Nearly one year ago, Airdrie's hockey community came together after the tragic loss of Ryan Couling for the inaugural Ryan Couling Memorial U18AA Hockey Tournament. The tournament hosted four local hockey teams who played not only to remember Ryan but also to uphold the legacy of a beloved local athlete. This year, that legacy is continuing.

Starting on Thursday, December 28 and running till December 30, the second annual Ryan Couling Memorial U18AA Hockey Tournament will take place at the Ron Ebbesen Arena. Cameron Davies, the tournament's coordinator said the number of hockey teams has expanded, doubling last year's teams.

"I think it's a really big deal. We are excited this year to announce that we have a team coming from Yellowknife, as well as we have a few other teams coming from our Northern Alberta AA league."

Teams playing in the tournament this year include:

  • Airdrie Lightning
  • Beaumont Hockey
  • CNHA Gold
  • Yellowknife Carls
  • Lloydminster Blazers
  • KC Colts
  • Olds Grizzlys
  • Wheatland Chiefs

Davies said that looking back at the time that has passed, he said that this year's emotions are slightly different, but the goal of the tournament has remained the same - to remember Ryan Couling and honour not only the athlete but also recognize the young man's fight with cancer.

Davies underlined the tournament is free to attend and encouraged not just die-hard hockey fans to turn out, but for everyone to come together to be part of a tournament that is about more than just netting goals.

"We've maintained the philosophy that all the money that we raised from the teams for this tournament; after paying the ice costs and the referee costs etc., we would return some of those fees to charity [Fibrolamellar Cancer Foundation], and retain a little bit for next year to keep things going," Davies explained. "We really encourage people to come out and watch some great hockey." 

All proceeds from a 50/50 raffle will be donated to the Fibrolamellar Cancer Foundation; especially poignant as Ryan was diagnosed with Fibrolamellar Carcinoma. 

"Our goal is for next year to host up to 16 teams and just continue to grow this tournament for not only Ryan, and his family but also for their dream and the Airdrie community, to have teams from across the country coming to our city."

Davies extended thanks to various partners including Cam Clark Ford for sponsoring player gifts in support of the tournament.

Ryan's father, Garry Couling said that while the support for the tournament is overwhelming, it hasn't surprised him, knowing the hockey community the way he does. 

"Ryan was well respected. In a way, it is overwhelming, because it is only the second year," he said.

When asked whom his son would be cheering for in the tournament, Couling replied there was no doubt in his mind he'd be cheering his home team on - the Airdrie Lightning.

The opening night of the tournament will feature a special dedication ceremony to Couling. The Airdrie Lightning will be taking on the Yellowknife Carls as the opening game of the tournament at 4:45 p.m. on December 28. 

Couling played for Airdrie Minor Hockey Association teams growing up and was a member of the Airdrie Lightning U18 AA boys’ hockey team for three seasons. He was diagnosed with Fibrolamellar Hepatocellular Carcinoma (FHC) – a rare form of liver cancer in April 2021. He fought the disease for 19 months before passing away. 

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