BROOKS, Alta. -- Prince George-Cariboo MP Todd Doherty has a replica of every jersey the Prince George Spruce Kings have ever worn.
As a former Spruce Kings president/scout/colour commentator, Doherty is one their biggest fans, but when he shows up next at the House of Commons in Ottawa he won't be wearing that familiar crown on his chest. The Kings' 4-3 loss to the Brooks Bandits Sunday in the 2019 National Junior A Hockey Championship means Doherty lost the bet he made with Bow River MP Martin Shields, a former Brooks mayor, and will don a Bandits jersey when the MPs are back in session.
"I had to wear (Doherty's) jersey in the last week in the House on the way up to that one," said Shields.
"Four other MPs had already worn my (Bandits) jersey in the House. I always was betting and wearing it."
Sporting a freshly-waxed handlebar mustache, Shields showed up for Sunday's final decked in a Don Cherry-worn red-checked blazer and Cherry-approved wide-collared shirt. He's lived in Brooks the past 40 years and served as city's mayor when it was still small enough to be considered a town.
Now a city of about 12,000, Brooks rounded up a small army of 160 volunteers for the nine-day tournament and by all accounts the organizing committee met or exceeded expectations hosting the Hockey Canada event. The Bandits did their part, too, becoming the fifth-straight host team to win the junior A national title.
The Hockey Fest events Brooks promoted included a rodeo, pancake breakfasts, a car show and nightly concerts.
"It's phenomenal in the sense that the community really got behind it," said Shields.
"We've been applying to do this for years, so to get it is great. That's what this level of hockey is about, the teams are usually in towns that will coalesce - it's their team - it's not like a major city. We had the Ottawa Junior Senators here. In Ottawa they didn't even know that team existed."
Shields was not surprised to see the Spruce Kings and Bandits meet in the final and was impressed with the action on the ice.
"They are skilled, they're fast and this is great hockey," he said.
"This is not what you might see in the professionals, these young guys are just out there giving it and it's great to watch.
"I think you would find that most people here, whether they're Brooks supporters or not, would believe these are the two best teams in the tournament. A bounce here and there and it could have gone much differently for either team.
"This is the hardest cup to win in Canada in any sport because of the number of teams - 133 teams at this (junior A) level," he said. "To get to it is a phenomenal achievement. Exhibition games started in August and we're at nine months. It's a long season."