Our History

Alberta Junior Hockey Scholarship Program

The AJH Scholarship program began as an idea. To establish a scholarship program for Junior A level hockey players to assist them with funds to continue on to higher education.

The program began in early 1980 with the formation of a scholarship committee chaired by then AJHL vice president Bob Russell. He was joined by Ton Haynes and Don McCombie. The three committee members researched various types of post secondary education, talked to other scholarship granting institutions, and reviewed current tuition costs.

One of the objectives of the program was to provide an incentive for league players to remain in the province of Alberta, and remain as an active player in the league.

The four page recommendation included eligibility, criteria for assessing scholarships, and set out some procedural suggestions for the league.

At the time, the AJHL had limited operating funds, and it was proposed that the chair of the committee meet with various government officials to explore the possibility of working with the already existing Alberta Heritage Scholarship program. The committee suggested that we would be prepared to consider a shared scholarship program.

During the following year, meetings were held with officials of Advanced Education and the Alberta Heritage Scholarship branch, and on November 02, 1982 the league presented a proposal to the Alberta Students Finance Board for a cost sharing program for five scholarships valued at $650.00 each. The Heritage Scholarship branch provided $500.00 and the AJHL provided $150.00 towards the 5 scholarships. As part of their proposal, the AJHL made a commitment to deposit $5000.00 per year until a fund of $25,000.00 was established to guarantee the league’s share of the jointly funded scholarship.

Through negotiations with the Student Finance Board, it was decided the Charles S. Noble Scholarship program offered the most flexibility for the cost sharing program, and an agreement was entered into which was presented to the Board in early 1983.

On June 09, 1983, the Honorable Dick Johnston, Minister of Advanced Education for the Alberta government, wrote the AJHL, confirming that our application had been approved. Mr. Russell then worked with Mr. Leon Lubin, the Director of the Heritage Scholarship Program to design application forms, and develop selection criteria. Mr. Russell also worked with the private business sector to secure initial funding for the league’s portion of the program. It is noteworthy that Mr. Denis Reidy of Carling O’Keefe Breweries in Calgary made the first donation of $500.00, and Mr. Riedy assisted Mr. Russell in soliciting additional funds.

The first awards of the Charles S. Noble Scholarships were made in 1984, when three players qualified. Subsequently, the program became so popular that it became apparent that the maximum of 5 scholarships would not meet the demand. Also at this time, the Alberta Heritage Scholarship branch decided that the cost of the joint program should be equally shared by both the government and the AJHL.

The executive committee of the AJHL reached a decision that the scholarship committee would have to raise money from other than corporate donations if they were expected to expand the scholarship program, and it was decided to form a non-profit society, and apply for permission to operate a casino in the province of Alberta.

On August 01, 1985, the Friends of Alberta Junior Hockey Society was formed and registered with Alberta Corporate and Consumer Affairs, and Bob Russell of the St. Albert Saints was shown as the president, and Bob Campbell of the Fort McMurray Oil Barons was shown as the secretary treasurer. The society wishes to acknowledge the work that Mr. Campbell did in forming the new Friends of Alberta Junior Hockey Society.

Mr. Russell met with the Alberta Gaming Commission to discuss the possibility of operating a casino. The Commission informed Mr. Russell that they would prefer to have the new society operate a raffle as our first fund raising event authorized by the Commission.

The raffle was applied for, and granted by the AGC, and all eight league members at the time participated. While it was a financial success, it was only through a great deal of work and efforts of a few that we were able to distribute and eventually sell and collect all the tickets. A profit of $4200.00 was accumulated.

On March 11, 1988, the “Friends” applied for, and were granted permission to operate a casino, and expand the number of scholarships available to players in the AJHL. Eligibility was to be similar to that set out for the Charles S. Noble Scholarships, with the hope that we would be able to award up to eight scholarships to players attending high school, entering university, college, technical colleges, and other recognized post secondary institutions in the province.

At this time, the society elected Mr. Harry Zuzak from Sherwood Park, and past Chairman of the Board of the AJHL as the new secretary treasurer. Mr. Bob Russell continued on as the president, and other board members were the Chairman of the board of the AJHL, and the president of the AJHL. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Bob Green and Mr. Trevor Gough joined the board of directors of the Friends of Alberta Junior Hockey Society. Subsequently, a decision to separate the secretary treasurer position into 2 positions took place, with Harry Zuzak remaining as secretary, and Mr. Larry Burden joined the board and took on the treasurer position. Mr. Burden remained on the board until December 31, 2004, and upon his retirement, Mr. Gough took over the treasurer position.

