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Expelled AJHL Team, Sherwood Park Crusaders, Hope to Finish Season, says Pres and GM

The Sherwood Park Crusaders are one of the five teams that the Alberta Junior Hockey League has decided to bar from playing out most of the remainder of its schedule. It’s a move by the league that comes, apparently, in retaliation to rumours that those teams, four of which lead the AJHL standings, will switch to the newly independent BCHL for the 2024-25 season, a move our guest in the following audio feature says is not signed or complete. That guest is Adam Sergerie. He is the president and general manager of the Sherwood Park Crusaders.

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On Saturday, January 20, the newly independent British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) announced “it had come to terms with five Alberta-based teams to join the league for the 2024-25 season.”

Those teams are the Blackfalds Bulldogs, Brooks Bandits, Okotoks Oilers, Spruce Grove Saints, and Sherwood Park Crusaders of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL).

That same day, the AJHL announced it had learned of the pending departures via the BCHL announcement, and that it was assessing the next steps and schedule implications. The announcement specified that it was not officially notified by the teams in question. At the same time, the AJHL announced the first slate of game cancellations. Four in total, each involving one of the five teams playing one of the 11 remaining teams.

Two days later, on Monday, January 22, the AJHL announced that it had, “not suspended any of its 16 member teams,” but issued cancellations for three more games, which again involved those five teams in action against one of the other 11 teams.

Then on Thursday, January 25, the AJHL announced the cancellation of all games between the “defecting,” teams and those remaining. “We continue to evaluate the best path forward after reviewing Saturday’s BCHL announcement,” that the five teams would leave, “to play unsanctioned hockey,” next season.

“We are responding to by taking steps to protect the competitive integrity of the AJHL and [Canadian Junior Hockey League] playoff system and to ensure the safety of our players and officials,“ the AJHL statement said.

Four of the five teams in question rank first through fourth.

In response to Thursday statement by the AJHL, five teams issued a joint statement of their own.

“Our five teams remain members in good standing of the [AJHL], [CJHL], Hockey Alberta, and Hockey Canada. We have not entered into any agreement to leave any of those organizations, nor have we made any announcement to that effect,

“We have full intention of fulfilling our commitments to each of those bodies for the remainder of the 2023-24 regular season and postseason, the joint statement read.

“We do not agree that any AJHL games should be cancelled or postponed. We share in the public’s disappointment in the current situation. We strongly believe that our players should be back on the ice playing hockey and competing for an Inter Pipeline Cup, and we will do everything we can to bring this unfortunate situation to a positive resolution.”

The next day, the AJHL released a further statement in reply to the five teams, stating that it seeks clarity on the, “conflicting statements,” of the five teams.

“The AJHL is aware of the contradictory statements coming from the BCHL and the five defecting clubs, and the negative impact they are having on our players and their families,” the AJHL wrote.

Friday January 26, I spoke with Sherwood Park Crusaders President and General Manager, Adam Sergerie, which you can hear in the linked audio feature.

“Our intention is to play in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. We’re in good standing. Our intention was never to leave right now. We’ve had every intention of finishing out the year.” Sergerie said.

“My focus has just obviously been on the day to day stuff, and really trying to keep out players heads in the right place right now because of all the distractions.

“We’ve had a couple conversations now,” Sergerie said of speaking with the players on the team, “there’s a sense of trust and belief and unity in the room, but every day that goes by is a scarier and scarier situation for them.”

The BCHL says it is the number one league for National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) scholarships, with almost half of BCHL players scoring commitments from American colleges.

In May last year, the BCHL announced its intention to become independent of Hockey Canada, in effect, allowing it to broaden recruitment to attract players from around Canada, and the world, to play hockey in the league that has become the primary funnel into the NCAA.

Below: The image is used courtesy of the Sherwood Park Crusaders Twitter page.

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