When it began, I’m sure the organizers never thought it would become this big or, for that matter, where legends would begin.
The Quikcard Minor Hockey Week, as it is known today began in 1963 and is an annual minor hockey tournament in the city of Edmonton. In 2009 it held the Guinness Book of Worlds Record for World’s Largest Hockey Tournament.
I first played in it in 1971 and it wasn’t until 73 that the size of the tournament really hit home. I remember walking down the hall way outside Coronation Arena and seeing this massive poster with every single Mite A team hand written down the middle in a single column. Then spreading out on either side was a spider web of lines with Consolation written above the left side and Championship on the right. Looking back it was very simple. You win, you keep to the right, lose go to the left. Minimum two games. The system really hasn’t changed in 50 years.
Many professionals have played in it including Mark Messier, Jay Bouwemeister, Kelly Hrudey and many others throughout the years and generations.
Today, they’ve tiered teams into divisions within the age groups Novice, Atom, Peewee, Bantam and Midget, boys and girls teams excluding elite AA and AAA levels. You end up playing against the same teams you’ve been playing against in the last 6 games, also know as the second of three rounds of seasonal play. Something happens to a lot of teams entering the tournament. One or two teams always come out of nowhere to win a game or two they never really had any business being in. They reach down from somewhere and pull out an amazing feat of athletic ability and team play. They play at a level no parent or opponent has ever seen. They are amazed at their own success. They are hungry for the next game, the next period, the next shift, the next face off. It’s game time. Just win.
There is no “thanks for participating”. You can lose your first game and you’ll get a second game, but that’s it. Loser go home. Win and you’re in.
Tonight is the first of two semi final games that I will witness in the next four days. Each team has played games that have left parents amazed at their skill and determination. It is really fun to watch. Not that the regular season or other tournaments aren’t but for some reason this….this is Minor Hockey Week. Fathers and sons can tell stories of each others moments and memories, wins and losses. It is amazing the similarities generations apart yet in the same tournament. This is fun.
Only once in 18 tries has either of my sons won the Gold. More than a few silvers between the two of them. I never got that close. That’s OK, I remember making to the fourth round, one or two wins from playing in the Edmonton Gardens…where the Alberta Oilers play! That’s right, the Alberta Oilers of the World Hockey Association, a year before they became the Edmonton Oilers. That’s the stuff of legends.
During the one Gold medal win, the game went to over time. Over time is one minute periods played in succession and each team takes one player off until it is one player and one goalie on either side for six minutes. This game went to one on one. It was epic in that it went down to less than two minutes of battling back and forth. Do we pull the goalie for the extra attacker…or not? So exciting and finally: GOAL! We won…er his team won. He won the Gold. That’s the stuff of legends.
Tonight we came up short and the better team this night will go on to battle for Gold on the weekend. Friday night is the next opportunity for this family, we’ll be there and I can’t wait.
Because that’s what memories are made of and where legends begin. I love Quikcard Edmonton Minor Hockey Week.