The 2016 Alberta Cup marks the 30th anniversary of the very first Alberta Cup, played in Edmonton in 1986. We asked a handful of past participants of the Alberta Cup to share their memories with us.
Serge Lajoie has a long history of involvement with Hockey Alberta, starting way back in 1986 with the inaugural Alberta Cup in Edmonton, where he won a silver medal with team Northeast. He would then go on to play a handful of games for the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL, followed by one season with the St. Albert Saints of the AJHL. From there, Lajoie enjoyed five seasons with the University of Alberta before playing four more seasons of Division I hockey in Germany.
Lajoie, now the head coach of the U of A Golden Bears, developed as a coach through various Hockey Alberta programs, including many years as a coach or coach mentor in the Alberta Cup, and serving as Head Coach of the Team Alberta U16 Male Program in 2013, winning a gold medal at the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup. Just this past weekend, Lajoie served as an assistant coach for Team Canada at the 2016 IIHF U18 World Championship. Prior to joining the Golden Bears, Lajoie spent five seasons as head coach of the Nait Ooks’ mens team, leading the team to two ACAC championships and two silver medals, while capturing the ACAC Men’s Hockey Coach of the Year award in 2014 and 2015.
Q: How did the Alberta Cup help shape your future – in hockey or otherwise?
A: It was my first experience of short term completion. The Alberta Cup got me noticed by the Kamloops Blazers. It helped me start my Junior career in hockey which prepared me for University hockey a few years later.
Q: What other involvement did you have with Hockey Alberta before/after the Alberta Cup?
A: I have been involved with Hockey Alberta as a Coach and Mentor in Alberta Cups, Head Coach with Team Alberta U16 and various quest speaking engagements with Hockey Alberta Coaching Conferences.
Q: What do you believe coaches can/should take away from their time at the Alberta Cup?
A: It provides a great opportunity to learn from other coaches and allows you to challenge your coaching knowledge.
Q: What has it meant to you to be involved with the Alberta Cup in multiple ways – as a player, coach, and mentor?
A: It has offered me the opportunity to grow as a person and as a coach.
Q: How have you seen the Alberta Cup Change over its 30 years?
A: It not only develops players, but coaches as well. The Alberta Cup has helped raise the level of coaching and player development in our province.
Q: How has the game of hockey changed since you played in the Alberta Cup?
A: The skill level of players has improved tremendously. There is a stronger emphasis on the details and habits. The coaching is much more refined.
Q: Do you still talk to any friends from your Alberta Cup Team?
I still keep in touch with a few guys. Cory Clouston and I played together at the UofA and I have stayed in touch with him over the years.
Q: What’s your favourite Alberta Cup memory?
A: I don’t remember too much about the 1986 year when I played. My most recent memory would be the year I mentored the Northeast team with Sean Beissel as the Head Coach. We had a tremendous team with players that have moved on to prominent WHL careers. Some of those players will be drafted this year in the NHL and I suspect will have strong professional careers. We had Sam Steel, Kale Clague, Carter Hart to name only a few.
Q: Any advice for this year’s players?
A: Enjoy the process and the journey. Embrace pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Build new friendships. Play with passion. Bring your best effort every day. Be a positive contributor to the success of your team.