Nolan Twerdoclib of the Brandon Wheat Kings slips the puck past a Virden Oil Kings netminder for a goal in Bantam AA Division action at the Sportsplex in the Tournament of Champions in February. (FILE PHOTO)
Hockey Brandon’s annual Tournament of Champions is still four months away, but there’s a buzz of excitement going around the organizing committee.
This season, the committee has expanded the tournament by adding two new age groups — Bantam AAA and female peewee — and has some age groups already filled, although it’s still looking for volunteers.
Adding the Bantam AAA age group under the Hockey Brandon umbrella isn’t a huge deal. The age division was still played during the Tournament of Champions weekend, but it was run by Hockey Manitoba, and tournament chairperson Bryan Tannahill doesn’t believe it will be very different from running the Bantam A or AA events.
The female peewee category, however, is brand new and something the committee has wanted to do for a while.
"Last year they tried to make a push to get a female category in, but it just didn’t happen with that particular age group," said Tannahill. "We saw a bit of an opportunity this year and thought if we jumped on it early enough and did some marketing and got some information out there with our tournament website that we know we’d get some teams. It’s looking pretty good."
The Tournament of Champions, which is in good financial shape after it was awarded $25,000 from the City of Brandon’s hotel accommodation tax fund and from support from local businesses, has attracted a lot of interest. Squads from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Manitoba are expected to take part in the event, which runs from Feb. 6-9 for the Atom A, AA and Peewee A and AA age groups. The male Bantam A, AA and AAA as well as the female peewees will play from Feb. 13-16.
The committee tried to attract Bantam AAA teams from all over the United States, but found that a lot of them are playing in their regional playoffs that weekend.
One of the biggest problems the tournament had last year was finding enough people to staff the event. Committee members tried to get parents to volunteer to work the scoreclocks and scoresheets, but this year they’re looking at hiring and paying high school students to do the job.
However, the committee is in need of people for rink supervision and to make sure the event runs smoothly.
"We’re thinking we’ll need anywhere from 20 to 40 people to volunteer their time to be a room host or a rink supervisor," Tannahill said. "Someone to be a runner at the rink with different things.
"We just found last year our committee was there from six or seven in the morning to closing our hospitality room late at night, so it was a lot of long days for our committee and we need some other bodies to make some of those other things work."
Anyone looking to volunteer, even for just a few hours a day, can sign up at www.tournamentofchampionsbrandon.ca.
Tannahill is also excited about the new TC Centre that will have a hospitality-room side and a game-room side. He’s in discussions with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings about sending a couple of players to mentor the eight Brandon teams at the tournament and to the pancake breakfasts.
Although there is still work to be done, Tannahill is liking the way the event is shaping up.
"It looks real good," he said. "At this point last year we were really worried that we may not get enough teams to make an even draw. This year, we already have a couple of teams in some of the categories on a waiting list, which is really a nice problem for us to have."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 12, 2013