BY SCOTT HUNTER HADDOW
Simply put, if you?re a minor hockey fan, then it?s a must.
For four days at the end of October and beginning of November, arenas in the Sudbury area will be filled with the best and brightest young minor hockey talent this province and the United States have to offer.
The 24th Annual Big Nickel Hockey Tournament is gearing up for another high profile show case of the best peewee (ages 11-12), bantam (ages 13-14) and midget (ages 15-17) talent out there. A total of 68 teams will battle for supremacy over the course of four days in their respective divisions.
Over 90 teams filed applications to be part of Northern Ontario?s premier minor hockey event, proving Sudbury is a hockey-mad town and knows how to host a first-class tournament considered one of the best held in Ontario each year.
Scouts representing every Ontario Hockey League team and dozens of scouts from American colleges and universities always make the trip to Sudbury to catch the outstanding hockey talent.
?It continues to be a major challenge to choose amongst all the worthy applicants attempting to enter the Big Nickel every year,? said longtime tournament Chair Gerald McCrory. ?These are high quality minor hockey programs we?re talking about here, involving players whose aspirations will take them well beyond their minor hockey experience.?
Sudbury Wolves? forward Bobby Chaumont played in the tournament in 1999 and the memories are still deeply
entrenched in his mind.
?It was one of the best tournaments I ever played in,? said Chaumont. ?It?s all the best teams coming here to play and it?s great hockey all around. It?s just a high-class tournament all the way.?
Sudbury Wolves head coach and general manager Mike Foligno knows this tournament establishes Sudbury as a hockey capital and a tremendous benefit to the players involved.
?It?s a great opportunity for the players to see themselves against the best in their age group from across the province,? said Foligno. ?It?s an opportunity to see where they stand because sometimes you don?t know when you?re just playing teams in your own city.?
The tournament will feature six Sudbury area teams as well as eight other teams from Northern Ontario. Six team from the United States will also compete, including the Southern Ice Lightning, who are coached by former NHL star and North Bay Centennial Darren Turcotte.
Tournament vice-chair Barry McCrory sees the tournament as a massive economic boost to the Sudbury region and a tremendous benefit to local minor hockey players.
?The economic boost in the first part of November is huge, somewhere between $3 to $5 million,? said McCrory. ?The players get to showcase their talents right here in front of home town crowds. The hockey is absolutely incredible.?
The games start on Thursday Oct. 30 and run through to Sunday Nov. 2. Games will be contested at the Countryside, Chelmsford, Carmichael, Garson, Walden, McClelland and Cambrian Arenas. All three finals will
be played at the Countryside Arena next Sunday, starting at 2 pm.