The colours honouring the championship-winning Lacombe Rockets teams of years past may have disappeared from the bleachers of the Can Pak Arena 1, but on one young local goalie’s helmet, their legacy will live on.
The mask of Emma Douglas, a nine-year-old goaltender with the current Lacombe Rockets Atom C team, pays homage to the 1961 Western Canadian Hockey Championship-winning Rockets team.
Bearing a clipping from the front page of the April 26, 1961 edition of the Lacombe Globe, the helmet features the ‘61 Western Canadian Hockey Champions in all their glory, as well as the old school Rockets logo. The modern counterpart is on either side of the bottom of the predominantly blue mask – a design put together with the help of both the Lacombe and District Historical Society and Strand Media.
Sitting down with the Lacombe Globe on Tuesday afternoon to talk about her helmet, Douglas and her family said the design was both to give her inspiration and motivation on the ice, as well as to make sure the 1961 Rockets team was never forgotten.
“She mentioned something old. We’d always seen in the trophy case at the old Barnett Arena with all the old Rockets jerseys. It was a really cool logo, so if we could incorporate that, and then we remembered the cover of the Globe from 1961. We thought if we could find that picture…and a soon as she saw it, she said that’s exactly what we need,” said Jason Douglas, Emma’s dad.
Emma began playing organized hockey about four years ago, but her first taste of the sport was on the outdoor rink when her dad was trying to teach her older sister how to play, and she tagged along. Ironically, out of the two, Emma was the one to really take a liking to the sport, and she ended up entering at the initiation level.
While there’s no goaltenders at that level, her father describes her as always being “defensive-minded” and switching to playing between the pipes when she moved on to novice was a natural progression.
Her parents bought her “cheap” pads for the first year, but she stuck with it, attending various hockey tournaments and camps, including being invited to Hockey Alberta camps. Ultimately, it led to the point where they decided to take the “next step” by giving her helmet it’s own unique design.
“It was quite exciting,” Emma said, of her first tailor-made helmet. “I really liked the design of it.”
Her favourite part is the newspaper clipping of the 1961 Rockets team, which includes Clare Drake – the winningest coach in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) men’s hockey history, who led the University of Alberta Golden Bears to six University Cup championships and 17 Canada West conference championships. Drake died in May of this year at the age of 89, but was previously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the builder category in 2017, having impacted many coaches in the game, from Ken Hitchcock to Barry Trotz and Mike Babcock.
While she’s still just nine years old, one of her goals is to one day play for the University of Alberta Pandas, the female counterpart to the Golden Bears teams, giving Emma that extra tie in and bit of inspiration every time she steps on the ice.
“To do what they did, and to be riding bus every night to do it…that would’ve been something. Being a bus-riding hockey girl, it’s a bit of motivation,” said Jason Douglas. “As small as we are (in Lacombe), you can eventually achieve something, especially if you have the focus those guys did.”
The design was created over the course of two months by Mona Woods of Strand. Getting all the pieces for the design, however, proved to be the most difficult part, as the clipping and image used is 57 years old, and sealed by the historical society for its preservation and not meant to be handled by people.
Once Emma’s mom, Alicia Douglas, explained what it was for, though, they relented and scanned the image, sending it directly to Strand. They also had to get an old Lacombe Rockets decal from one of the alumni as well.
The work put into putting the helmet design together, however, was well worth it and has already received a lot of positive feedback.
“We’ve had councillors, the President of Strand, basically all the who’s who of the Lacombe hockey community thumbs-upping it,” said Jason Douglas. “It’s a tip of the hat to the archives and Mona Woods at Strand.
Still pursuing that dream of one day becoming a U of A Panda, it’s likely Emma will need another helmet before he minor hockey career is done. Plans to pay tribute to the City of Lacombe and its history through images of historic downtown, the murals and local symbols, including the old Barnett Arena which burned down.
For now, however, they’re happy with her first goalie mask and proud of the history it represents.
“It’s kind of the homage to the past,” said Jason Douglas.
“The run they went on was incredible – we hope it’s a team Lacombe hasn’t forgotten.”