The Lethbridge Hurricanes are just a couple of days away from welcoming Lanny McDonald “home” for our special “Heritage Event” night January 27th, 2012 when the Lethbridge Hurricanes host the Medicine Hat Tigers.
The history of the Sugar Kings dates back to the early 1960’s when a group of Southern Alberta hockey enthusiasts were concerned with the declining caliber of hockey in Lethbridge and area. The group decided to take matters into their own hands and bring hockey back to Southern Alberta. In the decades before there was the Lethbridge Maple Leafs and the Lethbridge Native Sons. After some time and considerable debate, the Lethbridge Sugar King Hockey Club was established thanks to Syd Hall, Leo Harrold, Joe Green, Bill Nugent and several others. The Sugar Kings first year was the 1963-64 season playing in the Southern Alberta Intermediate League which consisted of the Calgary Cowboys, Calgary Buffaloes, Okotoks Oilers and Sugar Kings. In the summer of 1964, the Alberta Junior Hockey League was formed and for the next two seasons, while the AJHL continued to grow and develop, the Kings played a 16 game schedule. Since those early days, the team and league progressed and in 1966 the AJHL initiated a 32 game schedule and later expanding to 50 games.
The 1966-67 season marked the first time the Sugar Kings had a chance to participate in the playoffs for the Alberta Junior Hockey League Championship and ended up finishing in 2nd place. The following season, the AJHL expanded to a 40 game schedule and the Sugar Kings went from being operated by the Lethbridge Minor Hockey Association to being operated and governed by an executive council with permanent members Carl Trentini (President), Syd Hall (Manager), Adrian Uitbeyerse (Secretary-Treasurer.) The team finished a disappointing 3rd and lost out to Red Deer in the Semi-finals.
The 1968-69 season was the Sugar Kings most productive – capturing first place honors with a 13 and 3 record, but narrowly missing out on a trip to the Western Finals with a loss to Regina. In the 1969-70 season the Sugar Kings who were the defending AJHL Champions were comprised mostly of first year players (having only seven returnees) from the Championship team. One of those first year players was Lanny McDonald who had 11 points (2 goals, 9 assists) to go along with 19 PIM’s in 34 games. During the 1970-71 season, the Sugar Kings lost the Alberta Finals to the Red Deer Rustlers. Fire also destroyed the place they called home. On March 12th, 1971 the 50-year old Lethbridge Arena burned to the ground and with it went a lifetime of memories and hockey history. The season moved forward and second-year Centre Lanny McDonald had a breakout year finishing first in team scoring with 37 goals and 45 assists in 45 games. McDonald was named the AJHL’s Most Valuable Player for this year, and he also won the Alex Bennie Memorial Trophy as the Kings MVP.
In getting a chance to return home to celebrate and honor the Sugar Kings, McDonald says “Lethbridge was a huge part of my hockey memories, and wouldn't miss this. Hope the plans are coming together...I look forward to seeing everyone again.”
John Davidson joined the Sugar Kings as rookie in the 1970-71 season and in 46 games posted a 3.09 GAA with 3 shutouts. He won the Lethbridge Herald trophy as the Sugar Kings Rookie of the Year as well as the AJHL’s Rookie of the Year award. Davidson, while only playing one year in Lethbridge still has fond memories as a member of the Sugar Kings and told us he “wished he could be here for the event – but I’m busy with the All Star Game in Ottawa. Good luck to the Hurricanes on this special night.”
Thursday, January 26th is our 7th annual Celebrity Sports dinner. Those in attendance will be entertained by Clark Robertson (a Don Cherry impersonator) and there’s also a live auction planned for the evening along with Lanny McDonald. In honoring the Sugar Kings on Friday, pregame festivities with a ceremonial puck drop featuring members of the Sugar Kings will also take place.
(From Esther Madziya, Hurricanes Media Relations)