Old style hockey tourney to be held in City

This year marks the second annual Red Deer Minor Hockey Midget ‘A’ Outdoor Winter Classic Hockey Tournament, from Jan. 27th to 29th.

The tournament will take place at the Bower rinks (85 Boyce St.) in Red Deer.

The tourney was such a success last year they had to do it again says Tournament Coordinator Al Sim. “It was an outstanding success, we had a team in from Vancouver last year and we had teams from all over Alberta.”

The tournament is unique for a few reasons. For one, it’s an outdoor tournament which means you’re in the elements. And second, the players wear jerseys that are classics. “Last year it was original six jerseys,” said Sim. “This year we got the 1967-68 expansion era.”

The teams playing in the tournament get the honour of wearing throwback jerseys from the NHL’s days gone by.

If you don’t remember that class it consists of six teams — the St. Louis Blues, the California Golden Seals, Minnesota North Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, and of course the Philadelphia Flyers. Along with that the two remaining teams will be wearing throwback Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oiler jerseys.

But that’s not all. “What makes this tournament unique is we went to all our sponsors in the local business community and they’ve been outstanding. We have outdoor rinks, we have a live band that’s on site throughout the weekend, we have a score clock hanging outside, we bring in nine oilfield office trailers to act as dressing rooms and the whole tournament is played outdoors like it was in the old days.”

That’s right, way back in the 80’s kids played organized hockey outdoors. Does that make them tougher? Yes. Smarter? No.

Of course that was before global warming. A time when you could look at the calendar and say, February is going to be cold and bank on it. Not so these days and it has organizers concerned about one thing — Mother Nature. “This year as I see these zero degrees and plus temperatures, it’s a little unnerving because you put so much work into it. A minus seven or eight degree day would be ideal.”

The public is welcome to come out to the event. And there’s plenty to keep you warm or entertained — hot chocolate, hot dogs, burgers, and a bonfire that goes all the way until 10 p.m. at night. That means there are night games. There is also a skills competition on Saturday at 2 p.m.

“You can also test your skills at that time. We have a radar gun to measure your shot.”

Now for those who have a morbid side that likes to see others work, the players will also be shoveling snow to keep the rink clear.

But the big head turner for this tournament is the jerseys added Sim. “The big thing is coming to see the jersey’s, the jersey’s are real cool.”

“The kids get to pick their names and numbers and when the tournament is over they get to keep the jerseys and socks.”

For spectators the elements will play a role one way or another. Wind, could play a factor because no team should have a wind advantage, and the sun could have a lot of players looking like Jim McMahons on ice. “Last year because of sun depending on which end they were in we had kids wearing sun glasses.”

Simply put if you’re not going to be able to make it to Ottawa for the NHL All-Star game, take a stay-cation and head to Bower rinks.