The ability to hold a casino provided additional funds for the Friends society. As we are a provincial wide organization, we were granted casinos approximately every two years, alternating between the cities of Edmonton and Calgary. The volunteer manpower to operate the casinos was provided by the teams in the areas where the particular casino was being held.

In 1989, the “Friends” Scholarships were established as follows:

A standard scholarship valued at $500.00 was first established , then increased over the years to $750.00, then to $1000.00 and currently sits at $1500.00. In addition to the standard scholarship, there was a special memorial scholarship, called the Richard Warwick Memorial scholarship established. It was initially valued at $650.00, and subsequently raised over the years to $1000.00, and it now currently sits at $2000.00. In 1996, the Al McDonald Memorial Scholarship was established, set at $650.00, and also subsequently increased to $1000.00 and it also now sits at $2000.00. In 2002, the Nickerson Family Memorial scholarship was established, set at $1000.00, and it also currently sits at $2000.00.

Also in 1989, the values of the Charles S. Noble scholarships were increased, and they currently sit at $2000.00 each, and are still jointly funded by the Friends of Alberta Junior Hockey Society and the Alberta Heritage Scholarship Foundation. In 2000, the number of Charles S. Noble scholarships available was increased from 5 to the current 10, and also in 2000, one of those 10 scholarships was named  the Mark Goodkey Memorial scholarship. It is awarded to the student with the highest academic standings of all Charles S. Noble applicants. Mark was a former member of the Fort Saskatchewan Traders.

The Friends society, in addition to the scholarships they provided over the years, and the joint venture with the Alberta Heritage Scholarship foundation, received permission from the gaming commission to assist the AJHL with supplementing $5000.00 a year towards the referee costs, and in addition, putting forward $3500.00 a year towards some of the All Star game and banquet costs. Originally, the scholarships were handed out at the All Star game.  Both of these 2 programs have been deleted over the past few years, and now all casino funding less a small administration cost is directed towards scholarships.

On July 06, 1990, the AJHL passed a resolution recommending that the Friends establish a Foundation for their program, where non gaming funds could be deposited with the hope that the foundation fund would eventually be established which would be sufficient to pay some scholarships from the interest earned by the funds in the foundation account.

In 2001, a contribution to the fund was a $30,000.00 donation from the Fort McMurray Oil Barons Royal Bank Cup proceeds. In making this donation, the Oil Barons asked that a new scholarship be established in the name of the Nickerson Family. Dr. Nickerson and family were valued members of the Oil Baron organization. and the scholarship was established in memory of Mrs. Mary Nickerson, wife of Dr. Nickerson. In 2005, another donation to the fund was a $37,000.00 donation from the Grande Prairie Storm Royal Bank Cup proceeds. In tis case, a number of scholarships over the years were named the Grande Prairie Storm RBC Legacy Scholarships.

The Alberta Gaming Commission casinos have been a great source of revenue for the scholarship program. The first few casinos only earned the society about $15,000.00 per casino, and the society ran the risk of losing money, so we had to purchase “no-loss” insurance, At the initial casinos, the society also had to provide the float necessary to open the casino. Finally, the AGLC changed the policies, and started the pooling program which is still in effect today, and results in a much better financial position for our casinos. Today, profits from a casino can be in the $75,000.00 to $85,000.00 range.

In 2001, the Friends society made an application for registration as a Canadian Charity and this turned out to be a prolonged and difficult task. Our first application was denied, and only after much paperwork involving amendments to our objectives and bylaws were we finally approved, on April 05, 2002. We now have a Canada Revenue charitable tax number. This will allow us to provide a CRA approved tax receipt for a donation to our program from individuals or corporations. Todate, we have not actively followed up on this fundraising avenue, but there are plans to do so in the near future. The receipt of the Canada Revenue tax number ( 10189-4277-RR001} and our Alberta registered society status comes with a number of additional financial reports that have to be generated each year to keep our status current.

