A pinnacle of minor hockey lies only 4,500 kms to the east of Kelowna, in Quebec City: the 60th Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament in Feb. 2019. This anniversary edition of the tournament is remarkable for Okanagan hockey fans because Kelowna will be sending a representative team for the first time in over 15 years, the Kelowna pee-wee tier 1 Jr Rockets.
The tournament’s unparalleled history glitters with the names of hockey legends, including Howe, Lafleur, Lemieux, Roy, Stamkos and Gretzky, who still holds the single season goal scoring record.
Kelowna Pee-Wee Tier 1 head coach and former Vancouver Canuck, Byron Ritchie, played in the tournament twice and has fond memories of his experience.
“Playing in front of a huge crowd for first time was incredible, and the whole vibe around the city of Quebec was electric,” said Ritchie. “Even the activities away from the rink are still memorable; tube rides down manmade ice slides, and skating on all the outdoor rinks was pretty incredible for a kid from Vancouver.”
With over 200,000 spectators taking in the 12 day event, and several teams from the US and Europe, as well as Australia, Japan and Mexico, the experience could benefit players on both a cultural and a hockey level.
12 year-old Jr Rocket forward, Maddix McCagherty, is excited.
“We are so lucky to have been chosen. I’ve never been to Quebec before, where they speak a different language. It’s really cold there too, and it’ll be neat to see the ice sculptures and other outdoor activities,” said Maddix. “I can’t wait to play in front of so many people, it’ll be like playing in a WHL game.”
While teams apply for the tournament in the summer, performance is monitored by a selection committee, and only the best are accepted. Despite the teams success this season, acceptance into the tournament was a shock,
“It was a complete surprise as we expected the winter clubs (the typically dominant North Shore & Burnaby) to again represent British Columbia,” said team manager Brigget Tansem. “But this year the Quebec Tournament committee chose two minor hockey teams, ourselves and Semiahmoo.”
Perhaps the biggest summit to scale for the team, however, will be raising enough money so that all players can attend. Team fundraising co-ordinator, Marni Adams, informs that the team has begun raising money, and will launch a fund-raising push in the New Year.
Interests in financially supporting the team’s trip to the Quebec tournament can contact Marni at email@example.com.
— Files from Steve Cawley
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