Holiday hockey tournaments work to attract teams

Title: Holiday hockey tournaments work to attract teams
Date: December 28, 2012
Original Source: The Edmonton Journal
Synopsis: I am doing a short internship over the holidays at The Edmonton Journal. My latest piece was a short article on the struggles of tournament organizers to attract youth hockey teams at Christmas. This article appeared in the Dec. 29 edition of the Edmonton Journal.

EDMONTON – Traditionally, youth hockey ranks right up there with egg nog and mistletoe as a holiday staple, but in the past few years, local holiday tournaments have had trouble attracting teams during the break.

With youth hockey schedules becoming more arduous, with more travel throughout the season, some teams opt to use the two weeks off from competition as an actual break. Others are rendered thin from players and families taking off for vacation.

That doesn’t sit well with some local tournament organizers, who have continued with the long-standing tradition of Christmas tournaments in Edmonton.

“Christmas and hockey tournaments are synonymous,” said Bob Olynyk, the co-ordinator of the Edmonton Bantam Invitational Tournament.

The EBIT tournament has been going on for 33 years, and the organizers have had to adapt to the changing landscape by providing incentive for teams to come. The tournament tries to attract out-of-town teams by providing a liaison for local activities, such as Thursday’s Edmonton Oil Kings game, while trying to appeal to local teams by guaranteeing no team will play more than once on a given day. This means that teams can participate in the tournament while also making holiday plans around a smaller commitment.

The 18-team AA and AAA tournament has also given out roughly $70,000 in scholarships since 2004, including 17 $1,000 scholarships to be given out this year based on player interviews.

For the Bill Kurucz Midget Tournament, getting 18 teams would be a dream. Instead, the Midget AA tournament has just five teams enrolled this year. But at least they’re playing, which hasn’t always been the case. Despite the tournament’s 29-year history, the Canadian Athletic Club has been forced to cancel the event on multiple occasions in recent years.

“It’s tough to get teams at Christmas time,” said Gary Ash, the tournament chairman. “Coaches are in Hawaii or something like that. Teams are travelling more during the season and there’s more hockey played, so teams say they just need the break.”

If teams can make it work, though, there’s a definite benefit to playing. More hockey isn’t likely to hurt player development, and the tight time frame and abundance of ice time can be helpful.

“Teams normally have two weeks off at this time of year,” said Brad Hampel, the head coach of the CAC Midget AA team. “This allows the players to get on the ice during that time. Any tournament is also a great team bonding experience.”

The EBIT is taking place at the Callingwood Rec Centre Twin Arenas from Dec. 27 to Dec. 31, with the AA finals at 11:30 a.m. and the AAA finals at 2:30 p.m. on Monday. The Bill Kurucz Midget Tournament is taking place at the Canadian Athletic Club Arena from Dec. 27 to Dec. 30, with the finals taking place on Sunday at 1 p.m.

 

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