The Official Website of the brooks bandits
Team History

Team History In Brief

The Alberta Junior Hockey League awards Brooks the opportunity to purchase a franchise in the league in September of 1998. An organizational meeting is held in November 1998 with Gary Drake as president, it is decided that a franchise will be pursued for Brooks.

In June 1999 after the Annual General Meeting of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, the organization holds a press conference to introduce the official name & logo of the team. The name of the organization was decided to be the Brooks Bandits and the logo would be a bandit holding a hockey stick. Scott Grisbrook was the logo designer.

The Brooks Bandits decide to secure the franchise money through a program called "The Founding Fathers" (see Founding Fathers list on website menu). The organization was successful and gets seventeen business and individuals to donate money to the franchise in exchange for a lifetime package.

In September 1999, the Brooks Bandits accept the resignation of president Gary Drake. Byron Smith becomes the new president/Governor along with Doug Grisbrook (Vice President), John Arnold (Treasurer), Janey Smith (Secretary), Ron Bonora (Hockey Operations), Wendy Arnold (Player Welfare), Gord Stangowitz (Ways and Means), Jim Gregory (Director), Bill Highet (Director).

At a "Founding Father" press conference on November 4th, 1999 the Brooks Bandits officially purchase the franchise for Brooks from Alberta Junior Hockey League President, Kim Marsh. Also on November 4th, 1999, the team signs their first players to A.J.H.L. whitecards. The players were Tyler Smith and Shaun Prins.

In December 1999, the organization is proud to announce that Nolan Crouse of St. Albert has accepted the position of Head Coach / General Manager.

In April 2000, the Bandits hold their first spring camp. The camp attracts about 100 hockey players. Assistant Coach, Jamie Langley is named to the organization.

Fall/Main Camp began on August 25th, 2000, the camp had 28 goalies and 100 hockey players. From main camp the Bandits played their first exhibition game on August 29th, 2000. They won the game 4-3 over the Olds Grizzlies. Royce Bert scores the first goal at 9:41 of the first period.

Regular season started on September 9th, 2000 in Ft. McMurray. The Bandits win over the Oil Barons 7-5. Chris Boyle scores the first goal at 1:12 into the first period.

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In 2004, the Crowsnest Pass Timberwolves took a leave of absence for one season, and their players were dispersed, adding Judd Blackwater and Neil to the Bandits team. Under head coach Kevin Higo and players such as Brendan Connolly, Spencer Machacek, Ben Wright, and Chad Johnson, the Bandit advanced to the AJHL playoffs for the first time.

In 2008, after three successful years, Higo accepted an assistant coaching position with the Moose Jaw Warriors in the major junior Western Hockey League. With the head coach and general manager positions vacant, the Bandits hired ECHL head coach and former NHL enforcer Brian Curran. Under Curran's leadership of a hard-hitting team, the Bandits finished in first place in the South Division before losing in the cross-over division playoff finals against the Grande Prairie Storm. On October 16, 2009, Curran was released by the Bandits and replaced by assistant Ryan Papaioannou. The Bandits finished fifth in the south division in 2009?10 and a second round playoff loss. During the season on January 20, 2010, the Bandits moved from the smaller Centennial Arena in the Lakeside Leisure Centre, to the brand new Centennial Regional Arena.

In Papaioannou's second 2010?11 season, the Bandits finished second in the division, but were eliminated in the second round by the Camrose Kodiaks in seven games. In the off-season on July 5, 2011, forward Nick Crosby was killed in a car accident returning home from a Bandits camp. After Crosby's death, the Bandits dedicated the 2011?12 season in his honour and retired his #23 jersey. The Bandits had statistically their best season to date with a record of 47?7?8. In the playoffs, they swept both the Calgary Canucks and the Olds Grizzlys in four games, advancing to their first league playoff championship series against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons. The Bandits won the series four games to two for their first league championship. In the Doyle Cup, the Bandits faced the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) champion Penticton Vees for the right to participate in the Junior A national championship tournament, the Royal Bank Cup. The Vees defeated the Bandits four games to one and went on to win the 2012 Royal Bank Cup Jr. A national championship.

The Bandits continued to dominate the AJHL at the start of the 2012?13 season going 20?0?0 before finally losing a game. The Bandits were one win short of tying the AJHL record for longest winning streak. The Bandits were led by captain Cam Maclise, Mark Reners, and Dakota Mason. The Bandits finished the regular season with a record of 53?4?3, breaking the AJHL record for wins in season, and points in a season (109). In all but one week (week 1), the Bandits were ranked as the number one team in Canada by the Canadian Junior Hockey League. In the playoffs, the Bandits defeated the Drumheller Dragons and Okotoks Oilers before winning a second straight AJHL championship over the Spruce Grove Saints. 2013 was the first year of the Western Canada Cup qualifying tournament to advance to the national championship and was held in Nanaimo, British Columbia. The Bandits finished first in the round-robin portion of the tournament, but lost to the Surrey Eagles 4?1 in the championship game. As the Western Canada Cup qualified two teams to the Royal Bank Cup, the Bandits played the Yorkton Terriers in the runner-up game the following day and won 1?0. They went 3?1 in the round-robin at the 2013 Royal Bank Cup and won their first Junior A national championship over the Summerside Western Capitals, becoming the first team to win the championship without either being the host or a regional champion.

They returned to the Western Canada Cup again in 2016 and 2017, winning the Western Junior A regional in 2017 and was the runner-up qualifier in 2016. They lost the 2017 Junior A national championship game in overtime to the Cobourg Cougars. The Western Canada Cup discontinued after the 2017 tournament and the AJHL qualified through the Doyle Cup again beginning in 2018. The Brooks Bandits were also selected as the host city for the 2019 National Junior A Championship. The Bandits then won the AJHL championship for a fifth time in 2019, but lost the Doyle Cup to the Prince George Spruce Kings in which both teams were also already qualified to advance to the national championship. Brooks then went undefeated in the championship tournament, winning the final game over the Spruce Kings 4?3, for their second Junior A national championship title.

