Hockey Canada back in town
New chairs, boxes upon boxes, lap tops, and the all-important Hockey Canada logo on the floor in the middle.
For Ryan Robins and his Hockey Canada compatriots, dressing room No. 1 at Kal Tire Place is their war room during the RBC Cup Canadian Junior A Hockey Championship.
While the tournament officially kicked off Saturday, Robins and some of his crew arrived mid-week.
“Right now, we have an operations crew of five that look after everything from event operation, media content, ticketing, as well as any video features that we do associated with the event, all in prep for the teams to arrive,” said Robins, 41, the senior manager of events and properties for Calgary-based Hockey Canada.
Volunteers and crews were busy putting the final touches to the revamped Kal Tire Place Thursday to showcase Canada’s top Junior A hockey talent.
Rink boards of the various sponsors were added; media seating was being built, ready to be housed behind the north-end goal (along with seats in the press box); and two large Canada jerseys – one red, one white – were hung in the rafters
With the puck drop Saturday afternoon between the Dauphin Kings and Toronto Lakeshore Patriots, the City of Vernon joined Summerside, P.E.I. and Humboldt, Sask. as the only communities to be two-time hosts of the national Junior A final.
Vernon hosted the Centennial Cup championship in 1990 at the Civic Arena, where Cam Sylven scored in overtime in the championship game to give the Vernon Lakers a 6-5 win over the New Westminster Royals, and their first of six national championships.
Sylven was slated to drop the ceremonial puck Saturday night before the Vipers’ first tournament game against the Carleton Place Canadians.
“We’re using the Civic Arena for some features and you can definitely hear the ghosts,” smiled Robins. “We’re going to take advantage of that story, with Cam Sylven’s goal and footage from the 1990 tournament. It goes together so well with the slogan this year, ‘The Excitement Returns.’”
It was two years ago Vernon was awarded the RBC Cup tournament. Since then, Hockey Canada has been working with tournament chairman Mike Lane and his committees, the Vipers and more than 200 volunteers from the community to make sure things run smoothly.
“It is a huge undertaking,” said Robins. “We put a lot of expectations on the host groups, and this couldn’t be done without the volunteers...
“We really appreciate the local municipal support from the government’s standpoint, the local business support and all the volunteers, the host committee, the Vernon Vipers, City of Vernon, the staff at Kal Tire Place. Everybody really makes this as easy as possible for Hockey Canada.”
Hanging out in the war room – and not committing the sin of stepping on the Hockey Canada logo in the middle of the floor – on Thursday afternoon was Lane, who could not wait for the tournament to begin.
“It’s exciting now, everything is starting to come together and once the teams arrive tonight, it’ll be fine,” said Lane Thursday. “I’m just anxious to get going.”
The RBC Cup tournament, historically, leaves about $1.5 million to $2 million in the host community.
Robins doesn’t expect anything different in Vernon and the Okanagan Valley.
“It starts with the (Kelowna) airport, car rentals, accommodations and restaurants,” said robins. “I think that’s just the nature of the Okanagan and Vernon itself. This will be a tourist destination. Anybody that wants to come and watch Junior A hockey in a great location, this is going to be the time to come to the Okanagan.”
The 2015 RBC Cup tournament will be played in Portage La Prairie, Man. Two unnamed communities are bidding on the 2016 tournament, which will be announced at Hockey Canada’s annual general meeting in several weeks.