This April, the City of Charlottetown will play host to the Esso Cup, Canada’s National Female Midget Championship, the latest in a string of major hockey events held in the Prince Edward Island capital.
Over the last decade, Charlottetown has proved the perfect host for two World Hockey Sledge Challenges, in 20, the 2008 Esso Women’s Nationals, 2006 TELUS Cup, and 2003 Royal Bank Cup.
“We’ve established a pretty good relationship with Hockey Canada through hosting these types of tournaments,” said Rob Newson, executive director of Hockey P.E.I. “These kinds of events fit into our plan. It’s quite obvious people in our region love hockey. There’s always a great volunteer base and passion for the game.”
Hosting a tournament showcasing the country’s top teams, or international entries, is a big deal for the island capital – Hockey Canada events naturally bring along an influx of visitors seeking hotel stays, restaurant meals and a dose of ever-friendly Canadian hospitality.
“(These) are all values that a Hockey Canada national championship brings to a community,” explained Dean McIntosh, director of marketing services and events for Hockey Canada.
“Anytime we host a Hockey Canada event, the economic spinoff will be there,” added Newson. “It’s nice to have at this time of year.”
While events like the Esso Cup are typically the cause of bustling hotels, restaurants and shops, they also generate a groundswell of community pride and excitement throughout the city.
And it’s that pride, and that excitement, that keep events coming back.
“A retrospective look at recent host communities shows that once a community hosts an event there is a desire by that community to host future events,” said McIntosh.“Summerside, Charlottetown, St. John’s, London and Camrose are all cities that have hosted more than one event in the last five years.”
Naturally, national tournaments also market the host city to the rest of the country.
Charlottetown has been fortunate to reap the benefits associated with major sporting events over the last decade, explained Wayne Long, the city's events development officer.
“Sporting events contribute significantly to our tourism industry as they fill our hotels, drive retail and dining expenditure and increase traffic flow to our city,” he said.
“April is typically a slow tourism season. It's imperative that we continue to attract events like the Esso Cup to fill the shoulder tourism season and drive traffic.”
While the national tourism industry as a whole has declined slightly, sport tourism continues to be one of the fastest-growing sectors within Canada's tourism industry.
Nation-wide spending in the sports tourism industry reached $3.6 billion in 2010, nearly a nine per cent increase from 2008 Statistics Canada numbers.
Within that industry, Charlottetown has become a leader, thanks to a host of ingredients.
History blends with hospitality and island charm to create an atmosphere hard to mimic anywhere else in the country.
There is no shortage of unique pubs and shops in the city’s quaint downtown core, but it is the East Coast spirit that convinces visitors, and Hockey Canada, to return again and again.
“We are well-positioned with all of the right elements to host sport events, from venues to hotels to volunteers,” Long said.
“When Charlottetown hosts events, the event becomes the city.”