I haven't done all the research. I can't nail this down to fact. But if I were to venture a guess, Ball Hockey Edmonton has to be among the nation's largest and longest running leagues. Yet, inexplicably...despite all the talent that has passed through it, all the great teams that have been assembled over it's 37 years of existence...the one thing that continually eluded it...was the ability to produce a men's National Championship team. In fact, the National Gold had never found its way to Alberta period.
Over the previous 39 National Championships, only five different provinces had claimed gold. British Columbia snuck their's in early, with the Burnaby Beavers winning as the host city back in 1983. BC has never won since. The Winnipeg Grasshoppers repeated the host city trick when they claimed the 1985 championship, with the tourney being held in their back yard. Manitoba has never won since. Newfoundland won their first back in 1982, then ripped off a string of 3 from 1986-88. They returned to championship glory in 2010 to bring their total haul to 5. The remaining 32 have been greedily gobbled up by Ontario (18) and Quebec (14). The two most decorated teams are the Brampton Midnight Express with 7 gold's, including a 5-year run, and the Montreal Red Light who have gone on 7 and 5-year runs for a total of 12 national championships.
There had been some close calls over the years for BHE teams. A couple silvers and five bronze medals have been won. In 1991, with Edmonton playing host to the tournament...the Edmonton Westars fell in the finals to the Toronto Midas Fracus Top Guns. Six years later, the Brampton Midnight Express began their five-year run by knocking off the Edmonton Playboys in the final. That's as close as Edmonton would get.
Way back in 2003 the Savages were born. But it wasn't in Edmonton where they got their start. Matt Lui started the team in Calgary and helped build a club that won a Western Gold in 2005. In 2011, the team was relocated to Edmonton. They won their first of three Provincial Golds in 2013, earning themselves a berth into the 2014 National tournament. They have been to every Nationals tournament since. In 2014 they finished 6th, and in 2015 they fell to 9th. But 2016 saw them claim BHE's first Tier 1 medal in 14 years as they captured bronze in Richmond, BC. While it was a huge accomplishment for the Savages, coming so close would help fuel the fire for 2017.
Thanks to a silver medal finish at the 2016 Tier 1 Provincial Championships...the Savages were off to Nationals for a 4th consecutive year. While the majority of us who play ball hockey will never get to experience the rigors of a week-long national tournament...and really the year-long effort it takes to prepare for not only playing, but just simply getting there. Flights, hotels, food, vehicles, etc...it all adds up. A lot of guys have wives and kids who they are leaving behind (or bringing with) to go play a sport that, while serious business to a lot of those of us who play, is frankly a recreational activity that can get very costly. Then add to that the fact that this would be the Savages 4th straight trip to Nationals with previous stops in Saskatoon, Ottawa, Richmond and now St. Johns, NB...it wouldn't be a stretch to think that for some of these players, anything short of championship would not be worth it.
The Savages got off to a great start, thanks to a 4-0 drubbing of the Saskatoon Buffalo. A low-scoring, tight-checking affair saw the New Tecumseth Extreme play the Savages to a 1-1 tie in game two. Things got interesting in the third and final round robin game versus the Vancouver Falcons. With the score tied 2-2 late in the second half, the Savages pulled their goalie in an effort to finish the round robin in first place. Anything short of a regulation victory would assure the Falcons top spot. The move backfired as the Vancouver buried the ball into the yawning cage and escaped with a 3-2 victory and the top-seed in the division.
With the loss, the Savages would now face a more difficult road to the Championship. First up was the legendary Brampton Midnight Express. The Savages opened up both 1-0 and 2-1 leads only to see the Express even the score both times. With time ticking down, Brandon Forbes put the Savages ahead for good with just 2:38 remaining. An empty-netter would seal the deal and the Savages were off to the National Semi-Finals for the second straight year.
Awaiting them this time would be the Newfoundland Black Horse, a team that had medalled in five of the last seven tourneys including gold in 2010. They were a perfect 4-0 when the ball dropped versus the Savages. After exchanging goals in the opening half the Savages netted the first two of the second half to take a 3-1 lead. When the Black Horse drew to within one with just 4:44 left in regulation, it began to look as though we'd be in for wild finish. Well...we were. But no one could've predicted the Savages to explode for three goals in a span of 58 seconds and ultimately punch their ticket to the National Championship with a 6-3 victory.
Now, the furthest they had ever been, the furthest an Alberta team had ventured in 21 years...the Savages would be facing a familiar foe, the Vancouver Falcons, this time with the Gold medal on the line.
The Falcons would open the scoring just two minutes into the game. But Savages captain, Joel Andresen, would even the score just over a minute and twenty seconds later. Neither team would find the back of the net for the rest of the half, the score remained 1-1. In the second half, it was the Savages turn to strike early. Iain Downes put the team up 2-1. Then, just before the mid-way point of the half, Blake Romain would make it 3-1 on the powerplay. With just 10 minutes to go and up by two, the Savages could taste victory.
Unfortunately, the Falcons weren't ready to go quietly. A goal with 1:51 left on clock had everyone on the edge of their seats. But the Savages hadn't come this far to lose now, they were able to lock it down for the remaining 111 seconds...bringing home...finally...the long awaited National Gold!
