Calgary racer Kyle Croxall excited for new, thrilling course design in Alberta’s capital

For the first time in the 14-year history of Red Bull Crashed Ice, the ice cross downhill event will be coming to Western Canada with Edmonton hosting the World Championship March 14, 2014.

Wearing skates and protective gear, racers will begin their treacherous descent at the Shaw Convention Centre, navigating an icy slope full of twists, drops and obstacles before coming to a stop in the river valley.

Christian Papillon, the Crashed Ice sport director, said Alberta’s capital culture fits perfectly with the sport.

“I know from people living there that this event sits perfectly with the culture and the people there. They will just freak out in a positive way and get their breath taken away by both the sport and the action,” Papillon said over the phone from Finland.

“I can’t wait. The track will be awesome. It’s always something to push the limit while staying on the safe side. In Edmonton, it will be a one-of-a-kind track I can tell you,” Papillon said.

City of Edmonton ready

Brad Ferguson, the president and CEO of the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, said he expects a large crowd, especially from neighbouring communities.Kyle Croxall, an Ontario native who now lives in Calgary and works as a firefighter, said from what he has heard about the track, it will be one of the steepest and fastest yet, but he awaits the challenge

Photo courtesy of Samo Vidic/Red Bull Content Pool

“We expect it to be kind of a regional draw from places like Fort McMurray, Grand Prairie, Red Deer and Calgary. Everyone is going to come in for this. Quebec, their numbers were somewhere around 100,000 that watched it on the final day live. It’s a pretty significant draw for any city to have,” Ferguson said.

Weather can often be an issue for outdoor competitions, but the middle of March is generally below freezing, but not too cold to deter spectators.

Ferguson noted that when Edmonton hosted the National Hockey League’s Heritage Classic in November 2003, fans still packed Commonwealth Stadium despite -25 C temperatures.

Ferguson added: “One of the great things about Edmonton is the community rallies around all festivals and events and what we’re going to be working on is activating parts of the city, specifically the downtown core. We’ll make sure all the bars and restaurants and entertainment facilities go full out, not just for one day, but for five days that surround this event.”

Racer’s perspective

Kyle Croxall, who grew up in Mississauga, Ont., now resides in Calgary and has been racing in the Crashed Ice series since 2008.

For the first time since 2006, Quebec City will not host the Crashed Ice World Championships. Sport director Christian Papillon said the goal is to switch between Quebec City and other locations every year.

Photo courtesy of Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content PoolThe 26-year-old grabbed first and second spots four years in a row from 2010-2013 and won the title in 2012. Croxall said he has learned this will be one of the steepest courses yet.

“Hopefully it’s not too cold in March in Edmonton,” Croxall said. “But it’ll be an awesome race and there will be a big crowd for sure. Anywhere in Canada I think there would be a big crowd out just like in Quebec City where there was like 100,000 or so. I’m excited for another one in Canada.”

Croxall, who works as a firefighter and also plays for the Okotoks Drillers in the Chinook Hockey League, an Albertan senior league, also expects to have a lot of friends and family watching live.

“There are so many hockey fans up there. I think there will probably be just as many people, the population is big enough and everyone is big into hockey. With the location in the river valley, I think it will get quite a few people,” Croxall said.

Sport director Papillon suggests the home of the Oilers will offer the Red Bull Crashed Ice a warm reception.

“People from Edmonton will really fall in love with the whole package,” Papillon said.

nhilts@cjournal.ca