March 1, 2022
Fifty years ago this month, the first interprovincial college hockey championship was held in Winnipeg, Manitoba and the winner was a team that played in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
On December 17, 1970, the 4-West Conference was founded with the primary purpose of organizing and administering championships involving the championship teams from the college conferences of the four western provinces in basketball, volleyball and hockey.
Unlike its successors, the inaugural 4-West Hockey Championship in March of 1972 showcased conference champions from two of the four provinces - Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
At the time, colleges from British Columbia were competing in the Pacific Intercollegiate Hockey League (PIHL) which featured teams from both sides of the international border. For the 1971-72 season, Cariboo College of Kamloops (along with Alaska Methodist University of Anchorage) debuted in the PIHL. The Chiefs earned the right to represent British Columbia at the interprovincial competition by virtue of their hockey superiority over the other teams with two year college programs.
In Alberta, Lethbridge Community College (which had cut its intercollegiate programt to focus on intramurals) objected to the right of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) to send its own champion to the 4-West Championships and requested that independent college teams have the right to challenge the conference champion to determine who would represent the province at the interprovincial event. After some debate, conference members decided that the ACAC would establish procedures to determine the provincial representative through a playoff structure.
Mount Royal College had competed in ACAC hockey through the 1968-69 season. After playing in the Highwood League during the 1969-70 campaign, the Cougars moved to the Alberta Junior Hockey League where they finished third in the 1970-71 regular season and placed first in the 1971-72 regular season.
Mount Royal did not participate in the 1971-72 Alberta Junior Hockey League playoffs and issued a challenge to play the ACAC champion. The Cougars then downed the NAIT Ookpiks at the Edmonton Gardens to move on to the 4-West Championships.
The Mount Royal College Cougars shaded the Red River College Rebels 3-2 to earn the championship banner while the Cariboo College Chiefs won the consolation final with a 4-1 victory over the Saskatchewan Technical Institute Beavers. In the semi finals, the Cougars tripled the Chiefs 12-4 while the Rebels tamed the Beavers 6-4.
In the fall of 1972, Cariboo relocated to the Totem Conference and Mount Royal rejoined the ACAC. The Cougars then won the next two 4-West Hockey Championships before the Camrose Lutheran College Vikings became the first representative from the western provinces to advance to nationals in 1975.
While the final 4-West Hockey Championship took place in 1980 at Winnipeg with the Red Deer College Kings coming out on top for the third time in four seasons, the competition between representatives from the four western provinces continued in sports which did not have a national championship for a few more years.