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|Sherwood Park Crusaders|
|City:||Sherwood Park, Alberta|
|League:||Alberta Junior Hockey League|
|Home Arena:||Sherwood Park Arena|
|Colors:||Black, green and white|
|1978-Present:||Sherwood Park Crusaders|
- Founded: 1976-77
- Division titles won: 1980-81, 1984-85, 1986-87, 1988-89, 2002-03
- Regular season titles won: 1986-87, 1988-89, 2002-03
- League Championships won: None
- Doyle Cup Titles: None
- Royal Bank Cup Titles: None
The Edmonton Crusaders joined the AJHL in 1976 playing out of the Jasper Place Arena. The AJHL franchise was revived from a dormant entry controlled by Jim McCaddie. The Edmonton Crusaders played two seasons in the AJHL.
In 1978, a group of Sherwood Park businessmen, headed by John Fisher, Frank Chase, and Al Bishop, moved the franchise to Sherwood Park. John Fisher, a Sherwood Park resident and former Edmonton Oiler, became the first coach of the Crusaders. On February 20, 1980, Crusaders captain Trevor Elton died after collapsing from a clean routine body check along the boards versus the St. Albert Saints. During the 1985-86 season Brett Pearce suffered a major injury which left him paralyzed. During the same season, the Crusaders capture the AJHL North Division Championship. In 1986-87 the Crusaders capture the Regular Season Championship, followed by another North Division Championship in 1989-90. On July 2, 1996 Crusaders General Manager and part owner, Al McDonald passes away after a short battle with cancer.
Since the start of the Crusaders in Sherwood Park, there have been a great number of prominent business and sports personalities involved with making the franchise a success. Some, and by no means all, include Al McDonald, Bob Green, Bill Warwick, Harry Zuzak, Al Hamilton, Jim Crosson, Ross Perkins, George Buchan, Len McBride, Rollie Duplessis, Dennis O’Rourke, Bill McBride, Vern Schultz, Iris Evans, Peter Stiller, Vern Hartwell, the Strathcona County Council and many dedicated volunteers too numerous to mention, that have been the key to maintaining the franchise. Most importantly, the loyal support of our fans and the local business community who have stood with the team since the beginning are the major keys to our success.
At the conclusion of the 1998 season the team was purchased from Art Cox by a group of local businessmen headed by Tom Maxwell. The group has since turned the club into a non-profit society with a commitment to be in Sherwood Park for many years to come. The Crusaders have recently undergone a major restructuring with a commitment to being a positive force in the community and a supporter of the local minor hockey scene.
The 98-99 season was certainly a year for identifying the club's needs. The Cru finished last in the North Division with a 13-44-3-2 record, but the season's main objective was met and the rebuilding process began. In 1999, nearly all of the Crusaders were new faces. Behind the scenes, management began signing players like Braydon Cox, Mark Smith, Calvin Brown, Sean Dersch, and Michael Ringrose, who would become key parts in the Crusaders future. On the ice, the team finished with a dismal 7-52-3-2 record, the worst in Canadian Junior A. But with a young lineup, many players were developed well getting much more ice time than they normally would have.
With a much stronger lineup entering the season, and yet another head coach in Doug Schum, the Crusaders were finally looking like a team that could battle for a playoff spot in the AJHL's North Division. Once again, backstopped by the amazing goaltending of Scott Rowan, the Cru sneaked into the playoffs with a 20-29-6-2 record, but bowed out to the St. Albert Saints in 3 games. Still, the building process continued, and losing only five players, the Crusaders were shaping into one of the better North Division teams.
Over the off season with new coach Dan Auchenberg at the helm, the Crusaders made a 3-way deal with the St. Albert Saints and the Camrose Kodiaks to acquire Doug Auchenberg, son of Dan, for 20 year old Tyler Resch. Doug had been a major force for the Camrose Kodiaks who won the AJHL Championship and the Royal Bank Cup in the spring. A solid core of the team returned for camp, and a tough decision was to be made about the goaltending. Chris Denman and Chris Houle ended up taking the duties, leaving out another Chris in Chris Miller, who returned to Nova Scotia. The Cru started the season off well, until captain Kelly Wosnack was traded to Fort Saskatchewan for Jamie Marshall. The team slumped at first, then got into a real groove mid way through the season. In December, Chris Houle went to a tryout for the London Knights of the OHL, who were in desperate need of a goalie. He was signed and stayed there for the rest of the season. Gerry Festa was picked up from the Saskatoon Blades, and became a major part of the team's success.
