The second annual Tim Horton’s Western Canada Pond Hockey Championship received overwhelming support from hockey lovers in the community and across Canada.
“The atmosphere was great. It went quite smooth considering the size of the tournament compared to last year,” said Tim Horton’s Western Canada Pond Hockey Championship Event Chair Alex Halat.
He added, “We’re getting notes from people as far south as Florida, and as far east as Nova Scotia, that they want to come and play next year.”
However, scheduling 85 teams to play throughout the tournament was a challenge.
“We did run into a couple of hiccups in terms of scheduling and ice, overall the response we’re getting has been overwhelming,” Halat said.
“The tricky thing is getting the schedule to work with traffic flow, and weight on the ice,” he said.
From Dec. 27 until Dec. 29 approximately 7,000 people were at the tournament each day, with 1,500 to 2,000 people on the ice at any time.
“It’s definitely got some traction, and hopefully, we continue to build on it,” Halat added. “All of the teams want to come back next year.”
On Dec. 28, attendees of the multiple-day tournament had the opportunity to meet and take photographs with Olympians Meaghan Mikkelson, and Ben Hebert.
“Overall, it went great,” Halat said.
“For the girls to see somebody to look up to like Meaghan Mikkelson was huge. Meaghan was amazing with the children, took hundreds of photos, even went around on a quad handing out hockey sticks to all of the kids,” he said.
This year, full games of ringette were added to the tournament.
“By adding ringette this year, we’re really starting to diversify who is playing in the tournament, and it looks like it’s going to grow next year,” Halat said.
While watching a ringette game, Halat had to ask the referee why they were not calling any penalties as the game was getting rough. The referee told Halat that’s just how the game is played.
“It’s cool to watch ringette and see how aggressive these girls are and how amazing of skating they are,” Halat said.
“It was a learning curb for me, I’ve played hockey my whole life, I’ve never really been a part of ringette,” he said.
Along with adding ringette this year, Halat heard feedback from attendees that they are interested in bringing curling to the tournament for next year.
It was important for Halat to take the aggression out of the game, although the win was important to a small per cent of teams.
“This tournament is here for fun, we wanted to take the competitive nature out of it,” Halat said.
“The first-day scores were 65-60, which is not normal in any sport other than basketball, and we realized we needed to have a two-pass rule,” Halat said.
Adding, “We had to change the rules the second day just so they were more in line with ringette rules, and that cut the scores down considerably.”
For Halat, a highlight of the Tim Horton’s Western Canada Pond Hockey Championship was not only watching the games but seeing all of the young children enjoy the game and skate around.
After seeing the young children skating around the rinks while their older siblings played, Halat was inspired to make the pathways between the rinks larger next year.
Instead of having 10-foot spacing in between the rinks, Halat wants to make 20-foot spaces to create additional room for people who don’t play hockey but can skate around and enjoy the tournament.
“That really opens it up to everybody in the city regardless if they play hockey or not,” Halat said.
Without the support of the community and everyone who volunteered, the second annual Tim Horton’s Western Canada Pond Hockey Champion wouldn’t have been possible.
“A huge thank you to the folks in the community who came out to showcase what Chestermere has to offer to the rest of Alberta and the rest of Canada,” Halat said.
“None of this wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for all of the folks who came and helped out from the set-up to the event, to the teardown,” he said.
Adding, “We have some amazing people in the community who banded together to pull off such a cool event, and to help such a noble cause.”