Strathcona’s Take Home GOLD at Exercise STRONG CONTENDER
Every year in the January timeframe, units of the Brigade and wider area gather to compete in a sports competition that is designed to foster the warrior spirit, develop camaraderie and stoke friendly rivalries. This competition, known as Exercise Strong Contender, allows the unit to “down-tools” on a rare occasion. In addition to competing in their year’s event, the Strathcona’s were given the task of organizing the exercise, slated for the week of 16-20 January. While Recce Squadron was assigned as the lead from within the Regiment, all sub-units contributed support staff and command team oversight as sport “champions’ of their respective sports.
Six sports were chosen for competition: Ice Hockey, Ball Hockey, Volleyball, Curling, Crossfit, and Indoor Soccer. Each sport was played at both the Major and Minor unit level, with the Strathcona’s rightly in the major unit category. Further, the Brigade Commander ordered that a Winter Warfare Military Skills competition be added for the first time to this exercise.
Nearly the entire Regiment fanned out in an effort to flood the venues and show our troops unparalleled support for the troops who would be sacrificing their bodies for the Regiment.
The Ice Hockey team, lead by Cpl Kevin Crowe and coached by WO Ernie Romanuik, won Gold versus 1 Service Battalion. In a heated final game, with the entire Regiment watching (along with a sizable portion of the entire Brigade) the team managed to overcome a 5 to 1 deficit at the end of the first period to tie 6-6 at the end of regulation time. The tension was palpable as the game progressed to sudden-death overtime. As the Strathcona team scored the winning goal, the arena erupted into celebration, with both players and spectators reveling in the hard fought victory. For his remarkable performance through the playoffs, Cpl Darryn Beatty was designated the hockey MVP for Strong Contender.
The Military Skills team, lead by Lt Connor Readman and MCpl Ryan Vigar, competed against the other major units of the Brigade on the coldest day of the year. Teams began the competition on the morning of the 18th, with a wind-chill factor of minus 47 Celsius. The eight man patrol marched for eight kilometers in full winter marching order, pulling a toboggan group across the majority of the Edmonton training area. The team participated in a first aid stand assessed by 1 Field Ambulance, winter warfare stand assessed by 1 Combat Engineer Regiment, and a Range shoot facilitated by 1 PPCLI to include barricade shoots across the majority of small arms platforms. The Strathcona team bested their peers in almost every component of the competition earning them the Gold medal, with 1 RCHA silver and 2 PPLCI bronze. MCpl Ryan Vigar was announced as the Event MVP.
The Soccer team, headed by Cpl David Brown, won Gold as well in its match against 2 PPCLI. A testament to their skill, the Soccer team won every game played during the competition. MCpl Jahjefendic performed exceptionally, scoring most of the team’s goals, while MCpl Jessie Patterson was deservedly awarded the Soccer MVP for the tournament because of his superb defensive and play-making skills.
Strathcona curling was given an unexpected surprise, as a Major Unit withdrew before the competition began, allowing two teams from the Regiment to compete. The skips were WO Leighton Hardy and Cpl Dave Hughes. Both teams medaled, gaining both the Silver and Bronze medals.
Two other teams earned Bronze medals for their exceptional grit and performance. The Volleyball team, lead by Capt Liz England, placed a very respectable third against stiff opposition from 2 PPCLI and 1 CER, while the Ball Hockey team, coached by MWO Rob Clarke and captained by MCpl Calvin Delisle, also walked away with the Bronze. Despite the fact that all ball hockey games were held off-base at the Griesbach Arena, Strathcona soldiers still filled the stands to cheer on their side in every match.
Even the Crossfit team, lead by Cpl Shaun Hogan, held their own against the other units of the Brigade, achieving a great fourth place finish in one of the most grueling events in the exercise.
Given the spectacular performance of Strathcona teams at this year’s event, it should come as no surprise that we won overall aggregate champions at the major unit level. This was announced at the closing ceremonies, which occurred immediately after the Gold medal hockey game. The last time we won aggregate champion was 2001, making this accomplishment all the more poignant. The Brigade Commander thanked the Regiment for a smooth and well-run competition, and Strathcona soldiers celebrated their collective success well after the Brigade was dismissed for the week.