BY KEITH LACEY
Sponsorship problems off the ice won?t deter the organizing committee of the 2003 All Ontario AAA Bantam Championships from putting an outstanding product on the ice.
Gerry McCrory, a tournament co-chair and Sudbury minor hockey volunteer for the past 40 years, promises one heck of a show when the best AAA bantam teams in Ontario gather here in late March.
?There?s not a lot of time between now and when the first puck drops and there?s a lot of things to do?but I think and I know we will get them done,? said McCrory.
Sudbury was awarded the prestigious championship last spring and had an initial commitment from the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) to be the major sponsor for the tournament.
However, the OHL decided to drop out as the major corporate sponsor late last August, and the Sudbury organizing committee considered handing over the tournament to another community.
However, the group of volunteers led by co-chairs McCrory, his son Barry and Mike Burnette, all decided to press on ahead without a major corporate sponsor.
?The OHL withdrew in the fall more or less leaving us high and dry,? said McCrory. ?But we decided we were going to make it.?
The AAA All Ontario Bantam Championships has been one of the premier minor hockey events in the province since 1976. McCrory remains confident several local businesses will want to jump on board as major corporate sponsors.
Since the OHL adopted the bantam draft several years ago, this tournament has showcased many of the top players selected into the OHL every year and that won?t change this year, said McCrory.
The tournament will feature league champions from across Ontario plus the host Lockerby Confectionery AAA Bantams.
The tournament kicks off Monday, March 24 and continues with games every day until the championship finals on Saturday, March 29.
All games will be played at Countryside Arena.
The tournament budget?which includes travel, accommodation, ice time, paying officials, banquet and ancillary costs?is around $40,000 so the organizing committee has its work cut out raising this kind of money, said McCrory.
Tickets for the six-day tournament go on sale later this week at the Sudbury Arena box office.
Tickets for adults are $30 for a tournament package. Day passes will be available at the door at tournament time. Tickets can be purchased by credit card at 671-3000. Anyone interested in sponsoring the tournament can phone Sudbury Minor Hockey Association at 560-3817 or McCrory at 522-5209.