One of the better stories to come out of the Savages win was Jason Cormier, a 21-year BHE veteran, who was able to add the National Tier 1 Gold to his already impressive collection. Cormier got his start back in 1992 with the Capitals...surprisingly, as a goalie. He eventually switched to forward and found himself on one of the league's most legendary teams, the Snipers. With the Snipers he would win 5 straight Provincial Gold medals (2001-05). He earned three more provincial gold (2 with the Savages in '13 and '14, and 1 with Top Whale in 2017). He was also a part of the two Sniper National Bronze medal winning years ('01,'02).
|31||GM - Lui, Matt||7||Brown, Jeff||97||Gallimore, Burke||96||Minor, Troy|
|77||Andresen, Joel||90||Burkley, Landen||6||Holben, Scott||4||Muth, Ryan|
|91||Arsenault, Clem||11||Cormier, Jason||10||Jubinville, Lee||71||Priestner, Dan|
|39||Brar, Kik||18||Curran, Dan||8||MacArthur, Zack||15||Romain, Blake|
|19||Brar, Sunny||88||Downes, Iain||74||Mackinnon, Dan||21||Woychyshyn, Mike|
|9||Brar, Tony||61||Forbes, Brandon||17||Merkler, Dallas||30||Yarham, Dave|
|2017||Edm Savages (AB)||Van Falcons (BC)||NL Black Horse (NL)||St.John, NB|
|2016||Mtl Red Lite (QC)||NL Black Horse (NL)||Edm Savages (AB)||Richmond, BC|
|2015||Mtl Red Lite (QC)||MB Selects (MB)||NL Black Horse (NL)||Ottawa, ON|
|2014||Mtl Red Lite (QC)||NL Black Horse (NL)||MB Selects (MB)||Saskatoon, SK|
|2013||Mtl Red Lite (QC)||Mtl Black Knights (QC)||Mtl Scorpions (QC)||Montreal, QC|
|2012||Mtl Red Lite (QC)||NL Black Horse (NL)||Cgy Phantoms (AB)||Edmonton, AB|
|2011||Midnight Express (ON)||Mtl Black Knights (QC)||Ott Capitals (ON)||Brampton, ON|
|2010||NL Black Horse (NL)||Midnight Express (ON)||Van Falcons (BC)||St. Johns, NL|
|2009||Midnight Express (ON)||Mtl Red Lite (QC)||Miss Hawks (ON)||Winnipeg, MB|
|2008||Mtl Black Knights (QC)||Midnight Express (ON)||MB Selects (MB)||Burnaby, BC|
|2007||Mtl Red Lite (QC)||Mtl Black Knights, (QC)||Vaughan Jets (ON)||St. John, NB|
|2006||Mtl Red Lite (QC)||Midnight Express (ON)||Hurricane Oil (AB)||Montreal, QC|
|2005||Mtl Red Lite (QC)||Midnight Express (ON)||Van Falcons (BC)||Calgary, AB|
|2004||Mtl Red Lite (QC)||Midnight Express (ON)||Ott Capitals (ON)||Toronto, ON|
|2003||Mtl Red Lite (QC)||Mtl Black Knights (QC)||Midnight Express (ON)||Montreal, QC|
|2002||Mtl Red Lite (QC)||Mtl Black Knights (QC)||Edm Snipers (AB)||St. Johns, NL|
|2001||Mtl Red Lite (QC)||Midnight Express (ON)||Edm Snipers (AB)||Vancouver, BC|
|2000||Midnight Express (ON)||Van Falcons (BC)||Mtl Black Knights (QC)||St. John, NB|
|1999||Midnight Express (ON)||Van Falcons (BC)||Mtl Black Knights (QC)||Toronto, ON|
|1998||Midnight Express (ON)||Tor Panthers (ON)||Van Selects (BC)||Vancouver, BC|
|1997||Midnight Express (ON)||Tor Panthers (ON)||Mtl Black Knights (QC)||St. Johns, NL|
|1996||Midnight Express (ON)||Edm Playboys (AB)||STJ Blue Water (NL)||Montreal, QC|
|1995||Mtl Storm (QC)||Burnaby Bulls (ON)||Fernview Rangers (ON)||Edmonton, AB|
|1994||Fernview Rangers (ON)||Midnight Express (ON)||STJ Maxim (NL)||St. Johns, NL|
|1993||Fernview Rangers (ON)||Ott Cobras (ON)||Edm Playboys (AB)||Ottawa, ON|
|1992||Fernview Rangers (ON)||Racing Rodymen (BC)||NWM Aastros (BC)||Richmond, BC|
|1991||Top Guns (ON)||Edm Westars (AB)||CGY Bullets (AB)||Edmonton, AB|
|1990||Lon Prov Glass (ON)||Star of the Sea (NL)||NWM Aastros (BC)||St. Johns, NL|
|1989||Eagles (ON)||NWM Aastros (BC)||Lon Prov Glass (ON)||Mississauga, ON|
|1988||STJ Best Western (NL)||Top Guns (ON)||Edm Nordiques (AB)||Moncton, NB|
|1987||STJ Best Western (NL)||Top Guns (ON)||NWM Aastros (BC)||Calgary, AB|
|1986||STJ Celtics (NL)||Ott Laroche Sens (ON)||Oshawa Bruins (ON)||Bridgetown, NS|
|1985||Wpg Grasshoppers (MB)||Winnipeg, MB|
|1984||Tor Midas Athletes (ON)||St. Johns, NL|
|1983||Burnaby Beavers (BC)||Vancouver, BC|
|1982||STJ India Bears (NL)||St. John, NB|
|1981||Wilding Doors (ON)||Edmonton, AB|
|1980||Tor Canadians (ON)||Toronto, ON|
|1979||Ott Globe Tropy (ON)||Winnipeg, MB|
|1978||Tor Canadians (ON)||Ottawa, ON|