COCHRANE— Celebrating the hockey players aging out of the Cochrane Minor Hockey Association, Cochrane Rockies U18 athletes hit the ice for their final game of the season Tuesday (June 29) at the Cochrane Arena.
The game ended with the in-person presentation of the second annual Colby Sweet Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship is available to all third-year midget (U18) players registered in the Cochrane Minor Hockey Association.
The Yelnats Committee officially launched the Colby Sweet Memorial Scholarship in 2020 awarding it to Benoit Laporte. Bow Valley High School graduate Ethan Croft, 18, has been named the 2021 recipient of the $2,500 scholarship.
Croft said he started skating when he was four and has been on the ice ever since.
He was honoured to receive the scholarship, Croft said.
He added it was an especially exciting day for his team as they were able to play one last game of the season. Croft said they faced a challenging season as they were only able to play two games at the beginning of the year.
“I was glad we got to have one final game with everybody,” Croft said.
Croft will be attending Olds College in September and is grateful for the help the scholarship will provide as he begins his academic career.
Trevor Sweet, Colby’s father, worked with the Yelnats' Tournament Committee to launch the memorial scholarship in honour of his son.
“I had to do something I lost my son [Colby] last year in February. Cochrane was our home. Hockey was the major part of our lives, among school, family and other things, it was a major thing,” Sweet said.
Sweet and his family called Cochrane home for 28 years, before moving to Carstairs three years ago. His sons Dylan and Colby were immersed in Cochrane Minor Hockey and other sports growing up.
“Hockey was every year since they were tykes up to midgets,” he said.
He spent many years at the Cochrane Arena as a father watching his sons play hockey, hitting the ice himself as a player and even served as a Cochrane Minor Hockey coach.
Colby played in Cochrane Minor Hockey his entire grade school career, and Sweet felt working with the league was an important way to honour his legacy.
Sweet praised the league for raising funds through the Yelnats Tournament that are being put directly back into the community.
“This scholarship comes out directly from those funds … To support one of the graduating players from Cochrane,” Sweet said. “It’s very meaningful.”
Like Colby, Croft is going to post-secondary for heavy equipment operation.
“Among all of Colby's plethora of experiences he was a heavy equipment operator for a number of years. It just seemed to fit,” Sweet said.
Cochrane Minor Hockey plays an important role in the community and provides players access to a sport they love. Sweet said many of the players go on to play in the juniors, men's hockey or recreation leagues.
Sweet said it was great to see the Cochrane Rockies players back on the ice after a year of limited play due to COVID-19.
Sweet helped establish a year-end tournament 21 years ago for the midget league. It would later go on to become the Yelnats Midget Cup Tournament.
The event was created to celebrate graduating players and the rich experiences and fun they gained playing minor hockey in Cochrane.
While it was not possible to hold a traditional Yelnats Tournament due to COVID-19 public health measures in 2021, Sweet said, he was grateful to see a modified final game of the season.
“It’s super exciting. But, it’s almost a kind of sad note because the guys know it’s the last games of their minor hockey career,” Sweet said.