Maria Brazda has seen it before.
And, she expects to see it again next week at the U18 Canadian women's hockey championships at the Strathcona Paper Centre in Napanee.
"A lot of hockey dads will be picking their jaws up off the ground when they see the calibre of hockey these girls play," says Brazda, president of the Napanee Crunch girls hockey club. "A lot of people don't give girls hockey the respect it deserves. But their eyes and ears will open next week when their daughters tell them they want to play hockey too."
The Crunch boasts about 160 players and eight rep teams and Brazda says she expects the week-long U18 tournament to boost numbers even higher in the future.
"This tournament will be so huge for local girls hockey I don't even know how to describe it," says Brazda. "For girls who watch the tournament, it's something they can set their sights on and they can see that playing in a national championship can be done."
Tournament officials spoke to members of the media Tuesday during a press conference at the SPC.
Stephen Paul, economic development manager for Lennox and Addington County and the tourney's marketing manager, said Napanee submitted a bid for the event one year ago. The 2007 U18 tournament was held in Kitchener.
"The first step was partnering with the Ontario Women's Hockey Association and the Town of Napanee and we got the go-ahead in the winter and moved forward from there," said Paul.
"Napanee is a great hockey town and has a really strong girls hockey program in the Crunch and this venue (SPC) allows us to do these kinds of things."
The main rink at the SPC twin pad facility seats 1,000 and Paul expects it to be full for the feature game of the tournament opener -- next Wednesday at 8 p. m. when Ontario Blue meets Ontario Red.
"Ticket sales are going well and we're getting orders from Napanee, Belleville, Kingston and across Canada from family and friends who are tied to a certain team," said Paul. "We also expect the walk-up crowd to be a big percentage of sales although we'd recommend people buy medal round tickets in advance."
Kevin Hill, director of parks and recreation for Greater Napanee, said organizers are aiming to sell 750 ticket packages. As of Tuesday, he said, 110 were left.
"Our operating budget is about $165,000 and we're optimistic we'll meet it when the first puck drops next week," said Hill. "Girls hockey is huge in the Belleville, Napanee and Kingston regions and we're sure we'll sell it out."
Eight provincial teams will compete in the five-day tournament which concludes with the gold medal game Sunday at 1 p. m. to be broadcast live on TSN.
Ontario ices two squads, both playing out of Pool A along with Team Atlantic and Saskatchewan. Pool B includes Alberta, B. C., Manitoba and Quebec.
Round robin games go Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a. m.-8 p. m. with playoffs taking place Saturday from 10 a. m.-7 p. m.
Last year in Kitchener, Ontario Red beat Quebec in the championship final.
Paul said all eight teams are staying in hotels in Belleville and will be bussed to Napanee each day during the tournament.
"The economic spinoff in the Belleville, Napanee and Kingston area will be about $300,000," said Paul.
He said the women's U18 tourney marks the beginning of ambitious plans for Napanee to host one major national sports event every two years.
"We already have a bid in for the Ontario men's curling championships," said Paul. "We have a great venue here, we have great support from council, the community and sponsors, and we're researching to find out what's best for our community."
Napanee mayor Gord Schermerhorn said the town will benefit greatly from the national exposure provided by a Canadian championship.
"We've often felt left out, being between two cities the size of Belleville and Kingston, and something like this can only make us more visible," said Schermerhorn. "It certainly can't do anything but benefit our community. We're excited and looking forward to the tournament."
Schermerhorn counts himself among those 'hockey dads' described by Brazda who was pleasantly surprised by his first exposure to women's hockey.
"I used to play a lot of hockey and I'm quite impressed with the women's game," he said. "This will be an eye-opener for some people to see how good women's hockey is."
Tournament officials said the event will also include a Fanfest Tuesday from 5:30-6 p. m. on the SPC parking lot, a Kid's Fun Zone, laser shows and a hockey school program with children from local schools attending games and practices. On Tuesday and Wednesday, players from various provincial teams will visit Napanee schools to eat breakfast with students.
"They'll be able to talk hockey over a bowl of cereal," said Paul.
Tournament ticket packages are selling for $70 and $50. Single game tickets are $5 for prelims, $8 for playoff games and $10 for the medal matches.
Tickets can be purchased by calling 613-354-4423.
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