The Cru made a great charge toward the end of the season going on a 15 game winning streak, and finished 3rd in the North Division behind Drayton Valley and St. Albert. Head coach Dan Auchenberg won Coach of the Year honours, and the Crusaders were heading into the playoffs with some doubts, after seeing goaltender Chris Denman go down with an illness, all eyes were on Gerry Festa, who certainly rose to the occasion and was named Crusaders playoff MVP. They took the first round series vs. Lloydminster 3 games to 0 and headed to Drayton Valley for the second round. The Cru lost both games and came back to the Sherwood Park Arena needing 2 wins to get back into the series. Game 3 was a very physical battle that headed into double overtime. After a near goal from the Thunder, the Cru headed up ice and put away the winner to cut the series lead down to one game. After a tough loss, the Thunder were back and pounding away at the Crusaders defense in the early going. After going down early, the Cru battled back and once again went to double overtime. With a great crowd of over 1000, they pulled it out once again to make the fans go nuts. Back to Drayton Valley for game 5, nothing was going right for the Cru and they went down 3 games to 2. Back to a rocking Sherwood Park Arena in front of another great crowd, the score was tied up at 2 going into the 3rd period. 2 quick goals ended the threat from the Cru, as the game got slightly out of hand as did the score. Drayton Valley won the series 4 games to 2, and went on to win the AJHL Championship before losing to the Chillawack Chiefs in the Doyle Cup. One thing was for certain though, and that was the Crusaders were going to be a force to come.
The 2002-03 season began with a rapid start, winning their first 4 of 5 with Braydon Cox leading the way and Chris Denman guarding the pipes once again. Then the injury bug hit the Cru where it hurts. In the pregame warmup before a game in Drayton Valley, a player fell on Chris Denman, tearing muscles in his leg. Around this time, second year Conor Shields was traded to Bonnyville for Chris Baker and Ryan Rarmuch. This deal was heavily criticized at the time, but has turned out as a steal for the Crusaders. There were few solutions to the goaltending problem, leaving the team to pick up Anton Wintner from the WHL. Female rookie sensation Shannon Szabados came to the helm for eight games, earning 2 shutouts and an 7-1 record. She probably would have stayed with the team, for it not have been an AMHL rule for players only to play 8 games or that team will forfeit their rights to sign Midget players. Garret Kindred was on loan to the Lloydminster Blazers, so the Crusaders were in luck when Gerry Festa returned from a tryout with the Saskatoon Blades. After only 7 games, he was signed by the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL and was gone once again. After many different goalie changes, Chris Denman returned to a still very good team. Braydon Cox led the team in scoring, but was supported well by the likes of Sean Dersch and Michael Ringrose. The Cru made a few late season pick-ups from the WHL including Nick Chibi and David Selthun and a trade with the Flin Flon Bombers of the MJHL for goalie Bryan Dafoe.
The Crusaders finished the season with 43 wins, earning a first place finish in the North Division and the regular season crown. In the first round of the playoffs, the Bonnyville Pontiacs were blown away by the Cru in a four game sweep. The playoff format forced the Cru into a second round bye and a 19-day layoff, which hurt them badly in the end. Game 1 of the third round series vs. the St. Albert Saints was back at the Sherwood Park Arena in front of a great crowd, but saw the Cru fall sluggish and give the Saints a 1-0 series lead. Game two once again, the Crusaders were being hammered every where they turned by a solid team clearly in 3rd round form. Game 3 headed across city limits into Aikinsdale Arena in a game where the Cru fell behind early, but battled back and won the game in overtime. Still, the layoff was clearly hurting them and were not in proper form. The Cru lost game 4 in overtime on a fluke goal, and headed back to Sherwood Park for a must-win game five.
