40 years and counting!
In the fall of 1978, a group of St. Albert residents spearheaded by Blaine Galbraith and the Kinsmen Minor Hockey Association who were operating minor hockey in St. Albert at the time believed that it would be great to have a Bantam "A" tournament to showcase not only the St. Albert Sabres but other teams from Alberta and Western Canada.
Mr. Galbraith was the Bantam A coach and was employed by Territorial Leasing who had an office in Spruce Grove and owned by Jim Cebuliak. Galbraith was able to persuade his boss to be the major sponsor of the tournament and thus the name change to Territorial Leasing Sabres.
The first tournament was held April 4th to 7th, 1979 and the 8 teams participating were Kamloops Syd Smith Chevy's, Saskatoon North Stars, Edmonton K of C Squires, Sherwood Park Bumpers, Edmonton Maple Leaf Bay Drug Knights, Calgary Red Arrow Colts and the home town Sabres. Sherwood Park was the first winner when they defeated St. Albert in the final.
In 1985 the tournament changed its status from a Bantam A tournament to a Bantam A Major tournament. In 1994, the 16th annual event went to 12 teams and in 2009 increased to its present 16 team format.
St. Albert has been a most gracious host as they have won the tournament just once and that came in 1983. They have been runner up in 1996 and 1997. Notre Dame Hounds and Thunder Bay Kings have won the tournament 4 times each although the Kings won four straight from 1997 to 2000.
In 1993 the tournament changed its name to the Gregg Distributors Tournament under Sabres’ coach John Reid who was employed at Gregg Distributors. In November of 2003, Mr. Reid passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer and in 2004 the tournament became known as the John Reid Memorial Bantam AAA tournament.
Canadian teams have come from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario. Teams from the United States have included Dallas, Phoenix, Seattle, Colorado, Anaheim and Los Angeles. In 2014 a new era dawned, as the tournament hosted HC Kometa from the Czech Republic, who became the first European club to participate in the event.
Over 90 players who have played in this tournament have gone on to play in the NHL. Some prominent names include Rob Brown, Rod Brind'Amour, Geoff Sanderson, Vincent Lecalvier, Rob and Scott Niedermayer, Jarome Iginla, Mike Comrie, Patrick Sharp, Eric Stall, Jonathan Towes, Jordan Eberle, Brendan Gallagher, Jaden Schwartz ..…. and counting.
The Western Hockey League bantam draft came into play in 1990 and since then, hundreds of players have been drafted from this tournament by every WHL team. This is a MUST tournament for WHL scouts and team personnel as well as some NHL scouts looking to see potential superstars in the making. Last year more than 100 junior scouts were in attendance as well as some from the NHL.
History complied by:
St. Albert Minor Hockey Association