The operation of a casino is a large portion of the manpower hours put in by our volunteers in our organization. A casino now requires manpower for a 2 day period from 11:00am to about 03:30am each day. Because of the rotation between Edmonton and Calgary, and the widespread locations of our volunteers, this requires a great deal of organization and co-ordination by the casino chairperson. The directors of the Friends Society make up a large part of this manpower requirement, and we also depends on the general membership of our society to assist us. We require overage for about 20 shifts each day. Another major role of our directors is the investing of our assets to allow us to make as much additional investment money as possible. The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission is very strict upon where any lottery monies can be invested and spent. We do however have additional accounts of our own money, and those funds are presently invested in GIC and Mutual funds. A constant and regular review is taken.

In 2004, an additional scholarship was added, that scholarships for team therapists/team trainers be added to the Friends of Alberta Junior Hockey Scholarship program. These were valued at $1500.00

In 2012, an additional scholarship was added to the program for on ice officials. These were valued at $1500.00

In 2005, some of the rules for eligibility for applicants for the Friends scholarships was reviewed, and changes were made so that an applicant who was attending a post secondary school in Alberta, but had already reached the age of 20 whereby he was not able to play junior hockey in the AJHL, could still apply for a scholarship. The basic rule is that for every year a player played with a junior team in Alberta, he would be eligible to application for an equal number of years beyond the age of 20. A year of junior hockey played had to be at least 30 games in the season.

Since the inception of the scholarship program and up until 2007, the scholarships had generally been awarded at the All Star game of the AJHL. With the increase in number of applicants over the years, many of the scholarship receipients were not at the All star game, and as a result had their awards mailed to them. It was felt by the society, that we would get a much “bigger bang for the buck” if we made the award presentations at a home game of the team that a award winner played for. This proved to be an unqualified success over the succeeding years, as the winners were presented with their cheques at a on-ice pregame ceremony. A short script was prepared in advance to give to the public address announcers outlining the accomplishments of the winner, and the value over the years of funds that our society had awarded to the numerous winners. This also allowed the winners to have pictures taken at the ceremony, and give the ceremony some newspaper exposure. This procedure still applies today, and has allowed us to place numerous photos onto our website.

2008 saw some changes in the directors of the society. After 28 years as President of the Society, Mr. Bob Russell decided it was time to step down, and Mr. Bob Green was elected as President of the Friends Society. In Addition, Don Allan took on the job as Treasurer. Harry Zuzak remained as Secretary, and directors elected to the board in 2008 were Bob Clark Craig Cripps, and Bernie McCracken, with Bob Russell remaining as past president. The Chairman to the Board for the AJHL, Mr. Greg Wood was named as Honorary Chairman.

in 2010, the society was noticing a fairly significant drop in the number of scholarship applications, and in particular in the past 2 years the number of applicants for the Charles S. Noble scholarships. There were only 4 applications for the 2010 year. The Friends had just over 20 applications in the 2010 year. This was the turning point in how and to whom the society awarded scholarships. Up until this point in time, we had only been awarding scholarships to Junior A players from the AJHL teams. A review was conducted, and it was found that the scene over the years had changed dramatically, and fewer and fewer players in the AJHL were able to attend post secondary institutions due to the heavy travel and practice schedule of the Junior A teams. As a result, a steady decline in eligible applicants. We had to change, and the rules of the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission showed that all junior hockey players were eligible for scholarships under our program. Hence, the first scholarship was awarded to a Junior B hockey player from Okotoks. This change generated an increase in applications for both programs.

As a result of opening up all junior hockey players to be eligible for the Friends and Noble scholarships, this has also moved our society away from the close ties that we had with the AJHL, and a change in the way our society would operate. We now have a FriendsofAJH.com website, and we have our application process streamlined to where all applications are completed and filled in on line. We have regular communications with all levels of Junior Hockey in Alberta, from the Junior A, B, and C programs as well as the female junior hockey program.

In 2015, the now wide open to all junior hockey players saw our Charles Noble application increase to 44 applications for 10 scholarships, and the Friends applications rose to 98 applications where we gave out 38 scholarships.

2019 saw a change in the Charles S. Noble Scholarship. After a review by the Alberta  Student Aid department, the name of the scholarship program was changed to the Alberta Junior Athletic Award.  The first scholarships awarded in this name will be in January of 2020.