The Sherwood Park Arena was packed for this game, setting a Crusaders record for attendance at over 1900. The Cru finally came out flying like they had so many times before, and headed into the locker room after the 1st tied up. In the second, the Cru finally took a lead before having it demolished by 2 quick Saints goals. In the third, after battling back to tie it, the St. Albert Saints proved to be the better of two teams in the game and took the fifth and deciding game.
The Crusaders 26th season in the AJHL began with an obvious letdown from the previous season. Most predicted a middle of the pack finish for the Cru, including head coach Dan Auchenberg. Gone were the likes of Braydon Cox, Sean Dersch, Brandt Middleton, Calvin Brown, Chris Denman, and numerous others who made up the high scoring, tight defensive Cru.
The season began as predicted, with the Cru going 5-4-0 and a 5th place seat in the North Division. There were numerous questions surrounding the team, including starter Garret Kindred. Trade rumours were all over the place until finally General Manager Tom Maxwell pulled the trigger on a deal with the St. Albert Saints. The trade sent disgruntled forward Lee St. Arnaud and rookie defenseman Justin Lylick, in return for star goalie Sheldon Michaelson, the man who shut down the Cru in the league semifinals and brought the Saints within a game of the league championship, and 18 year old forward Brent Leah. Garrett Kindred was given his release, leaving the Cru with a solid tandem of Michaelson and Shannon Szabados.
The Cru began to get on a roll with the much improved goaltending situation, and the Cru sat in second place at the all-star break.
The AJHL All Star Weekend was held in Sherwood Park for the first time since 1992, and it was pulled off perfectly by the organizers setting the bar higher for future all star events. Crusader Michael Ringrose was named North All Stars MVP in a losing effort for the North.
Everything looked great for the Cru heading out of the all-star break, but the team was hit by the injury bug and went on an awful skid that saw them lose 3 of their next 4 and 9 of the final 13 games in the regular season, dropping them back to 4th spot in the North Division.
In the opening round of the playoffs, the Crusaders hosted the Drayton Valley Thunder in a best-of-5 series. The Thunder took the opening game 2-0 in a tight defensive game, and little offense from the Cru. Game 2 was close early on until the Thunder took a 4-1 lead in the second. In the third it was all Crusaders who battled back to within a goal and completely dominated the period, but couldn't come up with the equalizer and lost the game 4-3.
The series headed back to Drayton Valley and the Crusaders faced elimination. After outplaying the Thunder in both games, the Cru still couldn't solve Brett Jaeger and the Cru dropped the third game 5-1 and lost the series 3 games to 0.
With the organization wanting to take a different route in the future, the Crusaders fired coach Dan Auchenberg after 3 and a half years at the helm. General Manager Tom Maxwell also stepped down from his position. Both assistant coaches, Ryan Marsh and Bob Niedzielski, resigned, leaving an entirely new look behind the bench for the Cru in 2004-2005.
Retired Numbers/Honored PlayersEdit
On July 2, 1996, Al McDonald, General Manager and part owner of the Sherwood Park Crusaders died from cancer.
Al joined the Crusaders in 1983 and went on to become their General Manager, a position he held with the club for 12 years. During that time he saw 27 players receive scholarships to US Colleges, 13 players graduate and go on to the NHL or other pro leagues, and an additional 19 players further their education while playing hockey at the University of Alberta or NAIT. Al was named the Alberta scout for the Vancouver Canucks in 1988 and his efforts helped to promote a number of AJHL players to the NHL team or their affiliates.
Al loved junior hockey and he was very proud of the relationship he had with the young players whose dreams were to play the best hockey their talents would allow. He also had a great respect for the many volunteers that game so generously of their time to see that junior hockey could remain in Sherwood Park.
