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Sylvan Lake Hockey Camp celebrates 50th anniversary

Sylvan Lake Hockey Camp celebrates 50 years of excellence.

Operating during the summer months, the organization has been in operation since August 1975 and over the years has become one of the most reliable and successful hockey camps in the state.

The organization invites all former employees, students and supporters to come celebrate at its 50th Anniversary Reunion Weekend, July 26-28 at the NexSource Center in Sylvan Lake.

Activities on Friday will include golf at Sylvan Lake Golf and Country Club, watercraft rentals, fun at AquaSplash Park, mini golf and go-karts. They will end the day with a cocktail party to be held at the NexSource Center in the evening.

On Saturday people can take a tour of Sylvan Lake Gulls Stadium and have a western style barbecue with entertainment in the evening. The schedule is tentative but they wanted to announce it in advance.

Those interested can email [email protected] or call Graham at 403-887-2575 during business hours, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Graham Parsons, owner and founder of Sylvan Lake Hockey Camp, said the event was created for everyone to relive fond memories and celebrate what they have built over the last 50 years.

“This is a tradition that’s been going on for many years in Sylvan Lake and Central Alberta,” Parsons said. “We get together and a lot of people who worked here 30, 40 or 50 years ago will come back and they haven’t seen Sylvan in a while. That’s the thing.”

The summer camps first began in 1975 and were run by Alf Cadman, who was the head coach of the Red Deer Rustlers in the 1970s.

Summer hockey schools were starting to open more frequently at that time, and Cadman wanted to have one in his hometown of Sylvan Lake.

The Sutter brothers also got involved in supporting the camp early on and that’s when the camp really took off. Some of the biggest names that came to the camp as kids were NHL legend Jarome Iginla and even Kelly Kisio.

“We’ve had a lot of different people and personalities over the years that have gone on to different careers in hockey. Right now we’re probably the biggest in Western Canada,” Parsons said.

“There aren’t many of those anymore. There are a lot of development programs.”

Parsons was previously a shareholder in the scheme but bought out the shares of other shareholders in 1984 and has been the sole owner of the scheme since then.

He said it has been extremely satisfying for him to see the camp grow to where it is today.

“We have generations of kids coming up, including kids whose dads came when they were kids… It’s been a joy to meet everyone we’ve met over the years, especially the staff. It’s been a great run,” he said.

Sylvan Lake Hockey Camp runs from late June to late August each year. They help approximately 1,000 children each summer with player development on and off the ice for ages five to 15. This includes both girls and boys programs that are age appropriate depending on their skill level.

Cody Reynolds, an assistant coach for the Red Deer Polytechnic Kings hockey team, serves as the on-ice program coordinator. He is led by off-ice program director Kate Uchtenhagen.

“Development was always a part of it and we’ve always tried to stay at the forefront of hockey development. We’re licensed with Hockey Alberta and we’ve had great coaches over the years,” he added.

Parsons explained that when they started the camp 50 years ago, they had no idea it would still be going strong today.

“You live day by day and just make adjustments as the years go by. There are so many programs now and so many of them have ice. We were one of the only programs with summer ice at the time and that kind of boosted our reputation,” he said.

“Kids are resilient and we can tell everyone we’re making this big difference, but kids make the difference themselves. You just have to provide a platform and some direction. The ones who are going to get better are going to get better. We like to think we have an impact, but we have a more positive impact by being better teammates.”