The summer hockey season gets underway this weekend with the Source for Sports AAA Hockey Challenge starting Friday at the Kinsmen and Optimist arenas as well as the Sportsplex.
This week will feature teams with players in three age groups, born from 2003 through 2006, and tournament director Daryl Wolski feels the young players are getting anxious to hit the ice for games again.
"We’re one of the first (tournaments), so I think a lot of the kids are hungry to get at it," he said. "They’ve probably practised enough and had enough exhibition games so they’re probably just hungry to get into a real game situation."
The 2003 age group had eight teams register, so organizers decided to split it into two divisions. The Gold Division, which includes the Brandon-based Pacesetter Drillers, will feature the top teams and should be comparable to a Peewee AAA level, while the Silver Division will have teams closer to Peewee AA.
Wolski said they decided to split teams into two groups to make games more competitive.
"The competition therefore instead of some games being 14-2, it will be 4-2," he said. "When kids get that age, you start to see real diversity in talent at that stage. You don’t see it in younger ages, but at that age they’re going into peewee and you’re starting to see kids develop."
There will be four teams in the 2004 age group, including the Capitals and Bruins who are from Brandon, and five in the 2005/2006 age group.
The 2003 Gold Division final is slated for Sunday at 3:15 p.m., at Optimist Arena, while the silver final will begin at 1 p.m. at Kinsmen. The 2004 age group final will begin on Sunday at noon at the Sportsplex, with the 2005 final following at the Sportsplex at 2 p.m.
Admission is free to all of the games.
This year’s event will also allow people to follow along live on their computers or smartphones. The event is using new technology that will post up-to-the-minute stats online and fill out the schedule automatically come playoff time. That puts less pressure on the organizing committee to communicate every change to teams, and Wolski can’t wait to see it in action this weekend.
"It will be no different than Wheat King or Winnipeg Jets games," he said. "… It also eliminates a lot of phone calls and work for us from people wondering when they play and everything. It saves us time and work for communication when they can sign on their own."