SUMMERSIDE – A high-calibre international hockey event in Summerside is now less than two weeks away.
Six teams from five countries will compete in the fourth World Junior A Challenge at Credit Union Place from Nov. 1-8.
"One of the original concepts for all the countries was to use this as a development tool," said Paul Lake, chair of the Canadian Junior Hockey League. "Those (players) that are on the fringe of a World Junior team are getting tried here, and you'll see some of them graduate up to that program."
The IIHF World Junior Championship has become a Christmas-time tradition in Canada.
"This is our World Juniors," said City of Summerside event development officer JP Desrosiers. "From what I've gotten from (Hockey Canada president and CEO) Bob Nicholson and NHL Central Scouting, is that we're going to see hockey here that we've never seen here before. There have been about 60 players drafted from this tournament into the NHL."
Announced as host
It was announced during Game 3 of the Maritime Junior A Hockey League final series between the Summerside Western Capitals and Truro Bearcats on April 9 that the Prince County city was awarded the international event.
"Basically, we wanted to try and capitalize on the fact that Summerside has been known as the Mecca of Junior A (hockey) in the Maritimes," said Desrosiers. "At the end of the day, what's good for junior hockey in Summerside is good for junior hockey across Canada, so we wanted to share that."
A host committee, consisting of 30-plus members from all kinds of backgrounds and expertise, has been meeting regularly since June.
"It's been amazing to see the people in the city and different organizations pull together," said J Hammer, facilities supervisor at Credit Union Place. "We just did a tip-off-in-a-box (package), and that's for local businesses to get involved with the promotion of the event. They embraced it and we had 20-some boxes sold (in one night) and it was a tie-in with the Boys and Girls, and we're going to be sending over 200 kids to games."
It was also announced recently that, through a "substantial" sponsorship from Cavendish Farms, all 400-plus Summerside Area Minor Hockey Association players will receive a free tournament pass.
"Cavendish Farms was approached by Bruce Cameron, who is the president of (Summerside) minor hockey and works at Cavendish Farms, which is another neat thing about being from a small town," explained Desrosiers. "He heard we were looking for a sponsor to get all the minor hockey kids into the rink for nothing, and he took it upon himself to work with me to put a package together and sell it, and two days later we had an answer back from Cavendish Farms saying, 'Yes, we're in.’"