Airdrie Xtreme's excellence is rooted in its history
It’s gone from a small, rural team to one of the top Bantam AAA teams in Western Canada and a community mainstay.
Now, as the Airdrie Xtreme enters its 16th season, a new crop of talent is poised to solidify Airdrie’s position as a launch pad for some of hockey’s highest levels.
“Our main objective is to get them ready for the next level,” said Terry Keogh, who has been the head coach of the Xtreme since 2005. “It’s about that and providing them and teaching them life skills.”
In the past 10 years, the team has won three Western Canadian Championships, the last one in 2009. Airdrie hosted the tournament in 2008 and the Xtreme took bronze. Eggins believes that total is only second to the Burnaby Winter Club in Burnaby, B.C.
Since 1996, the Xtreme has seen more than 60 players drafted into the WHL.
The team set a record in 2009 after it won Westerns by having 11 players from the championship roster drafted.
Several were drafted into the NHL and others have gone on to play at the junior and university levels.
They’ve won Telus Cups, Memorial Cups and World Junior Championships. The players’ individual accomplishments add to the pride of the Xtreme’s league and Western Championships, but for Eggins and Keogh, the best part is when the boys come home.
“(When you’re with the team) the kids kind of adopt you as their friend,” said Ralph Eggins, the team’s manager.
“They come back and see you on the street and shake your hand thanking you for your work with the team. It’s great.”
The setting of a city like Airdrie has lent a unique aspect to the Xtreme and created a sense of family among the players, new and old.
Many are family, as Keogh and Eggins have seen brothers and cousins pass through the program over the years.
“It shows, especially after the first one goes through, that people who have been in the program believe in it,” said Keogh. “When the first sibling through has success it provides an opportunity for the second sibling.”
Keogh is hoping this year’s team takes it back to the top of Western Canada. Last year’s squad lost in the semi-finals and with only four returning players, it’s going to be a young team.
“Last year, we were a .500 club,” said Keogh. “We were a bunch of workhorses. We’ve got a good, strong core of forwards and defence is probably the area we need the most work in.”