The tournament is the same. The only thing that’s changed is the venue.
The 48th annual Vernon Winter Carnival Coca Cola Classic Pee Wee Hockey Tournament runs the second weekend of Carnival – as always – from Feb. 7 to 10. But for the first time in the tournament’s nearly half-century history, the event will not be held at the Vernon Civic Arena, now demolished.
“The tournament will be a replica of what’s taken place the past 47 years, we’re just moving the tournament to Kal Tire Place North,” said event co-chairperson Jaron Chasca. “The city has given us the same ice times Thursday to Sunday, and each team will get an individual dressing room for the tournament.
“Everyone on the committee is excited, we think we can make it work.”
The host Vernon Watkin Motors Mustangs, the defending champions, will be joined by the team they beat in last year’s final, the Yellowknife Wolfpack, four other Canadian entries and two from Southern California.
Making their Carnival Classic debut will be the Los Angeles Junior Kings, a travelling team of players from the L.A. area. They’ll be joined by state rivals the California Wave, who have appeared in the Coca Cola Classic before.
Rounding out the field, from the Lower Mainland, are the Vancouver Thunderbirds and Port Moody Panthers, and Alberta’s Edmonton Canadians and St. Albert Stars.
The field is split into two, four-team pools (Coca Cola Division, Sun Valley Division), with each pool playing a round robin. Vernon has been grouped with the Kings, St. Albert and Vancouver. The top two teams in each pool advance to Saturday’s championship semifinals (12:30 p.m. and 2:45 p.m.), the bottom two will be placed into the consolation side (8 a.m., 10:15 a.m.).
Following the semifinals, the teams will take part in a banquet while later Saturday night is the annual tournament dance featuring The Young’Uns at the Prestige Vernon Lodge Hotel.
All eight teams will be involved in a playoff final Sunday, with the championship A Division final set for 4:30 p.m.
The Mustangs will play twice on opening day, in the tournament’s first game at 8 a.m. vs Vancouver, and in the feature game at 6 p.m. against Los Angeles, which follows the opening ceremonies at 5:30 p.m.
Vernon’s final preliminary game is Friday at 5 p.m. against St. Albert.
One other change is the tournament’s longtime theme — The Stars of Tomorrow Are Here Today — which is normally painted onto the ice will, instead, be strung from a large banner on the west wall of Kal Tire Place North, along with two banners featuring the eight teams.