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by Dan Carle

The Canadian men’s senior hockey championship tournament is set to go April 17-22, in Dundas, Ontario. The Real McCoys won the Allan Cup the last time the team hosted, in 2014.

This season’s championship will be the first in the last three seasons and contested by the Real McCoys (Ontario), the Hamilton  (Ontario) Steelers, the Clarenville (Newfoundland) Ford Caribous and the Innisfail (Alberta) Eagles.

Stream On:

The 2023 Allan Cup will be streamed through


Clarenville Ford Caribous

Coach:                                                                                       Ryan Delaney

Regular Season Record – Avalon East Senior HL:       10-7-3

Points leader:                              18-14-17-31                    31 – Kevin Reid

Goaltender:                                  6-7-1 – Age: 33              AJ Whiffen

Allan Cup appearances:           5 – ’11, ’13, ’14, ’15, ’23.

Allan Cup championships:      1 – ‘11

Sometimes, organic is the way to go.

“This will be the first time we’ve ever gone to the Allan Cup with 100 per cent Newfoundland players,” said Ivan Hapgood, the Caribous general manager, who is 66.   “This time we’re coming with 20 Newfoundlanders.”

After a three-season forced break due to COVID, the Caribous were a late addition to the 2023 tournament. But when you can make history – especially locally – you show up. “I look at it for future players – whether they want to join our league or not – that would give them something to want to go play in our league.”

The Caribous are preparing to play in its fifth Allan Cup. Clarenville won the 2011 tournament in Kenora, Ont., but lost the final in 2013 (Bentley) and to the host Real McCoys in overtime in 2014. “Anybody will tell you that you go to any tournament if they’re not hoping to win, I think they are telling you lies,” said Hapgood.

Dundas Real McCoys

Coach:                                                                                       Ron Bernacci

Regular Season Record – Allan Cup Hockey:                8-4

Points leader:                              7-14-13-27                      32 – Brad Bonello

Goaltender:                                  2-1 – Age: 40                  Mike Mole

Allan Cup appearances:           9 – ’01, ’03, ’08, ’09, ’10. ’11, ‘14, ‘15, ‘23

Allan Cup championships:      1 – ‘14

The Real McCoys are the passion of Don Robertson. The rebirth and long-term survival of the Allan Cup is also in the DNA of the long-time general manager.

There might likely not be an Allan Cup – in 2023, or evermore – if it wasn’t for the tireless efforts of this hockey lifer, who sells real estate when he isn’t selling men’s senior hockey – to whoever might listen.

“The balance is incredible,” said Robertson, who put together four teams for the 2023 Allan Cup tournament because he said another paused season – making it the fourth – might well have been the last for this 114-year-old championship. Senior hockey is so different. It’s cycles – but it always seem to work out.”

Pulling together a national event in a scant amount of time is a tall order – less so with passion and principle as guiding lights.  “It’s really important to make it look real,” said Robertson. “We’ve only got about a month’s work to do. And we’re happy we have a week to do it.”

The tournament runs April 17-22 at the J.L Grightmire Market Street Arena in Dundas – the same spot where the Real McCoys won the national senior hockey title in 2014.

No matter the result, Robertson remains a realist. “I’m not going to enjoy it until Suze – my wife – and I have a glass of wine after the event.”

Hamilton Steelers

Coach:                                                                                       Bryan Walker

Regular Season Record – Allan Cup Hockey:                8-4

Points leader:                              12-5-27-32                      32 – Cam Sault

Goaltender:                                  4-2 – Age: 40                  Daniel Svedin

Allan Cup appearances:           1 – ‘23

Allan Cup championships:      0

“We really are a band of brothers.” Five minutes before the 2023 Allan Cup Hockey League season there were no Hamilton Steelers. “I was looking around for a solution for Hamilton – and ended up being the solution for Hamilton,” said Loren Lieberman, the Steelers first-year President. “Whatever sports movie trope you would care to fall on. We are The Replacements. We are that amazing mix found in the baseball movie Major League. We’re The Bad News Bears. It’s been a great ride – and it’s not over.”

The first-year Steelers enter their first Allan Cup as conference champions – with a 3-0 record against host Dundas, including a 5-2 win in the league final. 

Canada itself was just 42 years old when the first Allan Cup was presented. This year Canada marks year number 156. “I think if you’re a hockey fan and you give Allan Cup hockey a try – it sells itself,” said Lieberman.  “Not just that hockey in Canada has a storied history. Hockey in Canada is hockey’s history.”  

Innisfail Eagles

Coach:                                                                                       Kevin Smyth    

Regular Season Record – Chinook Hockey League    11-1

Points Leader:                             10-13-15-28                    28 – Pierre-Luc Mercier

Goaltender:                                  5-0-2 – Age: 40              Matt Climie

Allan Cup appearances:           2 – ’19, ‘23

Allan Cup championships:      0

Ryan Dodd, the Eagles GM, is adamant. “You build the atmosphere. You build the room. And you build a hockey club.”

The Eagles are coached by Kevin Smyth, the older brother of former Edmonton Oilers and noted Canadian forward Ryan Smyth. Prior to Smyth, Brian Sutter, the oldest of the six from Alberta’s most famous hockey playing family to play in the NHL, ran the Eagles bench.

“Now I have been here for 20-some years doing this – whether I was playing or involved in the office or the operations – and I eventually became the GM of the team,” said Dodd. “All I want to do is hoist the Allan Cup.”  

Joe Vandermeer is the Eagles 11-season team captain. The defenceman, 46, is more a testament of triumph in life. For those who are squeamish, skip to the end. “Cut his hand off last June. He cut his hand off in a wood splitter,” said Dodd. “They sewed it back on. He played his first three games in the league final against Stony Plain this year.“He cut his friggin’ hand off and he’s playing senior hockey. And he’s coming to the Allan Cup. And he wants to win it so bad.”

The Eagles raised close to $70,000 from their central Alberta community of just under 8,000 – and surrounding area – in order to attend their second Allan Cup.“Our community – I have never seen them jump on board the way that they did,” said Dodd.  “The stories that they shared with me about playing in the Chinook Hockey League – I had tears in my eyes when I left most of these places. “You add everything up, and they’re the reason we’re coming to the Allan Cup.”

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