Powell River’s second Coastal Canadian Cup hockey competition brought 40 players together recently to contest for top honours in an internationally flavoured tournament at Powell River Recreation Complex.
Players were divided up into three teams, wearing the national colours of Canada, Russia and Sweden, with a three-day tournament format and hockey camp that lasted five days. The Coastal Canadian Cup drew 10 to 12-year old players from Powell River, the Lower Sunshine Coast, Nanaimo, Campbell River and Seattle.
Coastal Cup coordinator Rick Hopper said there is no better place than Powell River to run a competition like this one.
“I’d always had in the back of my mind that a camp this style that was a combination of instruction and competition would be good,” said Hopper. “You go to a hockey school these days and everybody spouts off about having the best power-skating instructor, or this elite guy, and ‘we’re going to get all of this instruction.’ When you are a kid of 10 to 12 years old and you go five days, and it’s just practices and drills, it’s not fun.
“What do kids like to do? Play games. What do parents like to do? Watch their kids play games. I thought, ‘why not have a combination of that kind of thing?’”
Almost two years ago, Hopper said he had a Chinese hockey representative get ahold of him about running a tournament for a team he would bring here from Beijing. Hopper said he started making some calls and came up with a coach out of Nanaimo who was interested in participating.
Hopper indicated he had a team from China that wanted to come and he wanted to put a tournament together, then asked if the coach could put a team together. Within two days, 16 kids wanted to go to a summer tournament.
Hopper said the Chinese team fell through but he decided to go ahead and do it. Last year, a total of 26 players came out, which formed the foundation of what is now in place, the Coastal Canadian Cup concept with a Canada Cup international flavour.
This year’s number of players expanded to 40 participants for the five-day camp, starting on Tuesday, August 6. The first two days of the tournament featured instruction, then a three-on-three mini-tournament was held on the Thursday. The real tournament started on Friday, with three teams – Canada, Russia and Sweden – all in authentic-looking uniforms. Hopper said when the teams were formed and the uniforms were displayed the players were “fired right up.”
Hopper is hoping that energy and enthusiasm will carry over into future offerings of the tournament. He said his game plan for next year’s event is to have four Canadian teams, with players wearing international jerseys, a Chinese team, and an American team. A Chinese representative was in attendance at this year’s event to watch the proceedings.
“Maybe we’ll have six teams next year and that would be really great,” said Hopper.
What he really liked this year is that the tournament has teamed up and partnered with the city, he added.
“It’s critical for them to have skin in the game,” said Hopper. “Right from the beginning I had no intention of doing this as a private entrepreneur. I wanted to team up with the city and minor hockey and that’s sort of what we have going right now. I wanted a multi-joint effort to get this thing off the ground.”
City manager of recreation Neil Pukesh said recreation complex staff thought the tournament was a great idea, something new that had never been tried before, so they worked with the organizers. It has morphed into a great experience for the players.
“The players have been enjoying hockey non-stop,” said Pukesh. “It starts from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed.”
Pukesh said the tournament is good for the local economy and tourism.
“It’s been going great; we’re hoping to build on it for next year,” said Pukesh. “It’s great for the kids to be involved in this. They meet new friends. It’s a great environment that’s really positive for hockey fans and hockey players.”
Pukesh said the city likes to see the recreation complex being used as much as possible, which is what prompted the interest in working with this program.
“We want to build this bigger and bigger and get more people involved,” said Pukesh.
In making the program run, volunteerism is an important component for the tournament. Seven parents volunteered to assist in roles such as coaching and marketing. By not having all paid positions, the tournament has been kept at a relatively affordable rate of $750 for five full days, including room and board, plus the hockey.
“That’s a pretty good deal; we think we’re onto something good,” said Hopper. “I know there is not another camp like this anywhere. If you are looking for a summer instruction tournament, there isn’t another. There is a ton of opportunity moving forward with it.”
Organizers will keep with the 10 to 12-year-old age group going forward, with older atom league players and pee-wee-age players. Last year was atom age only, because the prospective Chinese team was comprised of atom-age players.
Organizers found that in a residential setting, it was a challenge with the younger players. For most of them, it was the first time they had ever slept away from home. There was a significant group of players who were a challenge as a result, being homesick.
Hopper said when the players get to bantam age there is a bunch of different offerings on the competitive side and people are looking at sending their children to those opportunities, so the Coastal Canadian Cup hits the right demographic.
Moving forward, Hopper said there is still a lot of work to be done for next year in terms of recruiting and organizing. The buy-in locally could be better and Hopper thinks that will improve in the future.
“That was a little bit of a disappointment this year,” said Hopper. “I would have thought we’d get a little bit more, but I’m glad that I’ve had the experience of running a school here before because I knew what a great venue the recreation complex is.”
He said the facility is fully self-contained, providing room for dryland training at the rink, there is ice in the arena, a great facility to house the players, and a commercial kitchen upstairs to feed them.