With fond memories and deep appreciation of an exceptional man, the Sherwood Park Crusaders have placed a banner in his memory in the Sherwood Park Arena. The Crusaders have also dedicated a trophy in Al's name, rewarding the Crusader that best combines academic and athletic excellence. The Al McDonald Memorial Trophy is sponsored by the Belvedere Golf and Country Club who also host the Al McDonald Memorial Golf Tournament.
# 10 Trevor EltonEdit
Trevor Elton was captain of the Sherwood Park Crusaders during the 1979-80 season. In February 1980 during a game vs. the St. Albert Saints he was on the receiving end of a body check. Trevor collapsed and later died as a result of the hit. The Crusaders retired the number 10 jersey of Trevor Elton. A banner with Trevor's name and number was placed in the arena to honor him. The Crusaders also named the team's Most Valuable Player trophy after him.
# 11 Brett PearceEdit
In 1985 Brett Pearce won the Crusaders Most Improved Player award. The following season Brett suffered a freak accident during a game which left him paralyzed. The Crusaders retired the number 11 jersey of Brett Pearce. A banner with Brett's name and number was placed in the arena to honor him as an exceptional member of the Crusaders family. The Crusaders also named the team's Most Improved Player trophy after him.
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T/OTL = Ties/Overtime losses, SOL = Shootout losses, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against
|1976-77||60||5||55||0||-||10||182||376||7th Overall||Lost in quarterfinals|
|1977-78||60||30||29||1||-||61||276||260||4th Overall||Lost in quarterfinals|
|1978-79||60||12||48||0||-||24||230||350||7th Overall||Did not qualify|
|1979-80||58||19||39||0||-||38||253||330||7th Overall||Lost in quarterfinals|
|1980-81||60||36||23||1||-||73||294||284||1st North||Lost in semifinals|
|1981-82||60||23||37||0||-||46||254||306||5th North||Did not Qualify|
|1982-83||60||25||34||1||-||51||296||356||4th North||Lost in quarterfinals|
|1983-84||60||28||31||1||-||57||287||302||3rd North||Lost in quarterfinals|
|1984-85||60||37||20||3||-||77||319||243||1st North||Won Northern Div lost league championship in 6 games|
|1985-86||52||30||19||3||-||69||261||206||2nd North||Won Northern Div lost league championship in 7 games|
|1986-87||60||43||13||4||-||90||274||192||1st North||Lost in semifinals|
|1987-88||60||18||41||1||-||37||205||301||5th North||Did not qualify|
|2004-05||64||14||43||7||-||35||159||275||8th North||Did not qualify|
|2005-06||60||15||35||10||-||40||142||215||8th North||Did not qualify|
|2006-07||60||22||28||10||-||54||150||199||7th North||Lost in first round|
|2007-08||62||28||25||9||-||65||191||206||5th North||Lost in first round|
|2008-09||62||41||20||1||-||83||223||169||3rd North||Lost in second round|
|2009-10||60||33||18||9||-||75||206||181||4th North||Lost in first round|
|2010-11||60||29||25||6||-||64||175||198||6th North||Lost in division semifinals|
|2011-12||60||37||19||4||-||78||231||199||4th North||Lost in division semifinals|
|2012-13||60||28||25||7||-||63||184||183||7th North||Lost in division semifinals|
|2013-14||60||29||28||3||-||61||192||208||4th North||Lost in division semifinals|
|2014-15||60||30||19||11||-||63||173||176||5th North||Lost in division semifinals|
|2015-16||60||39||19||2||-||80||240||194||5th North||Lost in division semifinals|
The following former Crusaders have gone on to play in the NHL:
|Alberta Junior Hockey League|
|Bonnyville Pontiacs • Drayton Valley Thunder • Fort McMurray Oil Barons • Grande Prairie Storm • Lloydminster Bobcats • Sherwood Park Crusaders • Spruce Grove Saints • Whitecourt Wolverines|
|Brooks Bandits • Calgary Canucks • Calgary Mustangs • Camrose Kodiaks • Canmore Eagles • Drumheller Dragons • Okotoks Oilers • Olds Grizzlys|
|CJHL: Western Canada Cup (2013-Present) · Doyle Cup (1971-2012) · Royal Bank Cup|