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This article was published 10/2/2019 (195 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Skating hard to take home the Tournament of Champions trophy, hundreds of hockey players were playing to win this weekend in Brandon.
Many of the hockey players eagerly anticipate the tournament all season, said Tournament of Champions volunteer Blake Stephens.
"It’s a showcase for them to play in front of family and friends," Stephens said. "Everybody comes together. It’s a really great experience for the kids."
A tradition entering its 50th year, the tournament brings in players from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and the United States to compete.
Hosted by Hockey Brandon, the tournament features 70 teams competing over two weekends, with about 700 kids on the ice each week.
Playing against competitors they would not normally see on the ice is an added experience for players.
As such, each game offers the chance to meet fellow athletes they will likely compete against or play with in future leagues, Stephens said.
Hosting the tournament also helps foster a sense of community in Brandon, as it is an event the entire city can get behind, and one need only look at the countless volunteers who help bring the event together.
The two weekends are the culmination of dedicated hard work put forward by volunteers over the year.
"It’s all hands on deck now," Stephens said. "If it wasn’t for that strong commitment from volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to do it."
Players look forward to the event all year, said Brandon Wheat Kings Pee Wee AA assistant coach Brett Wilson.
A special event that is great for the community, he said, the Tournament of Champions is an event Brandon is proud to host and players are honoured to be in.
With a great number of visitors coming, the tournament helps showcase the city’s community, the hockey players and the facilities, Wilson said.
Many of the players grow up knowing about the tournament and the big trophy that comes with it, pushing the majority of the athletes to spend months training in preparation and anticipation.
Helping coach the kids in advance of the competition, Wilson finds they are a mix of excitement and nerves in the leadup to the big day.
As a former competitor in the games, Wilson knows that feeling well, and shares that experience with his kids who are now in the Tournament of Champions.
"It’s something you look forward to all season," Wilson said.
Travelling from Winnipeg to watch his grandson compete in the tournament, Ron Branconner from Winnipeg said that they event provides an amazing experience for the youth.
"They’re having lots of fun and learning a lot," Branconner said.
Offering one of many avenues to support kids and their passion, the tournament is a fun activity that can help keep them out of trouble.
"We’re watching pretty good calibre of hockey, you got to admire all the kids playing," Branconner said. "I’m pretty impressed."
Seeing first-hand how playing hockey develops a passion in people with the intensity of the competition, kids are also able to learn discipline through the structure of games, Branconner said.
Youth will come away from the tournament with good memories, Branconner said, while also keeping them and their parents active over the winter.
Watching her son Rylan Martin, 13, play for the Humboldt Broncos Bantam AA team, Lynn Martin travelled six hours for the tournament. Her son competed last year as a pee wee.
Their second year at the tournament, Martin was impressed with the setup and how well run the event is.
"We are having so much fun and the kids bond so much," Martin said. "They’ll remember these things forever, especially if we win."
Darren McCallum said having his son Ethan, 12, compete in the tournament for the first time with Brandon Wheat Kings Pee Wee AA team has been an incredible experience.
"It’s pretty exciting and a little nerve-wracking (watching him play)," McCallum said.
Having 50 of these tournaments has ensured that generations of children have had the opportunity to have fun and meet and compete against teams from other areas, McCallum said, creating a legacy that will be long lasting.
It can be challenge for players, but the games foster great competition while still encouraging them to have fun playing.
"It’s good team-building skills you get to learn a little about teamwork and leadership in a good all-round competition," McCallum said.
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