made by the city council, the future of
Wayne Gretzky’s former home does not look promising. This means that Face-
Off 2017 may be one of the last games to ever take place on the historic ice of Northlands Coliseum.
“Possibly playing the last game ever in [Northlands Coliseum] is a huge honour for me and the whole organization,” Chorneyko said. “There is a lot of emotion there, especially with the history in that building. It’s going to be a night to remember.”
Tickets for Face-Off 2017 can be found on Ticketmaster for $10 plus fees, while ATB Team Tickets can be had for $7.50 per ticket, plus fees.
– Claire Stanhope