2018-19 Season In Review

Coming into the 2018-19 AJHL season as impending hosts of the 2019 National Junior A Championship, the Brooks Bandits had a tall task to meet their expectations for the year. Despite having an automatic chance at a national title, the team?s pre-season talk revolved around not taking the ?easy? way in, or entering the tournament through the back door. This team wanted to earn its spot.

With third year Bandit Nathan Plessis as captain, as well as fellow veteran alternate captains Arnaud Vachon and Jake Theis bringing national championship experience from 2017 in Cobourg, the team seemed poised for a hot start to the year.

Then, the season opener came. Shocking pretty much all observers, the Bandits were wallopped 11-3 in Drumheller by their closest geographical rivals, the Dragons. It would eventually be called ?the best loss? the team had ever suffered, according to head coach Ryan Papaioannou. The team would only lose twice more for the entire regular season.

The Bandits won their next fourteen straight games, falling narrowly 4-3 in Spruce Grove in late October to snap the streak. Subsequent to that, they won 10 more straight games, only losing by another tight 4-3 margin to the Calgary Mustangs in late November. From there, the Bandits won out, winning their final 33 games of the season, shattering the previous record of 24. They finished the regular season campaign at 57-3, also the best record any team in the league had ever recorded, and became the first team in league history to go undefeated at home.

Goalie Pierce Charleson was named to the AJHL?s All-League team in his first year in the league, as was leading scorer William Lemay, who notched 90 points in 58 games to capture the league scoring title.

But all records reset as the playoffs loomed, and after a first-round bye, the Bandits faced a tough test with the Canmore Eagles as their first postseason opponent. Despite having swept Canmore in the regular season, and outscoring the Eagles 16-3 in the first two games of the series, the Bandits were stunned n overtime in Game 3, dropping a 3-2 decision, and needing overtime to beat Canmore in Game 4. But back at home for Game 5, the Bandits locked it down with a 4-0 win to advance to the division final.

For the third straight year, the Bandits and Oilers collided in the league?s semifinal round. In another twist, the Bandits? home ice winning streak came to an end in a 6-3 loss in game two, tying the series after a high-scoring 7-5 Brooks win in the first game. The Bandits dominated Game 3 in Okotoks 6-1, and Simon Gravel played overtime hero in Game 4, scoring less than five minutes into the extra frame for a 6-5 win to give Brooks a 3-1 series advantage.

Okotoks stormed back in Game 5, winning 3-2 to force a sixth game back in Okotoks. But a 23-save shutout from Charleson in Game 6 with goals from Lemay, Gravel, and Simon Boyko sealed the series and punched Brooks through to the AJHL Final.

After progressively tougher tests in the postseason, many expected the final round to be the Bandits? most difficult task of all. But to many observers? surprsie, the Bandits made short work of the North champion Spruce Grove Saints, sweeping the series in four straight games, including another decisive shutout victory in Game 4 when Charleson stopped all 22 shots he faced for a 2-0 victory.

The team then advanced to its second Doyle Cup series in franchise history, against the BCHL champion Prince George Spruce Kings. After dropping the first game at home, the Bandits won the next two at home, but fell in three straight in northern BC. However, the two teams had already qualified for the NJAC by virtue of Brooks being the host team. The true test was yet to come.

In front of a capacity crowd on May 11th, the Bandits played in their first national championship game on home ice. Fans were treated to an unexpectedly high-scoring game, with Oakville taking a 1-0 lead just eleven seconds into the match. Luke Bast and William Lemay scored 26 seconds apart to make it 2-1; Oakville then tied it again, and by the end of the first period the teams had exchanged seven goals, with Brooks holding a 5-2 lead en route to a 7-3 tournament-opening victory.

The Bandits took down the Manitoba champion Portage Terriers 5-3 the next night, slipped by the Ottawa Jr. Senators 2-1, then capped off the round robin portion with a 3-1 win over Prince George.

It meant the Bandits took on the fourth-seeded Ottawa Jr. Senators in the sudden death semifinal. Simon Boyko and Ray Christy scored for Brooks in the first, with William Lemay adding another early in the second for what looked like a commanding 3-0 lead. But Ottawa chipped away, and cut a 4-1 Bandit lead to just 4-3 before the halfway mark of the third period. But Brooks held on for the nailbiting win, earning a spot in the national final the following night.

May 19th, 2019 will without question go down as one of the most memorable dates in local sports history, as the Centennial Regional Arena was packed to the brim for the Bandits? third-ever national championship final, and their first in front of their home fans.

Across the way skated the Prince George Spruce Kings, who had stymied the Bandits in the Doyle Cup and represented their most stringent opposition of the year.

But the crowd of more than 2,400 clearly gave Brooks an early boost, with the energy in the building translating to an early 3-0 Brooks lead on goals from Simon Boyko, William Lemay, and Nathan Plessis. But much like the semifinal, the Bandits saw their lead become more and more tenuous as the game went on. The teams traded second period goals, but Prince George outshot the Bandits 14-5 in the third period, desperate to force an extra frame. A goal with 45 seconds left gave the Spruce Kings life, and cut the deficit to 4-3. But key shot blocks by the Bandits forced the final seconds to tick away, and the final buzzer was entirely inaudible, as an entire city cheered as one with a deafening roar as the Brooks Bandits were crowned 2019 national champions.

 

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