Another strong year for all-star hockey tourney

Seventy-two teams took the ice over 24-day period

With the books closing on another year of the Whistler International All-Star Hockey Tournament, organizers are reflecting on a job well done.

Kevin and Jennifer Sopp, the tournament's coordinators, noted that 72 teams took to the ice for this year's event, which ran from June 20 to July 13. That total is down just four per cent from 75 teams in 2008.

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In an email to The Question, Kevin Sopp noted that 45 of the 80 spots for teams in the 2010 tournament have already been reserved.

"Our small event wasn't going to use the crutch of the economy and settle for being down 15 to 20 per cent in business," Sopp wrote.

Winning teams included the Island Stars (Major Atom and Minor Bantam divisions), Coastal Chiefs (Major Bantam), Nanaimo Stealth (Midget), 2000 Valley Pirates (Major Novice), Vancouver Selects Black (Minor Atom), Foothills South Country Outlaws (Minor Pee Wee) and Cyclone Taylor Red Wings (Major Pee Wee).

Sopp estimated that each of the 70 teams who came from outside Whistler travelled with 60 people in their group, including family members cheering on the players, with more than 4,000 people staying in and touring around the resort during the event.

Each team stayed for an average of about four nights, playing in three-day tournaments held for each age group over the 24 days at the end of June and beginning of July.

Teams travelled to Whistler from California, Arizona, Colorado, Washington state, B.C. and Alberta, with individual players from Manitoba and Connecticut joining up with some squads. Even the stars came out, as the legendary Joe Sakic was on hand to watch his son play with a team from Colorado.

Sopp noted that the event benefited from 100 per cent support from Napa Auto Parts, the title sponsor, and many Whistler businesses have advertised at the tournament. He said more than 225 staff meals and 6,000 player drinks were purchased locally, while 100 per cent of the retail soft goods were finished in Whistler, Coast Mountain Photography took action photos for retail and almost all of the wages paid out stayed in Whistler or the corridor.

"These numbers aren't really new as we have had this participation for the last four years and should continue for next year as well," Sopp wrote.

He commended the people who work hard to help put on the tournament, included the Meadow Park Sports Centre staff, and he noted they receive some blessings from the municipality as well.

For more information about the tournament, check out www.whistlerallstarhockey.com.

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