Colorado Rubber

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Mainland offers unique spring tourney experience

 

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Every spring for the past two decades, youth hockey teams from all over British Columbia have flocked to the Vancouver area to compete in one of the region’s most beloved tournaments.

The Mainland Hockey Tournament will be back for its 22nd year in 2016, and is expected to draw up to 100 teams – many of those now coming from the United States – to its two facilities from April 8-10.

“Traditionally the tournament had drawn a lot from British Columbia, but in recent years we’ve opened it up to more U.S. teams,” said Chris Herie, tournament director for the Mainland event for the last six years. “Teams up here like to see teams from California, Colorado, Arizona and other parts of the U.S.; it gives them a different flavor and lets them see some different styles of hockey.”

The tournament is held on 10 rinks at two arenas – in Richmond and Delta – that are just 15 minutes apart. It features divisions for Mites all the way up to Midgets and includes AAA, AA and A competition.

Teams can register at MainlandHockey.com until March 27, though Herie emphasized that some divisions will likely fill up before the cut-off date. There are also early-bird rates available through the end of January.

Perhaps the one thing that will distinguish the Mainland tournament from all others this season is its Canada-versus-USA Showcase – a unique offering for teams in the Pee Wee AA division, which is typically Mainland’s largest group.

There will be two pools of U.S. and Canadian teams (a maximum of 10 per nation), and the winners will face off in a winner-take-all Canada-U.S. final. The two teams who make it through to the championship game will be outfitted in their countries’ uniforms, which they’ll get to take home after the tournament.

“It’s something unique that we’re trying for the first time this year,” Herie said. “Nowadays, there are so many tournaments so you have to do something to make your event stand out a little bit. The Pee Wee AA division is usually our biggest division because teams seem to do more traveling at that level than at others, and it just seems to be a perfect fit. If it goes well this year, we’ll add it in other divisions next year, too. We think it’s a pretty neat concept.”

All teams will be guaranteed at least four games over the course of the tournament’s three days, and given the structure of the event most teams will play five times.

After round-robin play, teams are reshuffled to guarantee the best possible playoff matchups. The top two teams in each division square off in the Mainland final, with the third- and fourth-place teams meeting in the gold final and the fifth- and sixth-place squads competing in the silver finals.

Awards are given to division winners and runners-up, and every player receives a tournament gift.

“We want everyone to have a good experience,” Herie said. “When kids walk away with a medal, they’re usually pretty happy. We give out more medals than any other tournament in British Columbia.”

Herie said that players, coaches and parents appreciate the fact that the tournament’s host hotel is located in a complex with a movie theater, bowling alley, restaurants and lots of other entertainment options to keep players and their families busy when they’re not on the ice.

Approximately 60 percent of the teams now come from outside the Vancouver area.

“It’s really a cool place for a road trip, and we try to cater to families,” Herie said.

– Greg Ball