Get ready for some good ol' Allan Cup hockey

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

There shouldn't be any of the controversy and poor sportsmanship that Theo Fleury and the Horse Lake Thunder brought with them in 2005, the last time the Allan Cup final was in the area.

And that's good.

But everything else about the 2007 AAA senior men's national championship will be the same when the 100th edition of the tournament begins this afternoon in Stony Plain.

And that's even better.

"The calibre of hockey is incredible and the atmosphere is always very entertaining," said 2007 Allan Cup chairman Don MacKee, who's going to see a lot of packed houses this week now that all 1,000 tournament packages are sold out.

Few seats left

All that's left are 200 rush seats per game, which will go on sale at 3:30 p.m. every day.

"It's looking pretty good," said MacKee. "When Lloydminster hosted this two years ago, their barn holds 2,500 and they were packed every night. So it's not going to take much to fill a 1,200-seat arena."

Especially when three of the six teams involved in the tournament are from close by - the host Stony Plain Eagles, the Bentley Generals and the Lloydminster Border Kings.

The remaining entries Whitby Dunlops (Ontario), Shawinigan Xtreme (Quebec) and Halifax Molson Canadians (Atlantic) arrived yesterday.

The players, made up of former university and major junior standouts, are flat- out good. Consider that the Horse Lake Thunder, with three former NHLers on the roster (Fleury, Sasha Lakovic and Gino Odjick) didn't even make the final in 2005.

"I don't even like to use the word 'senior', because that gives the connotation of a beer league, that the guys are just out for a skate and the beer afterwards is more important," said MacKee. "They should get rid of the word senior and just call it men's AAA. These are really talented players, exceptionally skilled players. They would play in any minor pro league if they were on the ice every day.

"But they're getting up the next day and going to work. They're playing strictly for the love of the game, there's no doubt about that."

Stony hosted the Allan Cup in 1995 and 1999, the only time they've ever won it. This will be their 11th appearance in the national championship tournament.

"They're good, they'll be competitive," said MacKee, "but it's very hard to gauge what's coming out of the east. You have no real idea. There could be a team that when you see how good they are you say 'wow, where the heck did these guys come from?' " The tournament consists of two round robin pools of three teams, followed by the single-game playoffs. The championship final is Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

No defending champ

The defending champion Powell River Eagles won't be back to try for back-to-back titles, having lost along the way in the B.C. playoffs.

Hall of Fame netminder Glenn Hall will drop the puck for the opening ceremonies today, followed by the Allan Cup opener - Bentley vs Lloydminster at 4:30 p.m. Whitby, which advanced to last year's championship final before losing to Powell River, takes on Stony Plain in the prime time slot (8 p.m.).

All games are at the Stony Plain Centennial Arena (4905-51 Ave. in Stony Plain).


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