Duane Haakstad was one of the North West Junior Hockey League originals.
For over 10 years he was involved in the Junior B league in various roles on the league executive and as one of the volunteers with the Sexsmith Vipers.
He remembers well why the league was started.
“A team from Sexsmith/LaGlace was an awesome midget team and played Dawson Creek in a playoff at the end of the year,” he said. “All the games were close.
“At one of the last games someone said it was a terrible shame that this would be it for the boys playing together. A few phone calls and it (the NWJHL) started.”
The first meeting was held in Sexsmith in 1994 and the first group of organizers included Haakstad, representing Sexsmith; Dennis Haugland of Grande Prairie; Gord Reed and Harvey Pratt of Dawson Creek; and Bob Derker of Slave Lake. Reed was appointed league president.
The league was made up of the Grande Prairie Wheelers, Sexsmith Vipers, Dawson Creek Junior Canucks and the Slave Lake Wolves.
The first NWJHL game was played in the fall of 1994. Slave Lake won the championship that year and Grande Prairie and Sexsmith met in the provincial Junior C championship, won by Sexsmith.
The first NWJHL All Star Game was held in Sexsmith that first season.