WINNIPEG, MB - The Canadian Hockey Association announced that Hockey Manitoba has been awarded the 2002 Under 17 Hockey Challenge. The tournament will feature five regional Canadian teams and five international teams from to in Selkirk and Stonewall, Manitoba.
The Under 17 Program is an integral part of the CHA's Program of Excellence. The Under 17 Challenge gives players an opportunity to experience high calibre hockey event, while also preparing players for the National Under 18 Team and the National Junior Team.
Canada last held this event this past December/January in New Glasgow and Truro, NS, and hosted in Timmins and New Liskeard, ON in 1999-2000.
Canadian teams will represent Pacific, Western, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic regions. Five international squads will be on hand (Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Russia, USA). The format of the tournament is a round robin of five team pools, with the top two teams from each pool facing off in semi-finals.
"This is an important early step in our Program of Excellence, allowing our young players to be exposed to high-calibre competition," said Bob Nicholson, President of the Canadian Hockey Association. "The Under 17 Program leads to the National Under 18 Team and the National Junior Team in our Program of Excellence."
"We are very proud to have been selected by the CHA as the host and I know that everyone will be ready to welcome this world class event," said Tom Goodman, Chairperson of the Host Organizing Committee.
"This tournament is an unknown jewel in Canadian hockey," said George Ulyatt, President, Hockey Manitoba. "The event is the top minor hockey competition in the World. We are excited as a branch to be part of this."
Manitoba has hosted other major hockey events in the past with great success, such as the 1999 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.
The tournament features many of hockey's rising stars. The 2000 Under 17 Challenge in Timmins, ON included 20 of the 22 members of Canada's 2000 National Under 18 Team. The 2000 Under 17 event also included top 2001 NHL draft prospects Dan Blackburn (CAN), Ilya Kovalchuk (RUS), Duncan Milroy (CAN), Stephen Weiss (CAN) and Ryan Whitney (USA). Past Under 17 Challenges have included NHL stars such as Joe Thornton, Jarome Iginla, Radek Bonk, Mats Sundin and David Legwand.