The Whistler International All Star Hockey Tournament got underway this week, kicking off four weeks of high-level minor hockey at Meadow Park. This is the 19th year for the tournament, which dates back to 1992 and draws teams from as far away as California and Texas, as well as top rep players from the Lower Mainland.
The Minor Bantam tournament ran from June 18 to June 20, and was followed by Major Bantam, Major Midget, Major Novice, Minor Atom, Major Atom, Minor Pee Wee and Major Pee Wee.
"We've got the Major Bantam guys playing right now, and it's pretty solid - the kids are pretty big and pretty fast," said tournament organizer Kevin Sopp. "Minor bantam is the first year that kids start getting looked at for the Bantam draft, and we had a guy here from the Calgary Hitmen (Western Hockey League franchise) for three days."
The main sponsor of the event is Napa Auto Parts, with a lot of other local businesses also supporting the event. At a time of year when the resort is generally slow, this year's tournament will bring 68 teams to Whistler over the four weeks; with each team bring 40 to 60 visitors including families. Tournaments last three days and most visitors will stay three or four nights in the resort.
With only one ice sheet it can be tough. On a typical day, the first game will start at 7:30 a.m. and the last game will finish between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.
The number of teams is down slightly this year. On a good year they get about 75 teams, although many come from California and other areas where the economy is struggling currently. Fewer teams are coming from Alberta this year as well.
No Whistler teams have entered this year, although the tournament does have individual entries and several local players are being paired with other teams to play in the tournament.
If you didn't get enough hockey during the playoffs, spectators are welcome to drop by and watch some good minor hockey. More details and the schedule are available at www.whistlerallstarhockey.com.