The puck drops today for the new-look Tournament of Champions at five area arenas.
Week 1 of the two-weekend event puts 36 teams on the ice in four categories covering two age groups — atom and peewee — at Brandon’s four arenas, plus Rivers.
One of the highlights on the local hockey calendar, the 44-year-old tournament is entirely in Hockey Brandon’s hands now after having been run by local businessman Darryl Wolski for the previous 10 years.
“It’s pretty exciting,” tournament chair Bryan Tannahill said. “It’s been a lot of months for our committee working on revamping things and adding whole new ideas.”
The tournament will add a pancake breakfast for the teams this year as well as a 23,000 square-foot trade show and hospitality area dubbed the TC Centre, which will be located in the Canada Room of the Keystone Centre.
The first week of competition has drawn a full slate of teams from across Manitoba as well as Saskatchewan and Northwestern Ontario. Six Brandon teams will be in action for their hometown tournament this weekend — two each in the Peewee A and Atom A divisions, while the Peewee A and Atom A categories will feature one Wheat Kings team apiece.
Those teams will be joined by Westman competitors including the Souris Elks and Virden Oil Kings in the Atom A division as well as Shoal Lake/Rossburn in the Peewee A class.
“It’s huge and actually there’s lots of buzz around the office and around town,” Tannahill said. “… I think there’s a lot of excitement created from hearing people talk around the rink about all the different teams that are coming. They know it’s going to be pretty good hockey to watch.”
The first game of the tournament faces off today at 11:30 a.m., at the Sportsplex as the 10A Wheat Kings take on the Portage Terriers. The first weekend concludes with the finals on Sunday.
Play picks up again next week, with the Bantam AA and Bantam AAA teams competing. The AAA event doubles as the final Hockey Manitoba Showcase of the season, featuring many of the top male and female bantam players from across the province as well as Northwestern Ontario.