Weyburn has earned its reputation as the Opportunity City, and the 2016 Esso Cup, hosted in the city from April 17-23, will be remembered as yet another
proud moment for a community rich in agriculture, energy resources, and volunteerism.
“Harvesting a Champion” is not only a fitting slogan to welcome the best female Midget teams in the country, but also a call to action for this hockey
community to showcase its love for the game to the rest of Canada.
Known as the largest inland grain gathering point in Canada and home of the Saskatchewan Oil & Gas Show, Weyburn’s agriculture and energy sectors have
a significant impact on the local economy, which in turn supports many community initiatives.
“We have had such overwhelming support from local business sponsors who understand what hosting a national event brings to our city,” explains Esso Cup
host committee co-chair Dale Renz. “The community has really come together and exceeded our expectations.
“We have a talented and committed group of people on our host committee and we’ve drawn much experience from hosting the 2005 Royal Bank Cup. The host
committee’s goal was to create an outstanding experience for participants, officials, fans, and volunteers because we want them to remember how the Esso
Cup made them feel in Weyburn, Saskatchewan.”
Weyburn’s rich hockey history includes NHL players Dave “Tiger” Williams and current Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Derrick Pouliot. SJHL Hall of Fame
coach Dwight McMillan spent more than 1,000 games behind the bench with the Weyburn Red Wings, winning the 1984 Centennial Cup and 2005 Royal Bank Cup
championships. And in 2014, the Weyburn Gold Wings earned their first Esso Cup championship as Canada’s top female Midget team.
En route to the Gold Wings’ Esso Cup title, Weyburn fans packed the stands to cheer on their home team throughout the playoffs, reaching over 1,000
spectators per game. This outpouring of support for female hockey in Weyburn signaled the need to host a championship event at the next possible
“When we committed to hosting the event, we believed we could fill the rink and make this a memorable experience for those players,” says host committee
co-chair Peter Schaefer. “It creates a ripple effect – success on the ice carries over to the rest of our minor hockey programs. We’re creating an
authentic experience for the players and fans of all ages.”
Female hockey is an integral part of the hockey culture in Weyburn. With the addition of the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League in 2006, members
of the hockey community in Weyburn seized the opportunity to establish an elite female team.
From the very beginning, the Gold Wings organization focused on developing personal excellence by encouraging a commitment to education and community
leadership in addition to on-ice success.
Gold Wings players, for example, are regularly participating in community projects, fundraising events, and minor hockey mentorship roles. It’s all the
part of the package as far as the hockey club is concerned, and obviously the plan is working. As a result, a number of females who have played in Weyburn
have gone on to play for Canadian universities or U.S. colleges. In fact, there are currently nine former Gold Wings on the women’s hockey team at the
University of Regina.
“We are very proud of our female hockey program and want to see it continue to grow, which is why we are creating a legacy fund with excess proceeds from
the Esso Cup,” explains Renz. The legacy fund will support the continued success of the Gold Wings hockey club as well as development of female hockey in
Weyburn and District. This includes funding for hockey camps, hockey education, female referee development, as well as scholarships for graduating female
hockey players that are continuing their scholastic endeavors.
“The legacy fund will help perpetuate success and continue to open doors for females – referees, coaches, and officials alike – in the sport,” adds Renz,
emphasizing that the community of Weyburn truly relishes the opportunity to welcome everyone to the 2016 Esso Cup.
As the top six teams in the country convene, the hockey community will support each one of them in pursuit of their “golden harvest,” knowing that new
seeds are also being sewn for the future of female hockey across Canada.