Sports & Recreation

The people of Calling Lake have always enjoyed playing together. We can boast our share of talented athletes, competitive teams and remarkable events in a variety of sports, including hockey, baseball, sailing and martial arts.

No matter when they came or from where, the people of Calling Lake have always engaged in games and sporting activities. Many of those activities took advantage of the joys offered in and by the great outdoors.

Researchers tell us that traditional games played by First Peoples across what is now western Canada included lacrosse, a game invented by Indigenous peoples as far back as the seventeenth century. Canoe racing also owes its roots to Indigenous cultures. Other traditional games included tug-of-war and hide-and-seek; running and playing hard prepared youth for hunting, as did playing with toy bows and arrows and peashooters. In another game, snow goose, one boy would swing a wooden or stone target around in the air as others tried to hit or catch the target while sitting or kneeling.

Were those games and more played here? Did the games evolve as European fur traders and other voyageurs found their way to Calling Lake, whether for the trapping or fishing season or to live? If we were to go back to those times, what would we find folks doing for fun? Perhaps our Elders can help us learn more.

Organized sport in Calling Lake as we think of it today has developed within the past 100 years. Softball, baseball and ice hockey migrated into the community with settlers and others who came to work or live, be it for a short time or a lifetime. As numbers swelled and more folks homesteaded near enough to gather, compete and return home in a day, facilities were cobbled together, from ballfields to indoor recreation centres.

Ball teams and hockey teams came together as well, using men, women, boys and girls to fill the rosters for fun, and for competition. Once Calling Lake got more world class facilities, we used them to attract adults and kids alike off the street, so to speak. What better place to hang out than at the rec centre, the hockey rink or the ball diamond.

As we hunt and gather our sport history, we are learning of talented individual athletes, competitive teams and remarkable events. Our school sport history has its own highlights, including accomplishments in track and field. Events of note include our Annual Bannock Cup and Elite Hockey camps as well as an Australian Indigenous hockey group hosted in 2020. Community claims to fame include “arms for hire,” as other teams borrowed our talent to improve their chances in tournaments. Ball pitcher Dick Nipshank comes to mind, and he is not alone.

We have heard tales of boxing, wrestling, football, sailing, skiing, swimming and more. Of impromptu games, including some passed down from earlier days, such as anti-I-over, murder ball (dodgeball with a twist), scrub (stickball), road hockey, boxing and other martial arts. And of course, hunting and fishing, summer or winter, whether for fun, profit or competition.

If you have any memories, photographs or artifacts to contribute, please contact the history committee.

Share your sport memories

We invite you to help round out what we know about the history of sport and recreation in Calling Lake. Were you or someone you know on some memorable winning teams? Did you help build some sports facilities, indoors or out? Can you tell us about homemade toys and games used in decades past? (For example, we’ve heard that children played with a toy made of antlers and leather string, and we’re wondering if that might be similar to “ring the stick,” a game using a willow stick attached to a hoop.) Do you have some favourite sport photographs?

Please share what you have in your attics and memory banks with the folks who have volunteered to lead the hunt for our sporting past:


Softball and baseball, fast pitch or slow, Calling Lake has played it all. We love our ball, as do many communities in the north

Double R Rangers in Widewater, where they took top prize. From left, top row: Gerald “Bimbo” Courteriell, Dave Newman, Ricky Cardinal, Brian Nipshank, Randy Auger, Bernie Cardinal, Elmer Nipshank. Bottom: Spencer Cardinal, Russ Cardinal, Randy “Jaybird” Jacobs, Johnny “Stubby” Cardinal, Marvin Nipshank, Gerald Johnson

The Double R Rangers played from 1981 until 2005 or thereabouts, sponsored by the Double R sawmill, then a top employer in Calling Lake. Kids and entire families teamed up to make it all happen, be it Wednesday night practice or weekend tournaments, be they in Calling Lake or other places near or not so near. Kids watching the games could earn a quarter for fetching foul (and homerun) balls or empty cans. What’s more, the players became their heroes, positive role models.


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Boxing & wrestling

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Interest in football has waxed and waned a bit, with interest growing when strong role models lend a hand. Cameron White, who played for University of Calgary football team, involved kids in high school football at Athabasca for a few years while teaching here. MD Opportunity staff members such as Angie Lightning and Kevin Prather arranged to take Calling Lake kids to Wabasca multiple times one year for coaching by Al Gladue. After practising long and hard, they played a game in Fort Saskatchewan.


Each year since 1993, Indigenous teams across Alberta have traveled to Edmonton to play for the Alberta Native Provincial Hockey Championships, a Hockey Alberta sanctioned event. Coaches must be certified, which helps with development, and players can register for just this one tournament. Calling Lake has participated since about 2001; as in many other communities, kids keep this tournament in their sights all winter as they play shinny or pond hockey and attend camps and clinics. At times, communities share players to give everyone a place on a team – and to fill their own rosters or snag some top talent. This 2015 championship team played under the Calling Lake banner, with about half of these kids from Calling Lake. One might call it our coming out of winter each spring.

Around 2010, Calling Lake began hosting the Bannock Cup for the community. It’s “all hands on deck” for the Bannock Cup. Kids and adults, guys and gals get involved – as players, referees, concession workers and more. What started as a tinfoil-wrapped cup is now a replica Stanley Cup, but make no mistake it is the Calling Lake Bannock Cup. In January of 2020 an Indigenous team from Australia came to challenge for the cup, and a great time was had by all. This picture is one of hundreds in our archives celebrating our community time with “The Bannock Cup.”


The Calling Lake Sailing Club launched in 1979 and is still a going concern. Incorporated under the Societies Non-Profit Act in 1981, it signed its first (21-year) lease on April 2, 1986 with Alberta Energy and Natural Resources. Its building was completed September 1991 and opened by Mike Cardinal. It’s said that Jim Ennis’s “Enterprise” was the first sailboat on Calling Lake; it was still operational in 2023. To add your memories and photos about the club, contact Chris Provencher at or drop a note to the Calling Lake History Committee at


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Facilities & Equipment

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Calling Lake Sports Timeline

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A project of the Calling Lake Community Society

Land Acknowledgement

Recognizing that we are all equally responsible to know our shared history and journey forward in good faith, we acknowledge with respect that Calling Lake stands on land, and alongside water, where Indigenous peoples have gathered, hunted, fished and held ceremonies from time immemorial.

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