The Maritimes will be in the Canadian Junior A hockey spotlight this season.
Three MHL centres will host four major events, starting with the World Junior A Challenge in Yarmouth, N.S., from Nov. 5-11. The CJHL Prospects Games will also be held in conjunction with the World Junior A Challenge in Digby, N.S., on Nov. 10 and Yarmouth on Nov. 11.
Truro, N.S., is hosting the Fred Page Cup, the Eastern Canadian Junior A Championship, from May 1-5, with the winner advancing to the RBC Cup, Canada’s National Junior A Championship, in Summerside, P.E.I., from May 11-19.
“It’s the first time, I believe, that one league has hosted all four major events,” said MHL president Derryl Smith. “It’s big for the league. It gives us a lot of profile, especially after our rebranding a couple of years ago.
“It’s really caught on, the MHL and new logo, and to be able to market that through the rest of the country, and even internationally with the World Junior A Challenge, is pretty exciting.”
Wayne Hamilton, event co-ordinator for the World Junior A Hockey Challenge, said interest in the southwestern Nova Scotia town is growing every day and ticket sales are going very well.
“We are going to have a full house all the time,” said Hamilton. “We will have 1,500 people who appreciate good hockey.”
Hamilton added there are two major benefits of hosting this event.
“No. 1 is the exposure our minor hockey players and youth in the area are going to get, and it’s a hockey area,” he offered. “Even the adults are going to see a hockey tournament that they would normally not see, and the calibre of hockey of international teams. We just don’t see that in Yarmouth. That’s one big thing.
“The other thing, and probably just as important, is the economic spinoff. We are estimating $2.5 million in the first week of November. For a small town like Yarmouth, that’s quite significant.”
One thing visiting players, coaches, officials and fans can expect in Yarmouth, said Hamilton, is warm hospitality.
“The hospitality in Yarmouth is the same it is in any other Maritime town or city,” said Hamilton. “It doesn’t matter who you are, if you come into the Maritimes you are welcome in anybody’s home for a cup of tea and a cookie.
“You could get storm-stayed anywhere and our doors are always unlocked for you.”
Summerside, which hosted the 1989 Centennial Cup and 1997 Royal Bank Cup, will become the first host to stage the national tournament three times. The host Summerside Western Capitals lost the 1989 final to the Thunder Bay Flyers, and edged the South Surrey Eagles 4-3 to win the 1997 title.
Thus, it’s no surprise the slogan, ‘The History Continues’ is featured on banners around the city.
“I can remember being a young kid watching the ’97 Royal Bank Cup, and seeing the impact that had on the community as a whole and community pride,” said host committee chairman JP Desrosiers. “It was the same in ’89, we went all the way to the final game.
“We want to touch on our history and continue it on to our new arena, and try to win in front of 4,000 people in May.”
The 2013 RBC Cup will be played in the Capitals’ state-of-the-art home rink, which features 3,500 seats and 10 luxury boxes. Summerside has also hosted the CJHL Prospects Game and 2009 World Junior A Challenge.
“It (the arena) provides an opportunity to the team and the city to bring in a large contingent of people to watch a Junior A hockey game, which is kind of an anomaly in compared to some of the other franchises across the country,” said Desrosiers, who added ticket sales and corporate support has been really strong. “We feel we offer a second-to-none experience for Junior A hockey.”
Desrosiers added 15 players from the ’97 host team have committed to attend this year’s tournament, and the host committee is planning to honour all Caps alumni.
It’s been a two-year project for Summerside general manager Pat McIver in assembling a competitive host team.
“Last year, we moved out some veteran guys and put some assets in place,” said McIver. “Some of them turned out, some of them didn’t. It gave us more flexibility to recruit players this year. We like where we are at right now, but we have some work to do for sure.”