The Grande Prairie Storm is celebrating its 20th anniversary in the Alberta Junior Hockey League and 21st overall in 2015-2016, but junior hockey in the city stretches back over 40 years. The first junior team, formed in 1966, was named the Junior Athletics and played in the Peace Junior Hockey League. The team then became the North Stars and won several PJHL championships at the Junior B level and Peace Cariboo Junior Hockey League titles as a Junior A team. When Grande Prairie joined the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League, the name was changed to the Chiefs.
In the summer of 1995, fresh off the experience of hosting the 1995 Canada Winter Games, a group of local community-minded people – the Storm Founders - banded together to help the struggling junior franchise eliminate a $150,000 debt and get Junior A hockey back on track in the Peace Country. The debt was eliminated and a new community, non-profit, volunteer-driven organization called the Storm, flying under the Swan City Hockey Association banner, was formed.
Success both on and off the ice has been the tradition of the Storm since 1995. The team won the RMJHL league championship its first year and has been in the playoffs – including six final four appearances and one championship final – every year it has competed in the Alberta Junior Hockey League since joining the AJHL in 1996. The Storm also have the second-most wins of any team in the AJHL since 1996. The team owns every modern-day AJHL attendance record and capped off the 2008-2009 and 2003-2004 seasons by winning the AJHL championship. In 2004 the team hosted the Royal Bank Cup Junior A Canadian championship – where the team finished as the top team in the round-robin and ended up hosting the most successful RBC ever. The Grande Prairie event smashed the old Royal Bank Cup attendance record by over 9,000 and still holds the per-game average attendance record at over 2,700 and by clearing over $300,000 for the event has the record for profit from an RBC!
During the Storm short history the team has had an AJHL Rookie of the Year (Blaine Bablitz 1998), three Most Valuable Players (Mike Lefley in 2002, Dustin Sather in 2007 and Tanner Fritz in 2011), two Top Goaltenders (Jonathan Cayer in 2004), two Most Outstanding Defencemen (Kyle Radke in 2004 and Donny Lloyd in 2007) and two AJHL Playoff MVPs (Scott McCulloch in 2004 and Carter Rowney in 2009). McCulloch was also the first Storm player drafted directly into the NHL by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2004 draft. The second former Storm to be drafted into the NHL was Darren Kramer, who was selected by the Ottawa Senators in the sixth round in the spring of 2011. Grant Stevenson was the first Storm player to play in an NHL regular season game when he suited up for the last half of the regular season and the playoffs with the San Jose Sharks in 2005-2006.
Helping young men reach their goals - whether it be through scholarships at Canadian and American institutions, the professional ranks in North America or elsewhere or remaining in the community to begin a career - is an important priority for the Swan City Hockey Association, which operates the Grande Prairie Storm Hockey Club.
Since the team was formed in 1995, dozens of former Storm players have received scholarship funding to continue their educations at Canadian or American universities and colleges including seven who toiled with the Storm in 2003-2004.
The Storm has established itself as a tough, never-say-die hockey club. Our on-ice success is based on attracting quality hockey players who want to be winners both on and off the ice. Players are given every opportunity to succeed – quality coaching; daily practices; access to off-ice training facilities; an experienced trainer; outstanding physiotherapy program; billet families who “adopt” Storm players; access to high school and college education; part-time jobs; a program that gets Storm players involved in the community; and many other things that will enhance players’ on-ice and off-ice abilities.
“The Grande Prairie Storm Hockey Club exists to develop a quality junior hockey team made up of dedicated and talented hockey players who want to work together with the community, volunteers and administration. We constantly look for ways to improve our organization and are proud to be an integral part of the Grande Prairie region. We encourage educational advancement and strive to achieve the highest possible results in pursuit of a National Championship
1995-1997 and 2000-2002: Grant Menzies
1997-1998: Miguel Lopez
1998-2000 and 2007-2009: Brian Nash
2002-2004: Bruce Little
2004-2007: Wayne Ayling
2009-2011: Lionel Jones
2011-2013: Darrell Radbourne
2013-2014: Kelly Chalmers
2014-Present: Chris Luhtala
In September of 2006 the Grande Prairie Storm, along with the Grande Prairie Burn Society and the Sunrise Rotary Club, hosted the Edmonton Oilers training camp. It was the first time ever the NHL team had moved its camp totally out of the Edmonton area and it was a huge success. The camp continued a long relationship the Storm has had with the Oilers, including having the Oilers take part in an annual golf tournament in Grande Prairie.
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