Whitehorse to host huge hockey tourney in December

All three of Whitehorse’s ice rinks will see non-stop tournament play the first weekend in December. The International Showdown Tournament will keep Zamboni drivers busy.

All three of Whitehorse’s ice rinks will see non-stop tournament play the first weekend in December.

The International Showdown Tournament will keep Zamboni drivers busy as 15 teams play in three divisions at the second annual event hosted by the Yukon Amateur Hockey Association.

“It’s impossible to hold any more, unless we went to outside rinks,” said YAHA president Russ Smoler. “Part of the attraction – and this is an attraction for many teams, particularly early in the season – we’re offering three 20-minute stop-play period games for every team with a minimum of four games. If you do the math, you can’t do that in other communities, in other jurisdictions, unless if you have three rinks.

“We have every ice-time from basically seven in the morning to 10:30, 11 o’clock at night booked.”

In addition to four local teams, this year’s tournament will feature three from N.W.T., three from B.C., three from Alaska (from two communities), an Albertan team, and – for the first time in recent memory – a Saskatchewan team.

Wilcox, Sask.’s Notre Dame Argos are slated to play in the seven-team midget division. The team learned about the tournament through the team’s coach Clint Mylymok, who was Whitehorse Minor Hockey’s head coach in the 2013/14 season.

“The reason they’re coming up here – there’s a couple of things,” said Smoler. “They get to play some decent hockey. They also get to see what’s going on in the North. We’re really happy to have those guys on board.”

Other Outside teams include the Yellowknife Wolf Pack, Alaska’s Wasilla/Mat-su Eagles and Palmer Pioneers, the Fort St. John Flyers and the Grand Prairie Knights.

The Yukon Mustangs, formerly called the Whitehorse Mustangs, will represent the territory. The name change occurred when YAHA took over the rep program from Whitehorse Minor during the off-season.

“We’re not changing the brand,” said Smoler. “We like the brand, we like the colours, we like the uniforms. It’s just going to be the Yukon Mustangs and we’re going to operate that way, certainly for the first year.

“It gives Whitehorse Minor the opportunity to focus on the house league teams. Frankly, we look at those teams as being feeder groups to our competitive level, as we do with any of the other community organizations as well.”

The Tier 3 contact-hockey tourney will feature peewee, bantam and, unlike last year, a midget division.

“Part of the whole focus was to bring in midget competition,” said Smoler. “Last year we wanted to host the provincial midget (championship) and we couldn’t do it because we didn’t have enough midget players … This year we probably have enough for three midget teams.”

At last year’s inaugural tournament the Bantam Mustangs went undefeated in five games for gold in the bantam division. (The team would later become the first from the territory to win gold at the B.C. Hockey Championships.)

The Peewee Mustangs captured the bronze in the peewee division with a win over the Wasilla/Mat-su Eagles.

“We’ve always been confident about Whitehorse being a destination for hockey and it’s been a matter of time – getting teams and parents exposed to what we have up here,” said U16 Mustangs coach Martin Lawrie in a recent interview with the News. “All we did was post the tournament and we have people coming to us now, which is neat.”

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