By Zachary Cormier
The Barnett Arenas will be buzzing with young and talented hockey players this weekend as Lacombe hosts the 2016 ATB Alberta Atom A Provincial Championship hockey tournament.
More than 100 players ages 10 to 11 will descend upon the City to compete in the province’s premiere Atom hockey tournament, which begins on Thursday afternoon.
“We’re expecting some good games, and hopefully some tight games,” said Becky Ramsay, a member of the organizing committee for the tournament.
The eight team tourney will feature squads from all over the province of Alberta including teams from as close as Olds and as far away as Kitscoty.
As the host City, Lacombe will be represented by the Fifth Element Salon and Spa Lacombe Atom A Rockets.
“We’ve had ups and downs. We’ve had a lot of fun at tournaments, those have gone well,” Ramsay said, adding that while the team did not make the league finals for the North Central Zone Tier 1 league, the team played hard and improved over the course of the year.
“The boys played hard and definitely improved over the year, but it was a tough tier.”
The tournament festivities kicked off on Wednesday with the Tundra True Spirit of Hockey Day, a special event was aimed at creating excitement about the sport of hockey in schools.
The event took place at the YU Turn Youth Centre on Wednesday evening and included street hockey games, hot dogs and hot chocolate.
“Part of it took place (on Wednesday) with our street hockey and Thursday we’ve invited a couple of the local schools to come watch our opening game,” said Tournament Chair Angela Nygaard, adding she is expecting a turnout of more than 200 students for the game, which will see Lacombe square off against Drayton Valley. Puck drop on that game is at 1:45 p.m. Thursday afternoon.
Nygaard said the experience of having a large crowd will be a different one for the Atom age players.
“I think they’ll be fairly nervous but what do they do, right?” she said.
“It’s pretty exciting, especially at school, with the Tundra event, the players got to hand out flyers and talk to their classes about what they’re doing and what’s happening this weekend. Just trying to get them out and get excited about it,” Ramsay added.
In addition to the Atom A provincials that will be running on the front ice surface at the Barnett Arenas, Lacombe’s Initiation-level (ages five and six) teams will also be playing on the back ice beginning on Saturday and Lacombe’s Atom B will be playing for their League Championship Banner on Sunday immediately before the Atom A Provincial final game on Sunday afternoon.
The opening ceremonies take place on Friday evening beginning at 6:30 p.m. and will be immediately followed by Game 3 of the Senior Men’s AAA Provincial Final series between the Bentley Generals and the Stony Plain Eagles.
“The idea, especially with the Tundra event, is to try and expose children who don’t already play hockey to our sport. And then it’s a great place for the community to showcase,” Nygaard said, adding community organizations and businesses have supported the tournament through donations to the raffle table and silent auction, being game sponsors or advertising.
With the top Atom teams in the province squaring off, the weekend is bound to be full of some good hockey.
A full tournament schedule and results can be found on Hockey Alberta’s web site at http://atoma.haprovincials.ca/home/.